To me, I found this statement interesting but I also agree with it in some ways. I think that memory is indeed brought upon by thought. Without thinking of something, we will not have anything to try to remember. I think that learning something that wasn’t intended is very prevalent in my life. Although there are times where I can remember things from the day that were not meaningful such as a joke or saying, most of the times that I remember other things are because something I was learning sparked something I already knew. One of the ways that I learn is by finding something that makes sense with a word or idea that I need to know. For example, in order to remember cerebellum has to deal with balance in the brain, I remember that the two ‘L’s look like legs. For me, learning is easier when I am able to spark another memory and bring the two together and branch them from one another.
At first I did not quite understand this statement, but as I read more and got familiar with it I like it a lot more. It’s a really good simple explanation of memory that encompasses many different facets of it. For me this is most relevant in a somewhat negative example. When I am studying, if I daze off and find myself thinking of other random things, then when I see the subject I was studying when I got off track I immediately can remember what I was thinking about at the time. Because of this, I’ve learned to direct my seemingly distractible self to link the random irrelevant topic with the substance I am supposed to be learning at the time. The concept can be applied in many (more effective) ways than that though, which is why I like the statement so much. In times when I have learned something incorrectly this applies as well. If I study something and think about it one way, it is extraordinarily difficult to correct the way I was initially thinking about it. Even when I am aware that it is wrong, I still go to the first way I thought of it instantly, as opposed to the corrected way. The concept of memory being the residue of thought is very relevant to classroom learning, and can be utilized by teachers to improve the quality of learning for their students if they know how to use it.
Willingham hits the nail on the head with this idea, “Things that create an emotional reaction will be better remembered, but emotion is not necessary for learning.”
I don’t know how many parents tell me, “my child can remember their third birthday but can’t remember how to do their math homework they learned in school today or what they had for breakfast this morning.” This leads to them believing the child has memory deficits resulting in a learning disability. It rarely, if ever is this!
Then, when you try to explain the need for repetition they say, “I tell them every day to pick up their toys and they still don’t do it.” This leads to them believing the child has some type of oppositional defiance.
I enjoy his connection to the Bumble Bee Tuna Jingle from the 70s. I can still remember all of the TV show intros of 90s TGIF (Fresh Prince, Step by Step, Family Matters, Full House, etc.) I heard each one every week for probably 7-9 years (however long each show last, not to mention syndicated repeats!) Granted, music is incorporated, so one would argue that is a contributing factor.
But if memory is residue, then I would say we do not do a very good job of it in math classes currently. I have mentioned before, I meet many children in middle and high school who can no longer calculate certain math problems by hand (i.e. long division) and I blame the calculator. I still remember, so what did my teachers do that was different or do I just have exceptional memory skills?
I find this statement to be very accurate and it makes perfect sense to me. If something is important enough for one to focus their attention on by thinking, then it is logical that it would make it into your memories. There are so many things that we encounter daily that the brain processes, not everything can be stored into memory and remembered later on. An example of this happened to me in my exercise physiology class earlier this week. There was a slide about training regimens and the type of people that would benefit from different programs. The example included a gymnast, a weight lifter and a body builder. I got way to side tracked trying to visualize and distinguish the physical differences of these people that I lost sight of the training programs. This probably stuck better because it is easier to visualize people rather then training programs.