what it is? At what age does it begin to form? Ways to develop memory in younger students and adults

Arbitrary memory: features and methods of development

“Get it out of your head, learn the mul­ti­pli­ca­tion table bet­ter!” Some­times such demands placed on a child can­not be met. They are not inter­con­nect­ed, since we store dif­fer­ent infor­ma­tion on dif­fer­ent “disks” of our arbi­trary and invol­un­tary mem­o­ry. The first is respon­si­ble for ensur­ing that we know the mul­ti­pli­ca­tion table, the sec­ond acts on its own and brings into our mem­o­ry every­thing that it pleas­es — bright events, strong emo­tions, inter­est­ing images, bril­liant ideas, and so on.

But our task is not to fol­low its lead and leave room for knowl­edge. They can only be obtained on pur­pose, using arbi­trary mem­o­ry.


The task of arbi­trary mem­o­ry is to record infor­ma­tion received by its own­er on pur­pose (learn­ing the same mul­ti­pli­ca­tion table, for exam­ple). It helps us learn a poem, remem­ber our address, pass­port details. Yes, in real­i­ty there are peo­ple who know them by heart, and some­times this is actu­al­ly quite use­ful.

How­ev­er, such a mem­o­ry begins to form at an age when it is still far from receiv­ing the main doc­u­ment of a cit­i­zen. In psy­chol­o­gy, it is believed that this hap­pens in pri­ma­ry and sec­ondary school when a child has a con­scious desire or need to learn (remem­ber) some­thing.

The devel­op­ment of arbi­trary mem­o­ry involves many fac­tors. Includ­ing what was laid in us at a very young age, even before the school bench.

How it works?

The lev­el of effi­cien­cy of arbi­trary mem­o­ry depends not only on what exact­ly we are learn­ing and why, but also on the meth­ods we use to remem­ber. Who does not know the state of the exam, when, going to it, we feel in full com­bat readi­ness, because behind us are a day in the library, sleep­less nights over text­books, and when we receive a card with ques­tions, we fall into a stu­por with an admix­ture of amne­sia or, con­verse­ly, unex­pect­ed­ly for our­selves, we demon­strate the best aspects of our arbi­trary mem­o­ry and get the high­est score.

Of course, it is pos­si­ble and nec­es­sary to train mem­o­ry in adult­hood, but, as you know, all prob­lems come from child­hood and that’s what par­ents need to pay atten­tion to so that their child does not encounter prob­lems in adult­hood.

  • Try to have the child take part in var­i­ous games, ide­al­ly — peri­od­i­cal­ly take the lead.
  • Try to repeat the events already expe­ri­enced with your child, remem­ber trips to the zoo or cir­cus. Let the child tell what he remem­bers about this or that ani­mal or per­for­mance in the are­na, what jokes of the clown seemed espe­cial­ly fun­ny to him. Come back to this top­ic in a cou­ple of days.
  • Use word games more often. Just don’t imme­di­ate­ly “load” the baby with games in “cities”, “edi­ble — ined­i­ble” is quite suit­able for a start. The host throws the ball to the par­tic­i­pants and at the same time pro­nounces a word, the child’s task is to catch the ball if some­thing edi­ble was named and not to catch if the name of an ined­i­ble thing was pro­nounced.
  • Do not force the child to cram any­thing, try to evoke emo­tions in him, try to col­or­ful­ly describe this or that object or event to him so that not only the name, but also the images remain in his mem­o­ry.
  • Teach your child to under­stand what he is learn­ing.
  • Explain to the child how and why the acquired knowl­edge will be use­ful to him.


Arbi­trary mem­o­ry allows us not only to par­tic­i­pate in the com­pe­ti­tion of read­ers or con­tests like “What? Where? When?”. Knowl­edge embed­ded in our brain pantry through arbi­trary mem­o­ry is nec­es­sary both in pro­fes­sion­al activ­i­ties and in every­day life. You don’t take out a cook­book every time before you start cook­ing cab­bage soup, do you? Do you get it? Then you just don’t know how to cook them. Maybe you are an avid trav­el­er? Did­n’t the knowl­edge gained and fixed by your arbi­trary mem­o­ry at school nev­er help you?

Hence — the obvi­ous func­tion­al­i­ty of arbi­trary mem­o­ry, it is she who helps us to col­lect a store of knowl­edge.

Development Features

Arbi­trary mem­o­ry for­ma­tion ends around 14 years of age. How suc­cess­ful this process turned out depends on how a person’s life will pro­ceed in the future. After all, it is arbi­trary mem­o­ry that helps us think log­i­cal­ly and draw con­clu­sions. For its devel­op­ment in younger stu­dents, name­ly at this age, there is every chance to cre­ate fer­tile ground, when the nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion will lit­er­al­ly “grow”, there are many ways and tech­niques, includ­ing those list­ed above. But the main thing is to teach the child to work with infor­ma­tion.

And for this you need to instill in him the fol­low­ing skills.

  • Abil­i­ty to high­light the main idea. To begin with, try sim­ply under­lin­ing what is most sig­nif­i­cant in the text. It is also rec­om­mend­ed to use var­i­ous schemes, graphs, draw­ings in the learn­ing process. Thus, you will call visu­al mem­o­ry to the aid of arbi­trary mem­o­ry.
  • Abil­i­ty to work with large vol­umes of infor­ma­tion. Explain to the child that you should not be afraid of a large num­ber of lines or num­bers that need to be remem­bered. Teach them to break them into log­i­cal chains, com­bine them in mean­ing, look for rela­tion­ships.
  • Rep­e­ti­tion of the mate­r­i­al cov­ered. You need to do this with an under­stand­ing of what you have learned. It is nec­es­sary not only to pro­nounce mem­o­rized phras­es or rules aloud, but to think about the mean­ing of what you say. By the way, it is the rep­e­ti­tion of the infor­ma­tion nec­es­sary for mem­o­riza­tion aloud that helps to quick­ly put it in our mem­o­ry and for a longer peri­od.
  • Work on mis­takes. This is not a whim of our teach­ers from the Sovi­et past. When a child cor­rects his own mis­take, he remem­bers the cor­rect spelling of the word, for­mu­la. This will not only pro­tect him from mak­ing sim­i­lar mis­takes in the future, but also make him work hard­er on the next task. Who wants to spend extra time study­ing when the guys are play­ing foot­ball under the win­dows, and their beloved class­mate has been “hang­ing” in the social net­work for a long time, wait­ing.
  • Abil­i­ty to make an asso­cia­tive series. “Attract” new infor­ma­tion to already famil­iar mate­r­i­al. As an exam­ple from the same Sovi­et child­hood — a rhyme for remem­ber­ing the order of col­ors in the rain­bow “Every hunter wants to know where the pheas­ant is sit­ting.” Use tricks like this to remem­ber “incon­ve­nient” infor­ma­tion for your brain.

And a few more tips that will help make arbi­trary mem­o­ry bet­ter for both chil­dren and adults.

  • Focus on the task at hand. If you need to learn a poem, then you should not be dis­tract­ed by how the fly sat on the jam, why dad (hus­band) got into the refrig­er­a­tor, and what kind of SMS came.
  • Sort the infor­ma­tion you need by com­mon or sim­i­lar fea­tures. Yes­ter­day you stud­ied the struc­ture of the skin, and today you are try­ing to remem­ber the geo­graph­i­cal posi­tion of Italy? Boots are made of leather, and Italy, if you look at it from a bird’s eye view, is very sim­i­lar to a boot. Look for asso­ci­a­tions in every­thing.
  • To mem­o­rize num­bers, do the same. Instead of cram­ming, remem­ber what asso­ci­a­tions this or that num­ber evokes. For exam­ple, 1970 is the year of birth, 16 is the first love, and so on.
  • Going to a new coun­try, learn at least a cou­ple of words in the lan­guage spo­ken there. It is even bet­ter to mas­ter a num­ber of phras­es that will allow you to exchange pleas­antries with the staff when you check into a hotel, order food in a restau­rant. So you will not only show respect to the locals, but also improve your mem­o­ry.

By the way, the study of for­eign lan­guages, even by sci­en­tists, is rec­og­nized as the right way to increase intel­lec­tu­al abil­i­ties. And we are striv­ing for this, devel­op­ing our brain and arbi­trary mem­o­ry.

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