Associative memory in psychology

Effective memorization and reproduction of information is facilitated by associations that entail the involuntary appearance of another image during a mental connection between two or more concepts. Subsequently, the memory is easily updated.

What it is?

In neurophysiology, it is noted that the process of perception of information begins from the moment it affects the receptors. External stimuli are converted into bioelectric energy. Neural networks, caused by complex chemical processes, allow a person to retain an image in memory for a long time without quantitative and qualitative losses. In this way, The physiological basis of association is considered to be a short-term neural connection caused by conditioned reflexes.

In psychology, associativity is considered a link between mental phenomena. The structure of human memory is arranged in such a way that some memories are able to generate images associated with them. A person has the opportunity throughout life to accumulate, retain, preserve, learn and reproduce a huge amount of knowledge and skills, various ideas and images.

Human memory is associative. Memories entail certain life moments in the form of a logical chain of related events. A few musical measures can evoke a wide range of feelings. Hearing a fragment of a work, an individual can instantly recall a landscape, a scent, a sound, or a loved one. Associations are a kind of invisible hooks extracted from the depths of memory. They contain ideas about the accumulated life experience and experienced moments that are directly related to what needs to be remembered.

Primitive people used objects to remember. For example, they took with them a pebble or a leaf from a tree. Until now, the expression «knot for memory» has remained, meaning a kind of encoding information. External means of memory come to the aid of its internal process. A knotted knot on a handkerchief is a coded image of an association.

The associative memory of a person retains knowledge selectively. The brain itself filters information. Sometimes a person cannot remember an important event, but remembers some insignificant fact to the smallest detail.

The theory of associative memory is based on the concept of associations, which are represented by 3 groups.

  • Adjacency associations suggest the emergence of memories experienced at a certain point in life. For example, having met a childhood friend, a person may recall several episodes from school time. Memories can trigger positive or negative emotions.
  • Similarity Associations mean the revealed similarities of a new image that has appeared with a previously encountered person’s face.
  • Associations by contrast are able to evoke in the mind opposite images that have already been perceived before: “beautiful” — “terrible”, “evil” — “kind”, “sweet” — “bitter”, “soft” — “hard”.

The associative system of memorizing concepts is based on simplicity, unusualness and detail. No mental effort is required to create an association. This is a creative process. The technique based on associativity is included in the structure of many techniques. Their implementation allows memorizing a large amount of very complex and serious information.

Impact on ability development

Associative series created in human memory, help to develop various abilities:

  • memorization of a solid amount of information;
  • memory development;
  • improving the process of memorizing new material;
  • stimulation of the development of imagination and creativity;
  • the ability to create new ideas.

Linking existing knowledge to new material has a great effect on the development of personality abilities. To identify the ability to use associative connections, psychologists use test diagnostics.

Association principles

Information filled with meaning is stored for a long time in the structure of the brain, and a meaningless set of words is quickly erased from memory. With the help of associations, any material is easily fixed.

In psychology, various techniques are widely used. Making free associations is a creative process. The individual comes up with associative series on his own, depending on his vocabulary and the choice of the word closest to him. Thought turns into a real work of art. When creating associations, bizarre fantasies and colorful images are especially effective. Ways of memorizing material with the help of associative series are very effective.

There is the concept of an internal language. Each person has many single memories related to the same event. All active comparisons of the current representation of the subject with the existing concepts in memory are called associative links.

The activity of some representations is an impulse for remembering other concepts associated with memories.

The whole life lived is fixed in the form of vague or vivid memories, which are extracted from the depths of memory when they get acquainted with new material. Each individual develops certain stereotypes. For example, hearing the word «noisy», one person imagines a busy street, another may think of a vacuum cleaner, and a third of a children’s team.

At the moment of acquaintance with a person, associative bindings instantly begin to form in the structure of the brain. The pleasant timbre of the voice can remind the velvety baritone of a close friend, some of the facial features of a colleague, etc. The next time you meet this person, recognition occurs due to internal representations that have been activated through earlier associations.

There are different types of them.

  • causal. A thundercloud is associated with heavy rain. A bruise indicates a bruise or injury.
  • Opposite. A contrasting image evokes the opposite association. At the sight of a white mouse, the image of a black cat may appear in the imagination.
  • proximity in time. Phenomena or facts are often united by proximity in space or time. The concepts of «heat», «heat» can be associated with summer or Africa.
  • similarity. Similar signs make it possible to mentally compare a cunning person with a fox, a cowardly person with a hare, and a clumsy person with a bear. An incandescent lamp can be associated with a pear, the planet Earth with a ball.

How to develop?

Association method great for working with kids. Babies are selected pictures that resemble the original words or phrases. They are given to children and the appropriate phrases are pronounced aloud: delicious dinner, happy holiday, dark night, winter day, mischievous dog, strong wind, summer rain, old tree, strong friendship, serious illness.

Then the sheets with the image of these concepts are removed. Toddlers are switched to another activity. Half an hour later, the children again receive pictures. They must repeat previously heard phrases.

The same technique is used in working with primary school students. For them, the tasks gradually become more difficult. In younger students, the method forms the skills of quickly memorizing the material. In the future, the principle of work will automatically be used by them to root in the memory of mathematical formulas, abstract concepts, complex texts, voluminous information.

There are many exercises for training the associative memory of older students and adults.

Task number 1

It is necessary to write down the numbers from 1 to 100 in a column, then fix on another sheet 10 associations that arise with a certain digital sign.


  • 1 — candle;
  • 5 — smoking pipe;
  • 8 — sign of infinity;
  • 11 — palisade;
  • 14 — Valentine (Valentine’s Day — February 14);
  • 17 — Stirlitz (film «Seventeen Moments of Spring»);
  • 20 — a swan swimming in a round lake;
  • 31 — New Year;
  • 33 — Jesus Christ (according to the number of years lived on earth);
  • 45 — berry (because of the expression «a woman hits 45, becomes a berry again»).

After rooting in the memory of vivid images corresponding to certain numbers, you need to write out a series of numbers again and write down an associative event opposite each of them. The procedure is repeated until all the numbers in the column run out.

This exercise helps in the future to quickly remember an important date or phone number.

Task number 2

You should remember words that are not logically related to each other. Each word is given 10 seconds to comprehend. You can remember them by lining up words in an associative sequence. The brighter and more interesting the images are, the easier it is to remember them. After processing 5 images, you need to mentally reproduce the picture in your head, then you need to continue working on the next group of words.

Sample list of words to remember:

  • painter;
  • mirror;
  • star;
  • fish;
  • marmalade;
  • carpet;
  • landscape;
  • table;
  • a spoon;
  • shame;
  • schoolboy;
  • bath;
  • cloud;
  • jug;
  • bullet;
  • screen;
  • visagiste;
  • boredom;
  • sand;
  • rustle.

Imagine an artist standing with a brush in front of a huge mirror that reflects a bright red five-pointed star. Suddenly, a fish with marmalade in its mouth jumps right out of this star and falls with a crash on the carpet in the room. A beautiful landscape is depicted on the carpet. When falling, the fish manages to knock the spoon off the table with its tail and instantly blushes with shame.

The schoolboy, who witnessed these events, immediately went to the bathhouse. On the street, he saw a beautiful cloud in the form of a jug, into which a bullet hit with an incredible whistle. The make-up artist saw these events on the screen of his TV. His cheekbone cramped from boredom. The face was so distorted that the make-up artist immediately began to rub it with sand. At that moment, there was a rustling of the pages of an open book.

At the same time, it is necessary in the imagination to draw not a simple book, but an old leather-bound edition. You need to clearly feel the smell of centuries-old dust emanating from the rustling huge glossy pages. The brighter the image is created, the longer it will be stored in memory.

Compilation of absurd text contributes to the long-term retention of words in the storage of long-term memory. The restoration of the associative chain of events allows the individual to reproduce the words in strict sequence the next day, a week later, and even a month later.

The use of the method of associative links makes it possible for a person to memorize a very large number of words without difficulty.

Task number 3

It is recommended to come up with 2 words that are not related in meaning. One of them will be the beginning of the link, and the second word should complete the chain. For example, the original words are «berry» — «theater». You can get such a chain: berry — jam — cheesecake — buffet — theater.

In the following tasks, it is proposed to come up with associations according to external features, color, smell, shape.

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