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Erin Wash


Our everyday ease in generalizing knowledge is one class of evidence that we have several kinds of data representations in our heads. Mental representations also reveal themselves in the psychology laboratory. With clever techniques, psychologists can catch a mind in the act of flipping from representation to representation.

Laboratory research has revealed that the human brain uses at least four major formats of representation. One format is visual image, which is like a template in a two-dimensional, picturelike mosaic. Another is a phonological representation, a stretch of syllables that we play in our minds like a tape loop, planning out the mouth movements and imagining what syllables look like. This is a component of short-term memory, like the way we repeat a phone number to ourselves long enough to remember the number to dial it. A third format is grammatical representation: nouns and verbs, phrases and clauses, stems and roots, phonemes and trees, all arranged in hierarchical trees. These representations determine what goes into a sentence and how people communicate and play with language. The fourth format is mentalese, the language of thought in which our conceptual knowledge is couched. Mentalese is the medium in which content or gist is captured.

One way of remembering things is mnemonics. Mnemonics are any method or technique that enhances your ability to remember. Mnemonics such as sound, acronyms, acrostics, repetition, the link-chain system, and etc. are used to remember things. On thing in which this aids in memorizing is poetry.

A poem on the page speaks to the listening mind. A few examples of devices that help to remember these and give them a "musical accompaniment", so to speak, are: alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia, rhythm, and rhyme. This makes the poems easier to memorize than those written in free verse. When something sounds "musical", it is easier for the brain to remember.

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