By Cory Lauer
Have you ever wondered what the best study methods are? This conundrum plagues many incoming and first year college students. But, something to be taken into consideration is how the information is presented on the page. Repetition is helpful in remembering material but presenting the material with other similar material and restructuring it into something easier to digest is paramount to better learn and remember the information. This is one of the goals of Gestalt psychology. Similar ideas and theories will be better associated when they are presented together, and each idea or theory will be better remembered if it is framed in a different manner. Because of this, utilizing Gestalt representation and restructuring will promote better study habits and increase the amount of information remembered.
Repetition is rather important to learning and remembering information or skills, but repetition alone is not enough. Merely exercising the skill or repeating the information will strengthen the recall cues, and can lead to beneficial results, but it does not promote the best study habits. In following this type of studying, one merely becomes familiar with the terms themselves, rather than what they are trying to convey. They know the term, but not the definition. To circumvent this problem, one should act with a purpose in mind and understand what they are doing (1). Studying by repeating and rereading only serves to familiarize oneself with the terms. However, they do not understand what the terms mean, nor do they have the intent to learn their meanings. Following this idea, the good student would prepare to elaborate and restructure the terms to find an appropriate method of learning the material, rather than just familiarizing it. Adapting this type of methodology is not only beneficial in one way. There are many studies that show that overcome obstacles and adapting new methodologies improve memory (2). This forces the idea of restructuring the plan of action to better accomplish the intent, being studying. It also represents the information differently. The original intent was merely reading what is written, but the new plan represents the information not as reading material, but as material to be studied.
How the information is represented is extremely important to memory. Things that are presented in a pleasurable manner are more likely to be committed to memory. One example is a mnemonic device. Theses devices present the information in a condensed form that aids in remembering the information. These devices are analogous to music. We tend to forget individual notes and tones but have a much better time remembering melodies and chords (3). Because of this, condensing the information into something more pleasurable, such as a mnemonic device, will increase memory.
Contrary to the pleasurable presentation, information that is presented as fragmented or incomplete, after being made familiar, will induce the closure principle to complete the presented information. In other words, seeing incompleteness causes stress on the viewer, and completing the information relieves the stress (4). This principle has been shown to increase memory of the information that is presented as incomplete. Following this, if the information that one wants to study is rewritten to be fragmented and appear incomplete, completing the information will help to commit it to memory. But how the information is presented is not the only way of increasing the probability of remembering information.
Studying individual pieces of information can be useful, but associating and combining certain aspects of information is extremely beneficial. The terms will be easier to recall and will be easier to understand. Take a beam of light, for example, shown through a thin crack on the wall. A viewer only sees one beam of light on the wall. But add a second one through a different crack that shows on the same spot as the first, and the viewer will perceive something wholly different (5). This can be generalized to information as well. Seeing a term by itself is useful and beneficial, but seeing how it interacts with similar terms open a new world of information and questions. Not only will this aid in understanding the terms, it will aid in remembering them because not only is the term itself known, but its context and importance is also known.
The structure of the information is important as well. Arranging the information in specific ways will increase the probability of remembering it. If the laws of proximity and association are followed, it will increase memory of the information (6). When similar information is presented together, it creates more mental cues to recall the information. When information is presented as being closer to other information, it also creates more mental cues for recall. Creating more mental cues for retrieval of memories makes it easier to retrieve the information from long term memory, which makes remembering it easier.
Following these ideas, studying will become much more fun and much more beneficial. When the information has been restructured and represented in a way that is much more pleasurable and associative, the memory will start to hold more information.
- Scott, R. R. (1930). Some Suggestions on Learning from the Point of View of Gestalt Psychology. Journal of Educational Psychology, 21(5), 361-366. doi:10.1037/h0069826
- Humphrey, G. (1924). The Psychology of the Gestalt. Journal of Educational Psychology, 15(7), 401-412. doi:10.1037/h0070207
- Ash, I. K., Jee, B. D., & Wiley, J. (2012). Investigating Insight as Sudden Learning. Journal of Problem Solving, 4(2), 1-27
- Ehrenfels, C. V. (1937). On Gestalt-qualities. Psychological Review, 44(6), 521-524. doi:10.1037/h005696
- Heller, N. (1956). An Application of Psychological Learning Theory to Advertising. Journal of Marketing, 20(3), 248-254
- Dumitru, M. L., & Joergensen, G. H. (2016). Gestalt Reasoning with Conjunctions and Disjunctions. Plos ONE, 11(3), 1-17. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0151774