Thursday, 14 July 2011

Cognitive maps

Cognitive maps are a way of remembering things that poets often find useful.In fact, it could be argued that the very act of being a poet is in some way underpinned by the ability to cognitively map. Poets (as Wordsworth pointed out) use the inner eye to build  and add spatial knowledge, in order to visualize images and reduce cognitive load. This  method adds to our ability to recall and learn information.

The oldest known formal method of using spatial locations to remember data is the "method of loci". Used once by Roman rhetoric students (using a Greek system) when memorizing speeches. You will have heard of this one - in some ways it is like a platform game. You memorize the appearance of a physical location (for example, the sequence of rooms in a building). When a list of words, for example, needs to be memorized, You just put an object representing that word in one of imagined locations. To recall the list, the learner mentally walks through the rooms, noticing the objects placed there in virtual imagination.

Poets can help themselves by learning this method because it enables them to write on the move in their head; and many other tasks beside. Not least declamation - something I have never been able to get my head round.

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