It is possible to improve memory. Among the tips that experts recommend are:
Find patterns in things you have to remember. One student memory whiz at Carnegie-Mellon University is an avid cross-country runner and learned to think of unrelated numbers in terms of running times. For instance, the series 3,4,6,3,9 would become to him 3:46.39, close to the world record for the mile. "The more you organize information, the greater the likelihood that you will be able to retrieve or remember it," says Carnegie-Mellon psychologist James Staszewski.
*Study for tests in the room in which you will be tested, if possible. Familiar surroundings are associated with better memory.
*Avoid cramming lessons into a short period of time. This will increase the likelihood of long-term retention. "I think people have an intuitive feeling for this," says Carnegie-Mellon psychologist Lynne M. Reder. "If you were to win an award to take tennis lessons from a great tennis player, you wouldn't want to take them all in a row. You would want to space them out."
*Be aware that cramming for exams will work in the short run, but your chances of remembering the information two months from now -- when you actually need to apply it -- are slim.
*Look for some connecting information to help you memorize the name of someone you've just met. For example, Joseph Lightman has light-colored hair, or Melanie Rhodes sounds like a musical street. Be creative. Also, learn some other fact about the person when you are introduced to help you get a unique body of information about that individual and to help you "tag" him or her.
And remember that quickly learning names at a cocktail party, where you are often balancing a drink, conducting a conversation and scanning the room, is a tough task.
*Take a tip from psychologist B.F. Skinner -- when all else fails, learn how to fake it. Resources
Among the resources for help in memory training or assessment:
*Memory Assessment Clinics, Inc. 8311 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, Md. 20814; 657-0030. Provides free memory assessment as part of a research project.
*George Washington University Reading Center, 2201 G St. NW, Suite 429, Washington, D.C. 20052. 676-6286. Offers memory training for adults, teens and children. Four classes for $100.