Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 94 - May 2013 - by Phil Chambers


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Welcome to the May 2013 issue of the Learning Technologies Newsletter. Please continue to forward it to friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.

This month we have an article on the Von Restorff Effect in memory plus our regular features of quote of the month, Mind Mapping tip and what I’m up to.


May's Quote of the Month

"I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.
Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living,
it's a way of looking at life through the
wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do,
and that enables you to laugh at life's realities."

~ Dr. Seuss

Nonsense also stimulates the von Restorff effect – See main article below

More quotes here



What's Phil Up To?


Brain of The Year

From left: Professor Michael Crawford, Lorraine Gill (Artist), Tony Buzan and Phil Chambers


I had the privilege to attend the Brain of The Year gala dinner at London’s Simpsons-in-the-Strand on 25th April. The recipient of this year’s award was Professor Michael Crawford, renowned scientist in the field of human nutrition. In his acceptance speech he explained how the major medical ailment of the past decades has been heart disease brought about by eating too much of the wrong kinds of animal fat. However, a far greater danger now presents itself by eating too little of the right kind of fats derived from fish oils. These are essential to the development of healthy brains especially for unborn babies in the womb. Professor Crawford warned the without substantial advances in pisciculture we are in danger of becoming ‘morons’!

Award Brain of the Year

Professor Crawford receives his award from Prince Mohsin Ali Khan. Raymond Keene OBE applauds.

Mind Mapping Tip of the Month.

Use single key words on branches. Key words succinctly summarise information. Using one word per line has three main benefits:

  • Phrases or sentences require very long lines that destroy the branching network that is integral to a Mind Map.

  • When information is broken down into key words, more nodes are created (at the end of each branch). Each node may generate more associations so a topic can be explored in greater depth and additional insights revealed.

  • For creative thinking purposes single words can free the mind to generate far more associations and differing meanings. Phrases and sentences imprison thoughts in linear shackles.


What Does Harry Potter Have To Do With A German Psychologist And A Phenomenal Memory?

I have often stated that I believe J. K. Rowling weaves personal development messages into her books. This may or may not be an instance of such. Harry Potter’s owl that delivers messages to Hogwarts is called Hedwig.

This also happens to be the first name of the early twentieth century, female, German psychologist Hedwig von Restorff (1906–1962).Von Restorff worked as a postdoctoral assistant to Wolfgang Köhler at the Psychological Institute of the University of Berlin and wrote a paper in 1933 on the topic of spontaneous recall based on distinctiveness or dissimilarity to surrounding items. The effect now bears her name.

Put simply, the Von Restorff effect states that we more easily remember things that are unusual, outstanding or out of the ordinary.

If you want to commit information to memory you need to take heed of Hedwig!

There are various ways of making things outstanding. These include:

  • Heightened Senses
    Imagining things brighter, louder, smellier, delicious or disgusting makes them extraordinary.

  • Exaggeration
    Play with changes of scale or proportion, making things huge or minute. How can you Accentuate differences?

  • Humour
    Humour relies on the juxtaposition of unexpected elements. Surreal or silly situations are memorable such as Monty Python’s or Spike Milligan’s sketches.

  • Movement
    We are attracted and engaged by movement. Think of the difference between watching a movie compared with a photo album. How can objects interact with their environment in unexpected ways?

  • Sexuality
    Sexy individuals attract our attention and stand out in our memories. Advertisers often exploit this – Sex sells!

That’s it for this month. I’ll be back in touch with the next newsletter in early June.

Best Wishes