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Icebreakers

Recall Exercise

This exercise helps people become aware of the strategies they use when trying to recall a sequence of numbers and letters.

Display the following sequence of letters ask the group to imagine that they very important.

DNOSAJJMAMFJ

Tell the group that they have thirty seconds to memorise the sequence. After thirty seconds, remove the presentation slide and ask the group to try to write down the sequence.

Ask the group how well they did and point out that whats important here is not how successful they were, but how they went about trying to remember it.

Debrief by asking the group what strategies they used to remember the sequence.

Recall presentation slides


Additional information

Twelve bits of information are beyond the minds ability to process in one go, so people use a number of different strategies including:

  • Breaking it down into more manageable chunks (e.g. DNO SAJ JMA MFJ).
  • Repetition of the sequence.
  • Saying the sequence in some kind of rhythm, chant or song (DNOS AJJ MAMFJ).
  • Writing it out.
  • Creating a mental snap-shot of the sequence.
  • Creating Associations.
Some of these strategies are more successful that others. For example, pictures are retained in the long term memory, but repetitions are stored in the short term memory.

If the letters and numbers are given an association or a meaning or can be identified as as a recognizable sequence then there is a good chance it will be remembered it more effectively. In the above example the letters are the first letter of the twelve months in reverse order. George A. Miller argued that the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 2. His paper - The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two - is one of the most cited in psychology.


Variations

Give the group another example by displaying the following sequence of letters for thirty seconds.

OTTFFSSENTET

Theres a good chance that they did better than before especially if they realize that the sequence is the first letters of the numbers one to twelve.


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