Easy memory trick that stops you forgetting your umbrella

The next time it is raining outside and you need to remember your umbrella, imagine the tip being stuck in the lock of the front door, preventing you from opening it.

It may seem an unnecessarily complicated way to keep dry in bad weather, but this technique has been shown to work dramatically for people who are forgetful.

The strategy means if you often lose your keys, it might be helpful to imagine them badly scratching the kitchen table you have left them on.

The key, scientists have found, is to imagine an action between two objects, such as the umbrella lodged in the door lock, and a potential consequence, such as being unable to unlock the door.

They tested the tactic in 80 people aged 61 to 88, who boosted their performance significantly in memory tests.

The strategy means if you often forget your umbrella, it might be helpful to imagine you getting soaked to remember it

The strategy means if you often forget your umbrella, it might be helpful to imagine you getting soaked to remember it

This is because getting older, people can remember individual things like the table and keys, or umbrella and rain, as well as when they were younger, but are worse at recalling the relationship between them.

It makes remembering and future planning tricky, because they are less able to remember, for example, that the keys are on the table.

How does the technique work? 

Imagining an action and a consequence together, such as the keys scratching the table, gets round the problem by fooling the brain into grouping the two separate items together as one.

The study on the 'unitisation' memory strategy is published in the journal Memory & Cognition.

Co-author Professor Jennifer Ryan, from the University of Toronto, said: 'Previous research has shown that imagining two objects fusing into one will help people work around these memory deficits, but our work demonstrated that understanding the relationship between the two items is also important.

'We know that cognitive function is impaired during ageing and this strategy could be one workaround for minor memory problems, depending on what you need to achieve.'

Similar to rock, paper, scissors 

The memory trick is similar to the playground game of rock, paper, scissors.

It is easy to remember which wins when making hand signals to represent each, as rock blunts scissors, scissors cut paper and paper covers rock.

In their experiment, the researchers used a similar game but with abstract objects on a computer screen.

The older study participants were asked to use one of four memory techniques to

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