Remember More: Finding Your Memory Style

How the 8 learning styles can help you remember

By Dan
August 17, 2020

You may have heard of the 3 learning styles—learning by seeing, learning by hearing, and learning by doing. However, because people can be intelligent in different ways, there are actually 8 distinct learning styles, based on the 8 types of intelligence. But how do these learning styles influence how and what you remember? The answer might just change your entire approach to remembering.

How Multiple Intelligences Help us Learn

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences states that intelligence doesn’t have a “one size fits all” definition. Instead, there are 8 different types of intelligence—linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist. These types of intelligence can then be naturally applied to learning styles. It makes sense that someone who is strong in a particular facet of intelligence would benefit from learning through that lens.

To illustrate how this theory of multiple intelligences applies to learning styles, imagine that you are trying to learn about how taxes work. To grasp this concept, you can read articles (linguistic), look at formulas for how tax percentages are calculated (logical-mathematical), look at a diagram of the taxation process (spatial), conduct a simulation (bodily-kinesthetic), think about the distribution of your own earnings (intrapersonal), or talk about distributions of earnings with your friends and family (interpersonal). A musical learner would benefit by listening to a song about taxation (Johnny Cash’s “After Taxes” comes to mind). People may be predisposed to one type of learning over another, but all are equally important. 

Discovering Your Memory Style

So, this theory shows that there are many different ways to learn things—not just one. But can these principles then be applied to memory? Howard Gardner, founder of the previously-mentioned theory of multiple intelligences and a professor of developmental studies at Harvard, believes they can.

Gardner proposes that memory is not a single, unitary concept. Instead, he suggests that people can have different strengths in memory, just how they have different strengths in intelligence. Typically, when we say that someone has a good memory, we are referring to linguistic memory—how well a person can remember facts and figures, and how well they can remember what they previously read or studied. However, there is currently no measure of how well someone remembers things like “visual patterns, musical patterns, bodily movements, or the way that he or other persons felt at a recent social event." Though these are equally important components of memory, there is little research on how such memories can be retrieved and stored.

Furthermore, Gardner suggests that these separate skills—like remembering faces, movements, or songs—may each have a distinct memory-recording process. This would mean that someone’s sensory memory is processed and encoded using a different pathway than other forms of memory, such as information that has to do with retaining facts or numbers. Essentially, this would mean that someone’s memory of how to do their favorite dance move would be located in a different part of the brain than their memory of the name of their dance partner at freshman year’s school dance.

In fact, it has already been proven that some people have stronger semantic memory (recalling facts but little detail), while others have stronger episodic memory (recalling lots of details, but little facts). These differences may be a result of memory styles.


A Unique Way to Prompt your Memories

So, if there are different memory styles just as there are different learning styles, certain factors must prompt a person’s memory better than others. For this reason, MyStoriesMatter has a variety of different types of memory “cues.” If you are a musical learner, hearing a song from your childhood would likely prompt an impactful memory. If you’re a visual learner, a popular movie from your formative years may remind you of what you were doing during that time period. And if you’re a linguistic learner, reading news articles from the past would remind you of what other kinds of information you were reading back then. 

Moreover, MyStoriesMatter is perfect for both interpersonal and intrapersonal styles of memory. The interpersonal learner will be inspired by reading and interacting with the stories created by friends and family, while the intrapersonal learner will benefit from the self-reflection inherent in memoir-style content. 

For those who learn and remember by working with others, MyStoriesMatter enables users to invite those who shared an experience with them to collaborate. By jointly recording a shared memory, nostalgia can be turned into a social experience.

Though research is still being conducted on this topic, being aware of how the 8 different types of intelligence relate to memory can help one remember what was thought to be forever forgotten. Memories aren’t lost—what’s lost are the necessary cues to remember them. As said by Endel Tulving, esteemed neuroscientist and author of the Oxford Handbook of Memory, “When we forget something we once knew, it does not necessarily mean that the memory trace has been lost—it may only be inaccessible.” Identifying your memory style can help you seek out the content that will most effectively prompt such unreachable memories, opening up a new window to your past.