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The Eight Mindsets series: Memory Principles

This article has been recreated from the session notes of a webinar session from our Eight Mindsets webinar series with live participants.

In a previous article we went through the 4-stages of how our brain learns. In this session we consider:

✅ Key Memory Learning Principles (KMLP)

✅ structuring training to utilise Brain Works & KMLP

About the Eight Mindsets

Our purpose with Training Hats and the Eight Mindsets sessions is to empower anyone, (whether you’re in Risk, Compliance, Law, HR, L&D or wherever you come from) to have the know-how and confidence to produce effective training and communications.

For us effective training is training that changes behaviours and makes a difference to our organisations and ultimately the world that we pass on.

We firmly believe that everyone has the ability to create something meaningful. Whether it be that script, outstanding salient key messages, a story, a drawing, an idea, a voiceover. We want every single person who works with us to understand and use your existing creative assets to rejuvenate ineffective training and produce effective transfer of your knowledge to others.

Check out the Eight Mindsets Podcast on Spotify

Memory and producing training that sticks

There are 8 memory principles that we want to tell you about. We don’t have long so we’re going to use the RPM - the rapid training method. What’s this. We’re going to activate the 4 regions of your cortex as quickly as possible to the 8 Memory Principles. For a recap on how the brain works check out the session on How the Brain Works.

Principles 1: The power of three:

THE NUMBER THREE is used so regularly that we may not even notice it. Here are some examples:

· Goldilocks and the Three bears

· How we structure a story (a beginning, a middle and end),

· Learning your ‘A,B,C’

So what’s the importance of three? Studies have shown that people can only remember three or four things at once. So if we want people to recall - do it 3 at a time.

Principle 2: Opening and closing messages.

This is also known as the primacy effect and the recency effect.

This was discovered by the psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus during his memory experiments in the 1880s. These experiments are responsible for something called the Memory Curve. We will speak about this in a later session.

Through his experiments he observed something he came to call the serial position effect. This is that people’s ability to accurately recall items from a list is dependent upon the location of the item on that list. Here’s how it works:

Items found at the end of the list that are learned most recently are recalled best (the recency effect).

The first few items are also recalled better than those found in the middle (the primacy effect).

The great thing about remembering the importance of opening and closing is that we can use it throughout the training in sections.

So, in our sessions, we often introduce the topic with a story or explanation and then end it with a key takeaway.

Principle 3: Engagement

This is a whole topic on itself. But the principle is very simple - get people active and engaged (enrolled) participating and involved and they will remember.

Principle 4: Categories

I’m going to give you an example to illustrate my point here.

Here’s a list of 5items:

1. Ethics

2. Compliance

3. Integrity

4. Trust

5. Speak up

How many of you can recall any or all of these without relooking at the list and write them down in the same order?

It’s likely that many people here could remember most of these in the right order, because these are terminologies many of you use regularly. However, now try:

1. Butter

2. Pound

3. Sponge

4. Angel

5. Chiffon

You may have gotten the first 2 but unless you know that these are all types of cake, you will probably not remember these.

Principle 5: Association

We remember things by association. Every piece of information in our memory is connected to other pieces in some way or another.

For example, if you are given the word “dog”, what do you think of? Perhaps cute, leash, long-haired, bark, cat.But it’s unlikely that we will think of a dog and think of an apple. That’s because our memory works by association - relating things to what we already know.

If there is no obvious association between things, it’s very difficult to remember them. For example, suppose you needed to remember that you have a train to catch at 2 P.M. today. There is nothing about the name train that would suggest the number 2 more than it would any other number (at least at first glance).

Therefore, 2 is easily forgotten. But if we actively work to create an association between two bits of information then we will be more likely to remember it.

For example, for the train that we need to catch at 2 P.M., we can imagine the train in our mind, and notice that it has 2 red carriages. Two red carriages, 2 P.M. There’s an association. We are now ten times more likely to remember the train time long after it has faded from our short-term memory.

When pieces of information are not obviously related in any way, however, we have to be a bit more creative in linking things together. But it isn’t as hard as it seems. Most of us learned rhymes and acronyms in school that helped us remember things.

Principle 6: Uniqueness and familiarity

A way to think about the familiar and the unfamiliar is to think about a clothesline. Do we have a peg already there to hang the clothes up - or do we need to go and find a peg for each item and then hang it up?

If we have a peg - it’s far quicker. In fact, it makes very little sense going and hunting a peg down each time we need to hang up an item of clothes. Best just to have a whole load of pegs already up there.

And that’s the same as our audience.

Now we know the 4-stage learning cycle, we can understand how people take in information. You will appreciate that in order to get people to understand your message you need to be able to relate it to something that is important to them.

We know that they need to have an existing memory about something (a peg or hanger) to hang the information onto so that they can relate the new information with what they already know. This enables them to understand and process it more effectively.

Principle 7: Emotion and visualisation.

This is a whole session on itself and we will be going through this in a lot more detail. But even understanding how our plastic brains take in information - remember practice and emotion - we can appreciate the importance of emotion and visualisation in our training. For an example, check out the stunning images below (and also at the top of this article) which we showed in the Eight Mindsets webinar session on how the brain works.

Principle 8 -The power of repetition.

Tony Robbins is famous for his quote:

Repetition of the mother of all skill.

This quote was taken from Zig Zigla’s quote:

“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”

And to be honest, I prefer Zig’s quote more, as I too believe that repetition is the mother of learning. I could spend an entire book speaking about the power of repetition when it comes to learning a new behaviour, skill or habit. But if you want evidence, just think about how a baby learns.They learn through routine. And what is routine if it is not repetition.

So don’t be afraid to repeat yourself often.

Structure any training program to meet your audience’s needs

So we made a commitment to you at the start of this article and also in the webinar that this article originated from. We said that we would teach you to Structure any training program to meet your audience’s needs. We did not lie. But we also did not say that we were going to do this for you. Your job now is to get those other two part of your cortex working. You’re going to do this by going away and coming up with your own plan to structure a training session. We are going to suggest that you do this simply from what you have learned and remember. So think of a training event you have coming up - could even be a pitch or a business presentation - how can you fire it up with these memory principles?

To help with this, I want to share with you the structure that Jason and I use when we put together any any training program. This is

1. Pre-training: Pre-frame the audience before the training starts:

a. what’s going to happen to them i.e. how long will they need to pay attention, where, when and how?

b. Make a contract with the audience before the training starts about what they are going to learn. This also enables them to reflect on this as information they already know so they can process stage 1 of their learning (experience) more quickly to move to stage 2 (reflection).

2. Learning process

a. Give people as many reasons or examples in threes. People remember 3. This session, for example, has three topics and at many times we have used the power or three to make a point or back up a point.

b. Use strong points at the beginning (an opening story) and end of a topic in a session (a closing remark or takeaway point). Remember people recall opening and closing messages.

c. Break everything down for people and get them to interact throughout so they can use parts 3 and 4 of the learning cycle.

3. Post training: End it by getting them to think or do:

a. Enable the learner to ‘do processing’ and ‘active testing’ at the end of the training to enable them to continue the learning cycle.

b. Remember that by using the mentipoll we gave you time to interact, reflect and process all at the same time – that’s something that we can all insert in any training program.

c. Consider asking learners a poll or survey question at the end or even a few weeks later to help them process the information. For example, ask them – what one new thing would you now add to what you are already doing?


Hopefully one thing that will stand out to you from this article is that using these 8 Memory Principles doesn’t require a large budget or even any budget. They don’t require an external vendor or new technology, they just require you to utilise them when building or producing training.

The point of this article, and, indeed, Training Hats and our Eight Mindsets Cohort, is about looking at how we can all make better use of the resources and opportunities we all have because that’s being entrepreneurial, which we believe is an essential part of any professional’s tool box.

For tips, courses and more ideas on how to create training that works for your learner’s brains, and for help with your resourcing needs, go to:; or

reach out to Nicole and Jason directly here or at

If you are interested in learning more about training strategy or the Eight Mindsets cohort and you want to have a chat, feel free to contact me directly at

And don’t forget to check out the Eight Mindsets Podcast on Spotify (that’s the power of repetition kicking in)

That’s all folks


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