Experiments in mind mapping

In one experiment on mind mapping, several participants were given the word sequence dog-bone-m. The second group was given the sequence gambler-bone-m. The subjects were then tested as to which of the two groups would come up with the response “meat” more quickly. The people in the first group dog-bone-m were faster, because the proceeding word “dog” activated the memory link “dog-bone-meat”. As Tony Buzan suggested in his many books on the subject of mind mapping, “Memory works by an activation process which spreads from word to associated word via the links in the mind map.”Mind maps take advantage of the associative powers described by Aristotle. He was one of the first to espouse the principle that memory is based on the formation of linkages or associations. For instance, if I ask you to respond with the first word that comes to mind when I say “high,” you are likely to respond with “low.” In most people’s minds, these words are associated (“hot” and “cold”; “wet” and “dry” are other examples). Aristotle suggested that associations are based on three principles. First, the more we experience two things together the more strongly we associate them. Second, events experienced at the same time or place tend to be associated. Third, if two things are similar the thought of one will likely prompt the thought of the other.Over the ensuing centuries Aristotle’s ideas have been supported by psychologists and neuroscientists. And while Aristotle had no way of knowing this during his lifetime, the associations once established involved the maintenance of networks of brain cells (neurons) that functionally linked together whenever we learn new information. Later, whenever we recollect a specific memory we activate the brain cell network that was formed at the moment when we first established that memory. The more frequent we access that memory, the stronger these linkages become. Some memories are so well established (such as our name, our addresses, our siblings, etc.) that they remain a permanent part of our identity. This is what we mean when we say that memory forms the foundation for identity.When applying a mind map to recover a memory (a name or word, etc.), the central image will be blank and the associated nodes will consist of whatever springs to your mind in regard to that name or word. Where and when did you meet that person; who were some of the people familiar to both you and the person whose name resists your recall? You will find that without writing many things down or creating a lot of nodes, the name will come to you from your “unconscious memory.”Here is a short example of how you can recover momentarily forgotten words. Draw a node and leave it blank. I’m going to provide a word for that blank. But first, I’ll suggest some nodes to you that should lead up to you guessing the word. The first node is medical term. The second node is infectious disease, which branches off directly from medical term. For the third node, historical term, make it a separate node branching off from the blank node. Next draw a fourth node, plagues, which splits off from both medical term and historical termFinally, draw a last node, compulsory separation of sick from well, emanating from both historical term and plagues. Stare at diagram 1 illustrating the resulting pattern. Keep your eyes fixed on it for ten or fifteen seconds and then look way. Have you thought of the missing word now?The word is all too familiar to us from our Covid-19 national experience. In this exercise, since I was the only person who knew the word, I functioned as a facilitator of your unconscious memory and, by means of mind mapping, helped you come up with the word (“quarantine”) based on its associated nodal links.