Mind Map® History
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HISTORY of MIND MAPS?
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The History of Memory Techniques Leading to Mind Maps
by Tony Buzan
Since human beings first walked planet Earth, memory has been one of the main concerns and interests. If early homo sapiens forgot, it was not only a matter of not remembering, it was often a matter of no longer living: if you could not remember which snakes were poisonous; which fruit was nutritious; where you had hidden your implements and weapons; where swamps, quick-sands and chasms were located; and where your secret supplies of food were, you did not get many more opportunities to try to remember anything!
Looking at memory from this basic and survival point of view, we quickly realise that memory is not just a matter of recalling shopping lists and information for exams - it is literally a matter of life and death. It is for this reason that all cultures throughout history have devoted large amounts of their time and energy to making sure that there ‘memory systems’ were both excellent and improving.
From simple colour-codings and marks on rocks, to rhymes that helped people remember the location of things that were important, the memory systems of planet Earth grew.
Once the human race had ‘discovered’ civilisation some 10,000 years ago, life became more stable, and it was possible for generations of good thinkers to write and create in relative peace, thus allowing the brain more time to focus on its own internal processes and creativity, rather than the immediate demands placed upon it by travel, the search for food, and fundamental survival.
Within a few thousand years a number of cultures had developed storytelling systems, songs, and literature that were all designed to help their fellow citizens remember important facts about their history, about religion, about their environment, about food and about codes of behaviour.
Prominent among these memory-centred cultures were the Aboriginals of Australia, the great Chinese civilisations, the Indian cultures and their Vedic-memory-based scriptures, and the Greeks.
The Greeks, being profoundly interested in the relationship of the brain to the body, the body to the brain, and the entire human being to the surrounding universe, took the art of memory and memory techniques to new horizons. They revered memory to such an extent that they created a goddess, Mnemosyne, to honour what they considered to be such a vital part of the real universe.
The Greeks developed basic list-memory systems, and propounded the basic memory principles of Imagination, Association and Location that are so central to
After the Greeks, the Romans continued to enhance the systems, adding the ‘Roman Room’ system that improved your memory by providing you with an imaginary room in which you ‘located’ the things you wished to remember.
For nearly 2,000 years after the decline of the Roman Empire, the art and science of memory fell into a fallow period because the world’s religions felt that the use of imagination was ‘not a good thing’ and they therefore frowned on techniques of thinking that encouraged the individual to imagine and fantasise.
It was not until the 17th century that people, especially those in the arts and the theatre, began to realise that the memory techniques were based on the fundamental principles of human thinking, and that they could be extremely useful in many many ways.
During the renaissance's in thinking lead by Shakespeare and Goethe, the first new development in memory techniques for 1,700 years appeared: the Major System. This was the first system that enabled the user to transfer easily and instantaneously from numbers to letters, thus creating the opportunity for a system that could stretch from zero to an infinite number, and which allowed the user to translate any word into its own special number, and any number into its own special letter. This multiplied the opportunity for developing memory techniques 100-fold.
For over 300 years, there were no other major advances until the middle of the 20th century, when Mind Maps were created.
Mind Maps are an incredibly powerful memory tool that have been compared to having a ‘Swiss army knife for the brain’. I am going to take you on a voyage of discovery that will take you, step by step, through the experiences, frustrations and explorations of one brain who found memory becoming his life’s passion and work.
It is a story that will ‘ring many bells’ for you, for I know that you will have had many similar experiences and thoughts to those you are about to hear.
As the story builds, constantly refer to your own experiences, and build up, on a notepad, as the story progresses, those bits of information which will help you add to your own memory power.
As you continue, also begin to think about what kind of system you would have devised, had you gone through the experiences outlined, and with the information provided to you on the functioning of your own memory.
The Story Begins …….
The story begins in kindergarten, where I attended at the age of five. Like all children I was fascinated by colour, anxious to learn, and enthusiastic about acquiring new skills and competencies.
Again like all children, I was both excited and afraid at the prospect of learning to write: it seemed such a mystical and magical skill.
At first I loved it, drawing big letters in many colours on large sheets of paper, but gradually became less enchanted, when I had to make my writing smaller and smaller (I wanted to do Big curves and tall lines, and my teachers wanted everything small, and compact in order to ‘be neat’ and to save paper). In addition my freedom was beginning to be restricted as I was increasingly obliged to write on lines, and not to go under or over them at the ‘wrong’ times.
In further addition, myself and my class mates were required to repeat the same letter over and over again until we had ‘got it right’. Writing, which I had once looked upon with awe and great expectations, became increasingly pressured, stressful and physically painful.
By the time I was seven years old, my writing was ‘behind bars’ (the lines on the page) and was already restricted, by the school that I attended, to one colour: a Quink blue/black ink. What I had once loved, I was beginning to hate. At this stage of my Academic career, another problem began to arise: I would set and make my notes studiously, think that I had understood, and not be able to remember it at test or examination time. I could not understand how understanding did not equal memory!
As the years progressed, my notes became more ‘neat’ and copious, and the problems with my examinations began to compound. The more notes I had and the more subjects I was studying, the more intellectual balls I had to juggle, and the more frantic became my efforts to keep them all up in the air! In examinations I began to experience a frantic scramble to try to ‘find’ or ‘locate’ the information that I knew was in my notes, but for some infuriating reason did not seem at that moment to be in my head!
Like all students under stress, I began to develop coping strategies and techniques, and started by underlining titles, subheadings and occasional ‘key words’ that seemed to be the most important of those that I had written down. I found this to be most helpful, and so, at the age of 11, had stumbled upon one of the first principles of memory, and that is to EMPHASISE in some way that which needs to be remembered.
As time progressed and I entered my senior years at school, the volume and complexity of the material I had to learn increased, and along with it so did the volume and complexity of my notes! It was during this period that I broke another taboo, and instinctively began to underline in red. I found that in addition to making my notes look more attractive, and literally ‘colourful’ the colour also gave me a stronger impression of the key word or phrase I had underlined, and also helped me to ‘locate’ where that information was on the page under the stress of a test or exam. My brain had uncovered another secret to memory and that is colour enhances recall both during and after learning.
It should be noted here that the use of colour in notes is usually increasingly frowned on as the student progresses through school, and at university and in the professional worlds it is often considered ‘childish’, ‘immature’, ‘backward’, ‘frivolous’, ‘not serious’. The reply to this facetious argument is to ask which group of human beings tends to use most colour in their ‘notes’? The answer: children! And similarly, which group of humans are the best at memorisation and learning? Answer: children!! Children learn better than adults on average not because they have better brains, but because they are still using their brains in the way they were designed to be used, and have not yet taken on board so many incorrect formulas.
At university the complexity and volume of work increased still further, and another crisis began to loom. I found myself sitting in the library, confronted with book loads of notes made during lectures and from the assigned texts, desperately realising that the volume of work these notes represented could in no way be completed in the time that I had remaining before exams.
My first reaction was the slow panic familiar to all studiers, accompanied by the brilliantly created excuses for not getting down to the task at hand, including looking out the window, ‘resting’, needing a drink, needing a snack, going for little walks, and scanning the more-attractive-to-me female students, most of whom were going through similar routines!
The more helpful escape route I devised, was once again a ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ situation, in which the human brain, under pressure, will often come up with the right solution. Indeed what I next devised is so commonly spontaneously generated by students world wide, that it now has a common name: ‘The Cheat Sheet’.
What I did (what I had no choice but to do!) was to scour through my notes, which were supposed to be the essence of the information I had studied, looking for what might be termed ‘the essence of the essence’. I extracted the key words and phrases I had underlined, and was thus able to condense a hundred pages of notes down to ten.
This proved still inadequate, and my next step was to reduce the essence of the essence to the essence of the essence of the essence! This resulted in my having perhaps five to ten small cards on which the key information of an entire hundred-page volume of notes was made into a ‘neutron star’ of knowledge.
This method proved effective up to a point, in that it did indeed enable me to condense the information, and also allowed me to carry it around with me for constant reviewing purposes. When I was actually writing my examination papers, I also found I was more easily able to ‘locate’ the information from my condensed notes. >
The method, was, however, far from perfect. I still could somehow, and for reasons that still escaped me, not really get ‘the whole picture’ of the subject I was studying, and would often miss out whole chunks of valuable information in the examination answers I gave. When reviewing my study cards after the exam, I would often find entire cards of knowledge that had somehow completely ‘escaped through the net’ in that critical examination period.
In my senior year at university, the combination of still inadequate note-taking techniques, a massive essay project, and the momentary inability of my memory to hold the entire picture of the topic I was writing about in one giant one mental map, reached a crisis point.
The essay, on the magnificent poets John Donne and William Blake, was one that truly did interest me. I happily went about gathering data and information, oblivious, in my enthusiasm, to the amount of work I was actually generating. When it came to organising, collating, and remembering all the information I had gathered, I realised to my shock and horror that I had generated my own massive Information Overload, and that I was beginning to drown in the very ocean that I had created.
I set about frantically cutting, pasting and sticking the various scraps of data I had gathered, and in the end found myself surrounded by so much ‘confetti’ that I looked like a just-married groom! There was simply too much, and for the first time in my life I failed an essay due to ‘incompletion’.
By this time I was beginning to do graduate lecturing and study, one of my lecturing assignments being the teaching of psychology 101 to first year university students.
I found myself one day lecturing to them on the nature of Recall During Learning, and as usual had prepared my linear notes in order to give the presentation.
I stood in front of the class, and began to read (like so many lecturers sadly do!) my notes to them.
The essence of the lecture I was giving to them was that in a learning period there are four main points of recall, and these are that the human brain recalls most: at the beginning of a learning period; at the end of a learning period those things which are in some way outstanding; and those things which are in some way associated/linked.
My notes were extensive and linear, and my voice, as a lecturer’s voice tends to be when reading from old and pre-prepared notes, was a relative monotone. As I droned on, my students, as most students around the world tend to do, were studiously making linear monotone notes of my linear monotone lecture!
I realised therefore with a sudden shock of both concern and amusement that I had been lecturing to my students on the nature of Recall During Learning in a manner which was in direct contradiction of everything I had been teaching them about how the brain recalls while it is learning!
I realised therefore that if I wanted my students to understand and remember what it was that I was teaching, I had to use the principles of Recall During Learning in my lecture. Analysing the four points, I also realised that primacy and recency were sub-divisions of Outstanding: the reason why we learn the first and last things is because they are the first and last things and therefore stand out. I was left, consequently, with only two main Recall-During-Learning-Principles to apply to my lecturing: Association and Outstandingness.
It will be useful at this point for you to go through the same Thought Exercise that I myself went through at that time. I wondered what techniques and approaches I could use in a lecture to assist my students with their overall learning and very specifically with their recall of what they had been learning. In the spaces below, jot down your own thoughts on how you would improve your own lecturing once you had realised the importance of these two principles.
In the space provided below write down all those things you could use in a speech/presentation/lecture to make your lecture more outstanding:
In the space provided below write down all those things you could use in a speech/presentation/lecture to make your lecture more associative and linked:
I began to apply the ideas to my lecturing and
found a number of predicted and surprise benefits: my students were certainly
able to recall better what I taught them. In addition, the surprise and added
benefit was that my lectures became far more creative, and that I actually
began to enjoy them! Fortunately so did my students, and the positive spiral
had begun: the more creativity applied to the lecturing, and more Recall-During-Learning
knowledge similarly applied, the more everybody enjoyed, the more everybody
learnt, and the more everybody remembered!
It gradually began to dawn on me that all this thinking and information could be applied to note-taking, for what else were notes in this context other than tools to help Recall During Learning? I therefore went through an identical exercise to that you have just completed on presentations and lectures, with note-taking itself. I recommend the same exercise for you. In the spaces provided below, note down:
1. All those techniques and approaches you could use in note-taking to make things stand out.
2. All those things you could use in note-taking to associate or link things with each other.
Compare your own answers with the following:
Connecting in space
My brain was on the verge of a note-taking and recall revolution that looked as if it would contradict a large portion of what I and my fellow students around the world had been taught!
Surprisingly, although my lectures continued to improve on all fronts, my note-taking lagged far behind, due primarily to the twin facts of my assumption that I was utterly hopeless at art and would never be able to draw anything more than a stick figure (a deeply false assumption, especially in view of the recent work of Dr. Betty Edwards, and the artist Lorraine Gill indicating that everyone can learn to draw well) and the at-that-time still deep-rooted agreement with that other false societal belief, that images and colours were somehow immature and childish, and therefore inappropriate for a mature person such as myself (and I was only 25!!).
In addition to the two reasons given above, a more fundamental and valid reason was that I still lacked an ‘Integrating Principle’ that would somehow tie things together. It was during this time that two new discoveries provided the final pieces for this giant mental jigsaw, and paved the way for a new, integrative memory technique.
First I discovered the work of Dr. Evelyn Wood, and her approach to recall note-taking. Dr. Wood recommended breaking away from the linear prison, and taking notes in the form of words, phrases or sentences on lines that emanated from a central geometric figure such as a circle, triangle or square. (This did not stretch my artistic capability at that time!)
The second vital discovery came while reading the wonderful novel The Pawns of Null-A by A. E. van Vogt. In this novel the author discusses sane, unsane and insane behaviour, and introduces the concept of General Semantics, the theory of thought which states that every single thought you and I have is multi-ordinate, meaning that every thought, be it a word, an image, a number, a smell, a taste or a colour etc. is like a little sun that radiates out all forms of associations, and that these associations themselves link to other associations, forming a giant ‘Internet of the Mind’ in the brain of the thinker. It is immediately apparent from this theory that every individual will have an extremely unique universe of thought, and that we humans are therefore far more complex and unique than had previously been thought.
The second main point of this theory is that it emphasises that all knowledge is a giant map of associative networks, containing billions of sub-maps each emanating from its own special-subject centre.
Completion - The Mind Map is Born!
At last the puzzle was complete! All the human brain had to do, if it wanted to recall what it is learning, in note form, was to:
Obey the laws of Recall During Learning.
Think more purely, like the child and the artist.
Follow the ‘central star’ and networking principles of information theory and General Semantics.
Express itself in its own unique ‘mental imprint’.
Transferring all this information to a note-taking form naturally and inevitably gives rise to Mind Maps. This is a staggeringly powerful graphic technique that provides you a universal key to unlock the potential of your memory and of your other thinking skills. The Mind Map can be applied to every aspect of your life where improved memory, learning and clearer thinking will enhance your performance.
The Mind Map is simple to do, because it is a natural expression of the way your memory and brain work. I will introduce to you the basic Mind Map Laws, show you How 2 Mind Map, and give you examples in the gallery, in which, as you learn more about your brain, you can demonstrate to yourself the power of the Mind Map as a memory technique.
Right and Left Corroboration
Almost the moment Mind Maps had been ‘born’, another major piece of scientific research confirmed their validity as a brain-compatible thinking method. In California, Dr. Roger Sperry, who won the Nobel Prize for his research, had confirmed that the evolutionarily latest part of the brain, the ‘thinking cap’ of the Cerebral Cortex, was divided into two major hemispheres, and that those hemispheres performed a comprehensive range of intellectual tasks. The tasks included the following:
Gestalt (seeing the whole picture)
Sperry’s own research, and that of the vast array of researchers who followed in his footsteps (especially Professor Robert Ornstein) confirmed that the more these activities were integrated, the more the brain’s performance became synergetic, each different intellectual skill enhancing the performance in other intellectual areas.
Research on the geniuses in all disciplines indicated that they were polymathic, using the full range of their intelligence's to excel in at least one and often many fields.
When you are Mind Mapping, you are not only practising and exercising your fundamental memory powers and your information processing, networking and organising capabilities; you are also using the entire range of your cortical skills, on the way to helping you manifest your own genius!
Mind Map Memory Power Examples
The World Memory Championships
Test yourself against the world’s memory champions!
In the 1997 World Memory Championships, held at the Mind Sports Olympiad in the Royal Festival Hall, London, the contestants were tested on one of the primary Mind Map memory power uses, that of remembering names and faces. They were given a Mind Map of a fictional Mind Sports character by the name of Lars-Eric Edvinsson. Your Mind Map memory power exercise is to imagine, in sensory detail and depth, every aspect of Lars-Eric’s life, and to visualise on the Mind Map the placing position and colour of the information on the Mind Map.
When you have absorbed the Mind Map thoroughly, on a separate sheet of paper, duplicate it as perfectly as you can. When you have done this, compare and contrast your Mind Map with the original, and repeat the exercise until your memory is perfect.
Mind Mapping Mind Maps!
Another wonderful use of memory Mind Maps is for the ongoing recording and organisation of complex information that you are gathering over time for some major project.
In a delightful situation in which Mind Maps literally helped themselves come into existence, my brother, Professor Barry Buzan, and I Mind Mapped over five years our thoughts on the first major Mind Map publication: The Mind Map Book. The external Editor-in-Chief of the book, Vanda North, extracted the essence-of-the-essence of these Mind Maps, and created a giant summary Mind Map of The Mind Map Book, a Mind Map which contained all the major information one would need to remember from the text, pay special attention to the ‘Uses’ branches, which will help you to remember all the different applications you can use Mind Maps for in addition to and including, of course, memory.
The Computer and Memory Power
In view of what you have learned so far, it will become apparent to you that one of the first things you must do as you read this is to Mind Map it! To help you with this task, I have provided mine, the significant thing about this Mind Map is that it was done by human hand, but via the keyboard! This is one of the first computer Mind Maps on the new MindManager Mind Mapping computer software package.
This computer "Memory Power" Mind Map, using the MindManager software, was created very quickly. The advantages of Mind Mapping on the computer are that:
Information can be added as fast as you can type - and it is neat!
Changes can be made without re-doing the Mind Map.
Words can be ‘opened’ and linear text added. (This means a complete document can be thought, organised, written and produced in one go!)
Images can be added from the ‘symbol gallery’ with a click and a drag.
Colours can be added to words or branches, to show connections.
If a part gets ‘fat’, a Mind Map within a Mind Map can be opened.
Mind Maps can be exchanged, e-mailed or even conferenced.
Connections can be shown with easily drawn coloured arrows.
These Mind Maps have a ‘professional’ look to them.
In most cases people like both options. There is a time when a hand drawn Mind Map has much character and style, and is an advantage. Some prefer to do a ‘first think’ by hand and convert to one on the computer for communication and distribution.
The best way is for you to experiment for yourself and in the area of memory, see which is most memorable to you!
May your Mind Maps and your life be memorable!
Mind Map® à»ç¹à¤Ã×èÍ§ËÁÒÂ¨´·ÐàºÕÂ¹¡ÒÃ¤éÒ·ÑèÇâÅ¡ áÅÐ»ÃÐà·Èä·Â â´Â Tony Buzan
Glocalization Training Center
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