“When you train your memory and train your imagination, there is a remarkable increase in concentration, study skills and creativity, while at the same time raising your IQ.”
Sadly, Tony Buzan died April 13, 2019 and I remember him with fondness.
We met at the American Creativity Assoc Conference in Singapore in 2008 and had a wonderful conversation on the bus from downtown Singapore to a luxury resort to attend a party for delegates.
He was a great storyteller and I was amazed to discover he went to school in Vancouver, where I reside — first at Kitsilano Secondary School, then at the University of British Columbia, where he studied psychology, English, mathematics and science, and Simon Fraser University as a charter student from 1965–66.
Buzan popularised the idea of mental literacy and a thinking technique called mind mapping, inspired by techniques used by Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Joseph D. Novak’s “concept mapping” techniques. He argues that while “traditional” outlines force readers to scan left to right and top to bottom, readers actually tend to scan the entire page in a non-linear fashion. Memory works with images, locations, connections. Buzan says the prime language of our brain is imagery, not words, and that when we make associations using images, memory becomes creativity.
At the American Creativity Assoc Conference, Buzan asked us to write down the nine planets that orbit our Solar System in sequential order from the sun. Most people in the audience got the answer wrong. He then gave us a visual mnemonic to help us remember the sequence. We were all wowed by his story:
Imagine the sun. Feel the heat. Next to the sun is a little thermometer. It is measuring the sun, as it gets hotter. The Mercury is rising. The thermometer explodes, and little balls of mercury fall on the ground. Standing next to them is a gorgeous little goddess. She is Venus, with v-shaped cleavage, She picks up a little bit of mercury and throws it. Gravity pulls it back to Earth, and it lands in front of where you live, making a crater. Your next door neighbour is an angry, war-like little man, who is eating a Mars bar. He is furious about all the earth in his garden. Just in time, striding down the street, 100ft tall, with a J of hair on his forehead, is the king of the gods, Jupiter. You look up at Jupiter and on his massive chest, in a big white T-shirt, in enormous capital letters, is the word SUN (standing for Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) and sitting on Jupiter’s head is a tiny Walt Disney dog: Pluto.
Buzan suggests the following guidelines for creating mind maps:
- Start in the center with an image of the topic, using at least 3 colors.
- Use images, symbols, codes, and dimensions throughout your mind map.
- Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters.
- Each word/image is best alone and sitting on its own line.
- The lines should be connected, starting from the central image. The lines become thinner as they radiate out from the center.
- Make the lines the same length as the word/image they support.
- Use multiple colors throughout the mind map, for visual stimulation and also for encoding or grouping.
- Develop your own personal style of mind mapping.
- Use emphasis and show associations in your mind map.
- Keep the mind map clear by using radial hierarchy or outlines to embrace your branches.
As you can see from
Cunningham (2005) conducted a user study in which 80% of the students thought “mindmapping helped them understand concepts and ideas in science”. Other studies also report some subjective positive effects on the use of mind maps. Positive opinions on their effectiveness, however, were much more prominent among students of art and design than in students of computer and information technology, with 62.5% vs 34% (respectively) agreeing that they were able to understand concepts better with mind mapping software.
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