I am sure we have all had those moments when we see something, hear something, or smell something that triggers our memory to something that happened in the past. I never really paid much attention to those until reading Angela Paidousis account of recalling memories of her grandparent’s home when she was eight years old. (Goldstein, 2011). I never realized how often retrieval cues come into my everyday life or how often one of those cues may trigger different memories.
For me seeing or hearing a train can bring back any number of memories. Certain times I recall sitting on my parent’s front steps with my Grandfather Sinclair listening to him tell stories of his years in the coal mines as a coal train lumbers slowly up the tracks through Houtzdale. Other times I see myself and other neighborhood kids running down to the crossing and making hand gestures for the engineers to blow the horn. Then we would wait for the conductor to toss scratch pads and pencils out of the caboose as it made its way by us. (Yeah that is how old I am, trains still had cabooses.)
When I take my grandson into one of the new retro style shops down at Armory Square in Syracuse I am reminded of my other grandfathers little grocery store. It has the older looking candy case, wood frame with the glass, sliding glass door the clerk opens to pick out the candy my grandson wants to try. It reminds me of those days when I would hang out with Pap Grattan in his store. There are many little cues that bring back memories of when I was growing up.
Now that I am older I take a page from Tulving and Pearlstone’s experiments. (Goldstein, 2011) I try to associate items with different cues. Phone numbers I try to use NASCAR car numbers combinations to remember them. When given a list of items to pick up at the grocery store there is always one or two that seem to slip my memory as I am looking for them. When this happens I break the store down into sections thinking, produce, breads, dairy, baking supplies, vegetables, and so forth. Using cues of this type save on return trips to the store.
Without a doubt retrieval cues take part almost daily in our lives. Using cues to help us remember items is also very beneficial to help us through life. I just need to fine tune my cues for statistics.
Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience, Third Edition. Belmont, CA., United States: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.