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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Put it in There Where Did it Go!

Information processing: Input, Storage and Output.

When we study, the hope and expectations are that what goes into our brains will be available to come back out at the appropriate time … during that big test, the college exam, systems validation, or our flight check.  Unfortunately more times than not we read the information and understand it, yet when tested …we sometimes don’t have accurate and immediate recall. What’s the problem? The theory that there’s so much to learn and so little space to store it sounds reasonable, but definitely not the problem.

The lack of recall often originates with input phase of information processing, known as the encoding phase. If the information is not encoded, there will be no storage and thus no retrieval. Just because your read it, doesn’t mean you’ve accomplished your storage task.

Focus and Storage:

The amount of focus and attention we provide a subject has a great deal to do with what is encoded. If we read and allow our mind to wander, nothing is being encoded. But encoding problems are not only focus and attention issues.

“How” the information is encoded has a significant impact because of where the data is stored.

Visual information is stored in the inferior temporal lobe, and auditory information is stored in the temporal parietal cortex. And since we know that some people are more visual learners, while others are more auditory learners, we can also deduce that these people are storing their information in different locations for retrieval.

Now…the million dollar question: Which is more effective?
The answer: Both combined.

Mastering the encoding process:

Imagine if you could store the information in two locations in your brain. Do you think when you go to retrieve it you would have a better chance of recall? Absolutely!

When you study, read out loud and visualize what you’re reading and you will have better recall. While studying aircraft systems, I read the material from the manual, look at the pictures, and talk to myself. I tell myself exactly how the particular system works, and the brain does the rest: Sends the information to two storage locations resulting in better recall.  

Tomorrow… repetition and priming, more great stuff for better recall!


  1. I bet some people must laugh when they hear " before landing, remember to pull the lever down that says "landing gear"..wait for three green lights, or the box that says "down", before preceeding with the landing" and repeating that over again :P...
    good to know about that technique, and I will definitely use it on my upcoming exams (sigh :(...):P

  2. How about singing?? Is that left/right brain connection coming up later? :) Bet the guy pilots would think we've lost it if we came up with a song...but little phrases worked for me (Kiss, kiss...727).

  3. Karlene, this is excellent information. Thank you so much! I'm more of a visual person, but I love knowing that if I combine visual and auditory techniques I'll remember what I learn much better. I'm definitely doing that from now on -- and telling my son to stop making fun of me for talking to myself! Fantastic.

  4. Hi Pilot... never say, "remember..." You just say, "Gear down!" Speak the intention out loud. You don't have to tell yourself "to remember"... just speak what you want to do, or remember and you will remember! Thanks for your comment!

  5. Kathy... singing works great! My girlfriend (United Pilot) played the guitar and she wrote a song on list of items on the AC system on the 727. And... she was the only person who remembered them all! Sing away... or Kiss. Kiss Kiss might be more fun!

  6. Linda I too am visual! But... I talk to myself when I study planes. I really think it works. There is no other explanation because my brain is getting old, and tonight it even hurts!
    And you know, maybe we're getting close to that age when we can talk to ourselves and nobody will think anything of it... or they'll just think we're on the phone.


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