Pavlov’s Dogs

PAVLOV’S DOGS      BY Harry Lorayne

All memory is based on what I call The Reminder Principle. How many times a day do you hear, see or read something and mentally or physically snap your fingers and think, “Oops, that ‘reminds’ me”? And usually the thing that you’re reminded of has nothing, consciously, to do with what reminded you of it. It’s a subconscious “connection.” And you have no control over that. If it was a strong mental connection, then you were reminded; if it wasn’t, you “forgot.” The key, the answer, is to make those connections consciously, knowingly.

Ivan Pavlov, the Russian physiologist, psychologist and physician, was “the father of classic conditioning.” His best-known experiment was to prove that, by creating an association in a dog’s mind between hearing the sound of a bell and receiving food, he could cause the dog to salivate by simply ringing a bell. Obvious now, but Pavlov invested quite a bit of time doing this experiment. He kept ringing that bell and immediately giving the dog food until the dog made the connection between the two, until the bell reminded the dog of food, causing it to salivate.

You and I are smarter than dogs. We are aware of the fact that we occasionally start to salivate when thinking of, or smelling, food. We don’t need the bell; we can visualize food whenever we want to visualize food, we can see the food in our mind’s eye. Visualizing is part of thinking. Aristotle wrote it three thousand years ago – “In order to think we must speculate with images.” Think of a person, an item, anything, and you can see an image of him, her, or it, in your mind.

We don’t know exactly what goes on in a dog’s mind when that bell rings and he is reminded of food. Perhaps, after a while, the bell conjures up an image of food in his mind. So it makes sense that “we humans” can accomplish the same thing, can create a connection in our minds, so that one thing reminds us of another. Of course we can. And, because we can visualize – that’s what we do; we do it faster – all that repetition is unnecessary.

You can prove it to yourself. Isn’t there a certain song that, when you hear it or think about it, conjures up a vivid image of a particular person, place or time? This happens to all of us much of the time. There may even be a certain smell that starts an avalanche of nostalgia, perhaps bringing you back to summers during childhood. One whiff and you can feel that summer all around you. Hear an old song and the melody reminds you of the lyrics, even if you haven’t heard that song in many years.

All memory is based on reminders.

We are reminded of different things, places, people, attitudes, actions, ideas, conversations, happenings and facts many times during a day. I bump into a childhood classmate. We are decades older and I can “see” the classroom and some of the young people in it. How we looked at that time, what we were wearing, what we laughed at. I see it now, as I write. You’ll most likely see your own version of it now, as you read. It’s an automatic thing; it’s what your mind does for you without being asked; it’s part of the human equation. You don’t need drugs to make it work for you! As a matter of fact, you can’t stop it from working even if you wanted to; it’s a natural phenomenon.

I’m talking/writing about this (as I have for decades) because it has to do with absentmindedness which, in turn, has to do with memory, which is my particular expertise. What do Pavlov’s dogs have to do with things like “Where the hell did I put my keys?” Or, “Why am I staring into the refrigerator?” The concept has everything to do with it! If the sound of a bell can remind a dog of food why can’t you make your keys themselves remind you of where they are?! The answer is that they can, and should. And they can do it without repetition. You’d simply use that natural phenomenon I’m telling you about, and that I’ve taught to people all over the world. I’ve taught literally millions of people all over the world to apply my Reminder Principle in order to remember not only where the heck they put their keys, but also how to remember ANYTHING they see, read or hear the very first time they see, read or hear it. And that includes names, faces, numbers of any kind, facts – anything. That’s all aside from changing absentmindedness to present-mindedness.

The memory I was born with is, naturally, just as bad as your memory, but it is a thousand times better when I apply my memory systems and techniques. And as I tell “senior citizens” (a phrase I hate, and a group I’m part of) – It Is No Longer Necessary To Accept A Poor Memory, Or Loss Of Memory As An Inevitable Part Of Growing Older. People like Georgia O’Keefe, Robert Frost, Pablo Casals, Albert Einstein, Helen Hayes, Carl Sandburg, George Burns are only a few who would have told you the same thing. They are only a few who did some of their best work in their 70s and up to their 90s. They obviously had pretty good memories and agile minds throughout their “golden years.”

And when I was in the throes of writing a book on memory for school students, most of the teachers told me that memory wasn’t important – but, when I interviewed the students, their attitude always was – Boy, is it ever important.

Well, of course, and because – there is no learning without memory!

Harry Lorayne.