Here’s an interesting question – how can we use the natural tendencies of the human brain, specifically our evolutionary hardwired aspect of making associations, to foster more peace and compassion among humans?

As we ponder this seemingly odd question, I will move first through the power of memory aids and making mental links. Then, in my next article I will consider the evolutionary reasons for our making associations and how they impact our behavior. I will finish up in part 3 circling back to the central question of how the conscious use of this ability can bring us together as a species.

We all use this natural tendency of making mental associations all the time. A simple example is tying a string around your finger to remember something – you see the string, you make the association, you remember the other thing. Put up a sticky note on the door with a keyword on it, you see the note and you remember a whole lot more than just the words presented.

Memory experts have been teaching the use of making associations for years. For example, one frequently taught technique is that if you are going to give a speech you break it down into chunks and then associate each chunk with a room in your house. Then when you give the speech,  you mentally walk through your house, each room “triggers” the memory of the next part of your speech.

Similarly, these experts suggest the way to remembering people’s names is to link their name and some characteristic on their face to some outlandish word or picture in your mind that relates to the sound of their name and the features of their face. Next time you see their face it triggers the outlandish picture which links to the association with the name.

One more – a personal favorite of mind I’ve used for years. Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night wanting to remember something? You can get up and write it down but you are sleepy and don’t really want to wake yourself up. Take something off your nightstand and throw it on the floor. When you wake up in the morning and see the out of place item, it triggers the memory from the middle of the night. This always works for me!

Why does this ability come so naturally to us and why does it work so well? Somewhere in our evolutionary past, it became advantageous for our species to learn to make associations. We will look at how this skill assisted in our survival and propagation next time.

Meanwhile, notice how you many times you make mental links to remember something!

Mark Gilbert


Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!