A definition of memory, by Roberto Assagioli:
“This contrast indicates that there must be something basically wrong with the current methods of teaching languages, and that the elimination of the present incalculable waste of time and effort in this field demands, not mere improvements, but a radical, even, one might say, a revolutionary change. It is to modern psychology with its recent developments that we must look for an explanation of the failure of routine methods and, moreover, for a formulation of the definite principles on which to base more efficient and fruitful techniques. The key thus provided will reveal the fundamental importance of the existence of the subconscious, its nature and its laws. This will be obvious if we realize that memory, on which the knowledge of any language is founded, is a function of the subconscious.
Without entering into a technical discussion of the theories of memory, it is evident that all the impressions we receive from the outer world via the senses remain for a very short time in the lighted field of our consciousness; and then apparently vanish into nothingness, superseded by other sense impressions or by the spontaneous activity of mind and emotions. Yet these impressions have not vanished, like passing shadows on a wall. Somehow, somewhere, certain traces have remained in us, and these have the power to recall or evoke, under suitable conditions, the original impression or sensation in our consciousness. It is irrelevant to our purpose to discuss here whether these “mnemonic traces” are of a physiological or psychological nature; what is of practical moment is the consideration of the conditions and of the laws which determine the production, the preservation and the evocation of the original impressions.
Two great lines of psychological investigation and application, namely psychoanalysis and suggestion, have established the following facts:
- Disagreeable and tiresome impressions tend to be forgotten or removed from the consciousness into the unconscious by a definite act of repression (Freud’s Verdrängung)
- Every effort is inherently more or less disagreeable and is very apt to arouse resistance, wandering of attention, lack of receptivity or fatigue. The greater the exertion, often, the stronger is the inner opposition and the scantier the result. This is a psychological law which has been formulated by Baudoin as the “Law of Reversed Effort.
- External stimuli which are not intensified by an active interest or by an emotion of a pleasant and positive nature, can make only superficial and dull impressions which are easily obliterated by others of a more vivid character.” (A Psychological Method for Learning Languages)