Category Archives: Tips and Advice

These posts take wisdom gained from cognitive research and apply it to life.

Returning to an Unchanged Place Reveals How You Have Changed

Nelson Mandela once said-“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to see the ways that you yourself have changed.”

I wanted to write my last blog post about remembrance and change. The returning to a place that we have once been to realize the changes and experiences we’ve gone through since we left. I write this for the graduating seniors as well as everyone else on our campus who has experienced an incredibly difficult semester.

There are things about returning to a familiar place that trigger memories within us. I know for me personally there is a perfume that is cucumber and melon that I wore one summer while on a trip to an Indian reservation in Montana. I still have the same bottle and when I wear it occasionally I remember vividly the experiences I had there of walking through yellow stone park or climbing up the side of a mountain to a secret site where people would meditate and fast for days at a time. These types of things are called Engrams. We experience them then as external stimuli allows for memories that are stored as “biophysical or biochemical changes in the brain” respond to things such as sight, smell etc…

In the article that I read about returning to unchanged places I thought of how many of us will be leaving Mary Washington very soon, within two weeks as we graduate on Ball Circle. I wonder how we will feel about this place five, ten or twenty years from now. Much of it I hope will remain the same like it has with the original parts of campus but I’m sure a lot will be different as we expand. That is the part I look forward to with engrams; the flashbacks to old memories when we come back one day and allowing the old memories and new memories combine and modify our neural networks that allow us to remain connected to the past.

The article also discussed Olfaction which it labels as out oldest primal sense. This is where the power of smell can be used to bring back powerful memories, some of which can be brought up in PTSD.  Although  there can be a negative memory associated with is “that remains unchanged and has deeply rooted negative associations—that it creates a window of opportunity to weave in positive associations and dilute the traumatic associations held in the engram.”

It is my hope that many of us have learned in this class how memory works, how our attention is processed and how our thoughts are formed. I hope that we can come back to Mary Washington and remember everything good about this place. May it be the smell of freshly cut grass even though the mowers were annoying at 6am, or the sodexo burgers being grilled out on Ball in the Fall and Spring. We can come back and help create out engrams with the new memories that we make from reminiscing on the old.

 

 

 

 

How to Chillax

Have you ever been so stressed in a situation that you don’t even know how to function? You walk into a stressful situation having a game plan, but then you freeze and the plan goes down the drain. I’m sure we’ve all been there.

I read an article by Psychology Today that discussed Dr. Charles A. Morgan of Yale Medical School and his research on the people who encounter possibly the most stressful situations possible: the Army Special Forces. The soldiers he researched were participating in mock prisoner-of-war camps as part of their survival training. In the training, soldiers were exposed to extremely realistic simulations in which they experienced the fear, anger, and adrenaline rush of real combat. Morgan measured a chemical in the soldiers’ brains called neuropeptide Y (NPY) that regulates blood pressure and works as a tranquilizer in the brain to control anxiety and break down the effects of stress hormones, such as adrenaline (epinephrine). NPY is also responsible for regulating alarm and fear responses. He found that soldiers in the survival training of the Special Forces had significantly greater levels of NPY in their brains than regular troops, allowing them to feel less anxiety and fear. As well as having more NPY in their systems, the Special Forces troops showed the ability to return to regular levels of NPY less than 24 hours after the simulations, rather than the regular troops who took longer to return back to normal.

Why did the simulation seem to have so much of an effect on the Special Forces? The answer is a topic we learned about in class: state-dependent learning. “State-dependent learning is a phenomenon in which the retrieval of information is better if the subject is in the same sensory context and physiological state as during the encoding phase” (Shulz, Sosnik, Ego, Haidarliu, & Ahissar, 2000). Because the special forces had previously been put into the stressful situation of simulated combat, they were able to perform better and remain focused under such stressful circumstances. Essentially, state dependent learning is like practice for your brain. Although putting yourself in stressful situations or experiencing adrenaline rushes does not sound enjoyable to all, it will allow you to make clearer decisions and react effectively in real situations in which your stress levels are high, rather than letting the adrenaline shut you down. When we experience big adrenaline rushes, we typically drop our “game plans” as said before and focus on “fight or flight”.

This is where the adrenaline junkies in the classroom will be happy! Seeking out adrenaline rushes has shown to be effective in allowing for better brain processing and decision making in times of intense stress or fear. Now I’m not saying that you should start putting yourself in danger, but things like skydiving, bungee jumping, making a big speech, or riding a roller coaster– all things I know I’m not fond of– would give you experience in dealing with adrenaline rushes so if, God forbid, you were ever in a life or death situation or even something that is just personally stressful to you, you will more easily be able to stay calm and be rational. The article I read also gave tips as to how to stay as calm as possible when seeking out adrenaline rushes:

    1. Breathe deeply in and out through your nose. Do not hyperventilate or hold your breath,
    2. Exercise your peripheral vision – be aware of your surroundings,
    3. Listen to the sounds around you and hear what people are saying,
    4. Try to perform the task a correctly as possible,
    5. Calm yourself down afterward
    6. Focus on what you accomplished and what you can improve

Do it again. Have more fun and less anxiety.

Good luck, but be safe! It’ll just get easier with time! May the odds be ever in your favor.

 

Can Art Improve Cognition?

Being interested in art and music has many more positive sides than many people would believe. Something that intrigues me is the idea that art, music and performing arts could improve cognitive functioning. Could engaging in visual arts or music have an effect on cognition?

art-therapy-career2

The answer is yes! There are many benefits of art for the brain and cognition. The arts can influence many cognitive processes. An extensive amount of research has been done by several scientists teaming together, and there is a lot of evidence to support the idea that art and music really effectively help improve cognitive abilities such as learning, attention, motivation and intelligence. The first finding was that performance in art leads to higher motivation in individuals and in turn produces sustained attention. This higher motivation and attention can lead to better performance in school. These qualities in kids were found to lead to better performance on intelligence test scores. Another finding was that high levels of music training lead to a vast improvement in working memory and long-term memory and an ability to manipulate the information in each domain.

Another finding of the scientist’s studies was that practicing music could lead to greater skills in geometrical representation, greater reading skills, and sequence learning. It has also been found that early music training leads to earlier ability to read and greater phonological awareness or speech production and perception. Training in acting was found to lead to better memory, specifically improvement of semantic memory.

images

Other studies have found that there was a significant improvement in psychological resilience as well as increased levels of functional connectivity in the brain amongst people who participated in the visual arts. Also mentioned was that making art could even delay or reverse age related decline of many brain functions.

Art can help improve so many cognitive skills such as reading, math, critical thinking, memory and attention. So why are schools not as focused on art education as we are in other fields? According to all this research, it would be incredibly beneficial for schools to keep art and music at the forefront of education along with all the other important subjects that we learn in school like English and math, since art can help you with other domains of school. Finally, art can even improve mental and emotional health.

Paint

Art has been found to decrease negative emotions and help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. This is the reason art therapy can be so useful to people struggling with mental health issues. Doing art helps reduce so many of the negative symptoms associated with mental illness.

So, as we can see from overwhelming evidence from many studies, participating in arts- whichever one you enjoy most: visual arts, performing arts, or music is highly beneficial for the brain, cognition and health in general. So whichever art form is your favorite, make sure to continue with it because it has so many positive effects on many aspects of your life!

Sources:

http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~lds/pdfs/DanaSpelke.pdf

http://web.stanford.edu/group/co-sign/Sussman.pdf

http://www.dana.org/Publications/ReportDetails.aspx?id=44253

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/08/how-art-changes-your-brain_n_5567050.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804629/

Where did I park again??

We’ve all done it. In fact, I did it just last week. When walking to my car after class, I got to the space on College Avenue where I had parked earlier that morning, and it was gone. After a brief moment of panicking and wondering if I had parked illegally and been towed, I realized that the reason my car wasn’t there was because I had parked it further down the street and forgotten. Why would I have thought that my car was parked in one place instead of another? Simple: Proactive Interference.

Proactive Interference refers to the inability to remember new information due to interference by old information. In this case, I was unable to remember where I had parked my car because old information about where I had parked it previously was interfering. Not being able to find my car is just one of many instances where proactive interference can occur. Ever try to get into a new locker using last year’s code? Or have you ever had difficulty remembering when your appointment for next week is because you can only recall this week’s appointment time?Proactive interference is prevalent in our day to day lives, and while it isn’t necessarily harmful, it can be a nuisance. For me, it meant having to walk the other direction clear to the other end of College Ave., making me late for meeting a friend.

 

So how do we overcome this problem? Research published in 2010 found that individuals who have prior experience with proactive interference and were given feedback have the best chance of overcoming it later on. For one experiment, participants were split into two groups. Both groups were given practice rounds for learning word pairs. Each were then asked to recall the proper word pairs and give a confidence estimate about how correct they believed they were. The first groups received no corrective feedback following the confidence rating and was immediately given a new word pair. The second group, however, received corrective feedback after each confidence rating. At the end of the first round, the second group was told how many total ‘points’ they had earned for that round before moving on to round two.

The group that received corrective feedback and was told their point total was able to more effectively avoid problems with proactive interference – even when the task difficulty was upped in a second experiment! So what does this mean for us? While we don’t live in a lab situation where someone can give us corrective feedback 24/7, we can be more conscious in situations we know this tends to happen in. For me, I now make an effort whenever I park in the morning or  re-park in the afternoon to take note of exactly where I parked so I’m not just going off old information later.

Research can be found at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3030918/

 

 

YOLO Generation and Regret

Some would call us the YOLO generation- and anyone with even the slightest knowledge of American pop culture might readily agree. Live hard live good have fun live like it’s your last night! Just do it, Nike tells us! You only live once, twitter hashtags reply! And Ke$ha plays in the background, telling us we need to “make the most of the night like we’re gonna die young!”

Our culture encourages us to live life without regrets, and adores a lifestyle that emphasizes hedonistic pleasures and living in the moment. Regret is negative, we tell ourselves. Why bother with it? After all, regret is just a wasted emotion- we can’t change the past. What’s the point?

An article in Psychology Today seeks to answer that question.

We have all experienced regret. It is a painful cognitive/emotional state that involves feelings of loss and/or sorrow over choices and past decisions that we wish we could undo. However, while regret is a negative emotion, it can also be a helpful one.

Regret can play in important role in several behavioral functions. Chief among them, regret can be very important in making corrective action and avoiding future negative behaviors. By regretting a past choice, we can more easily resolve not to repeat the same action (or series of actions) in the future. In this sense, regret can be extremely valuable in redirecting one’s life path, such as an addict seeking help due to regret over his or her previous actions.

Especially for young people with the rest of their lives ahead of them, regret can also be helpful in other regards, in addition to motivating positive actions. Researcher Neal Roese found that young people ranked regret as the most helpful of all negative emotions in five functions: making sense of the world, avoiding future negative behaviors, gaining insight, achieving social harmony, and improving ability to approach desired opportunities. Essentially, regret can help motivate us to pursue our dreams and ambitions, get a more realistic sense of the world, and avoid repeating previous (unhealthy) mistakes.

Obviously however, regret is not all positive. Excessive fixation and rumination on the past can lead to chronic stress that negatively impacts both mind and body. Self-blame and fruitless regret can be extraordinarily unhealthy, and can be correlated with depression. Additionally, the easier it is to envision a different outcome- and the easier it is to image what you could have done differently to advert it- the more regret we are likely to have. This is a result of the cognitive process of counterfactual thinking. Hindsight is always 20/20.

However, even the negative feelings associated with regret can be mitigated with the help of cognitive techniques. There are several ways to cope with regret, including trying to learn from it, make sure you are not blaming yourself excessively, and reframing the situation in a more positive light.

However ultimately, if there is nothing you can do to change the situation, let it go. Perhaps YOLO did get something right.

Cell Phone Apocalypse?

Imagine yourself bench sitting on a beautiful day out and you look up and you see student after student mindlessly walking on campus walk with their heads bowed down- bumping into poles, falling down stairs, and even running into other people. BUT the weird thing is that after they run into things whether it be a pole, a tree, or other people, they go right back to putting their heads down and walking mindlessly.

Are you in the middle of a zombie apocalypse? No you’re witnessing a different kind- the 21st century cell phone apocalypse. 

If you are like the majority of the people today, you are constantly on your phone. This is extremely distracting and most especially with finals week coming up, it is much harder to resist the temptation to waste countless hours on twitter, instagram, facebook, etc.

According to a study done by researchers Przybylski and Weinstein, the mere presence of a cell phone during a social interaction in which individuals are having a casual conversation led people to have lower trust and an overall lower quality of relationship. So, due to this, cell phones have been found to impede human social interaction.

But despite this, according to the Student Science website, the average college student still uses their cell phone fore about NINE hours each day. This article also puts into perspective that If you think about it, the average college student spends more time on their cell phones than they do sleeping!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwPHRn7JcEU

James Roberts, a marketing professor at Baylor University associates cell phone use with addiction. Yes, a behavioral addiction! People panic when their batteries die or when there’s no service. Roberts ties this in with symptoms of withdrawal that is seen in many if not all addiction problems. A newly coined term called ringxiety has also made its way to popular culture which is when you think that your phone is ringing or vibrating when in reality is isn’t.

So, the big question is- how can we rely less on our cell phones? Again, especially with finals week coming up and us college students need to stay focused

Webmd offers three basic tips that people could follow in order to better manage their time better with their cell phone use- they can do this by being conscious, strong, and disciplined. 

1.) Being conscious– of all situations and emotions that you feel whenever you feel as if you have to check your phone, such as boredom, loneliness, or procrastination, you can find something else that would fill your time that is much more productive.
2.) Being strong- whenever your phone beeps or rings. This allows you to manage your time better and not losing track of time when you do check it. Try turning of the sound and the vibration so you aren’t tempted to check your phone every single time it goes off.
3.) Being disciplined- in certain situations where you should not be using your cell phone such as in class, when you are driving, and especially right before you go to bed.

Yes, it seems to be easier said than done. However, although it’s hard- trust me I have tried to follow these 3 steps. You can always start small. I started putting my phone away for 5, then 10, then 15 minutes when I’m studying and I have personally seen the increase in my productivity with my work. So next time you’re itching to grab that phone, try silencing it for a couple minutes and resisting the urge to go on social media. According to the article, you will not only be able to concentrate better but you will also feel less stressed and more relaxed.

*Even if it’s only for 5 minutes a day 🙂

The Psychology Behind Mindfulness

mind-full

You know those nights when you’re lying in bed (for what feels like forever!) and you just cannot fall asleep? All the thoughts about the day and whatever else might be popping into your head are swimming through your mind and keeping you awake…

It turns out mindfulness has been found to help people quiet those thoughts that keep them awake. The practice of mindfulness has been studied for use in treating all kinds of maladies, such as depression and stress as well as for use with patients suffering from physical conditions such as chronic pain, cancer, or HIV. This article asserts that it has also been found beneficial in helping with weight loss and maintaining an exercise program. The article also notes the technique’s usefulness in treating symptoms of insomnia and other sleep disturbances. So, the question is, why? And how?

Mindfulness relies on the ability to focus attention on your awareness of the current moment. You allow yourself to be aware of any and all thoughts, feelings, and experiences you may have in order to process them without evaluating them critically. In essence, it relies on the ability to focus attention and maintain enough concentration so that you can seize control of thoughts that enter your awareness (which obviously takes a lot of practice). The more you practice mindfulness, the more you will prime the neural networks required for the process of identifying and acknowledging thoughts without criticizing them. Given all this, it makes sense that the technique might be effective in treating symptoms of insomnia and other sleep disturbances. By shifting the focus of your attention and being more aware of the current moment (instead of whatever thoughts are keeping you awake), you may be able to better control your emotional responses to your thoughts.

The trick to mindfulness is the promotion of increased awareness of thoughts in order to promote better control over emotional responses to them. This is why mindfulness has been used as a treatment for anxiety disorders as well. The ruminative thinking that keeps us awake at night is a major cause of insomnia and also present in many anxiety disorders. The idea is that the ability to acknowledge thoughts in a different way, without driving yourself crazy over them, will ease anxiety (which is caused by this type of thinking). In order to do this, mindfulness encourages a sort of selective attention in which you focus your attention on something such as breathing, instead of rumination.

Okay, that explains why mindfulness is effective. But what types of strategies do people use?

Breathing is only one of many techniques you can use in order to focus your attention and be more aware of what is currently happening. (This short video explains how to do a common breathing exercise called the “4-7-8 Breath.”) Meditation is the technique that is perhaps the most talked about. Movement exercises can also be helpful.

In fact, mindfulness has been shown to have an impact on the functioning of the brain in general. For example, This article says that people who meditate show superior performance on tasks associated with the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which deals with tasks related to self-regulation, the ability to direct attention, behavior and suppress immediate responses, and the ability to alternate strategies quickly. These skills are all necessary to exercise mindfulness and you would develop them the more you practice the technique.

In addition, when practiced regularly, mindfulness also leads to a weakening in the “functional connectivity” between the amygdala and the rest of the brain and a strengthening in the “functional connectivity” among areas associated with attention and concentration. So, “mindfulness practice increases one’s ability to recruit higher order, pre-frontal cortex regions in order to down-regulate lower-order brain activity,” Adrienne Taren, a researcher studying mindfulness, says.

So, next time your thoughts keep you awake, maybe consider being more mindful about what you are thinking. Like every other skill, it may take some practice before you start reaping the rewards from practicing mindfulness, but who knows what will happen once you’re able to focus your attention more effectively.

What do you think? Do you practice mindfulness or think it could be useful?

Mindfulness-MindMap

How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days

Don’t you just hate it when your significant other tells you no? This step by step how to will teach you how to get your live-in lover to do anything you want them to using a cognitive psychology.  We learned four ways in class to manipulate the simple minds of our significant others (SO) to get them to do anything and everything we want.  We do this using availability, anchoring and adjustment, representativeness, and competence.  The culmination of these cognitive mind games are called heuristics of judgement and decision making. Using these cognitive mind games will spoil you in that, you will always have your way.

Availability can be used by substituting an old memory for a new event.  Let’s say you wanna go to that pirate themed circus ballet coming into town and you need to convince your SO.  You can tell them that it was kinda like that super cool break dance competition you went to last spring or another event that will help them retrieve those previous events.  It’s hard to imagine an abstract event, so giving them a familiar event would increase your chances of getting them to do whatever you want to do!

Anchoring and adjustment can be used by creating an initial judgement (anchoring) but keeping in mind that the individual making the judgement will change that value to how they see fit (adjustment).  While buying tickets for that pirate themed circus ballet coming into town, of course you want good seats.  You could ask your SO, ‘how willing are you to pay $1,000 a seat?’ And according to anchoring and adjustment, aiming for a higher price range will allow for them to make adjustments and say, ‘……maybe $150’ when in reality, the seat you wanted only costed $100, win.  This heuristic works for both anteing up and down.

Representativeness can be used by betting on the fact that your SO isn’t very smart and has poor intuition and judgement.  It’s ok it happens to the best of us, but this time, it works in your favor!  Representativeness is when we judge based upon how much an example resembles (physically) to the category but the possibilities of it being an incorrect representation are under weighed.  For example, getting your SO to get to that pirate themed circus ballet coming into town, you could show them pictures of the performers doing breakdance tricks.  It seems as if those pictures would be a good representation of the show so your SO underweights the possibility that it could be a crazy pirate themed circus ballet while still having the slight possibility that you could possibly be going to a breakdance show.  

Last but not least of these cognitive manipulation heuristics is competency.  Competency is when you allow the individual to feel as if they have control of the situation, when it’s just an illusion because the events are actually random.  Similar to gamblers fallacy.  Get your SO to go to that pirate themed circus ballet coming into town by letting them win a couple fake fights nearing the show date.  Your SO just overestimated their chance of winning by going to this show (in your eyes they would be, duh, pirate themed circus ballet). This heuristic works for losing as well, that the individual thinks they have a higher chance of winning if they have lost so many times.

*These heuristics of judgement and decision making aren’t proven to be 100% effective.

Does trusting your instincts make sense?

dilbert_heuristics

As we grow up we develop instincts. These are mental habits that we posses which help us to make everyday choices. These are the kinds of choices that don’t involved much thought at all, they are almost automatic. These quick habits that are “deep-wired and govern our decisions” are heuristics. We’ve been talking about them recently in class and I wanted to find out a little more with what they mean exactly.

Author, Wray Herbert  just-published On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits. 

Herbert does in depth on how heuristics can help or hurt us with our everyday decisions. Many of us are coming to the end of our college careers and at this moment our everyday decisions have a big impact on what happens to us in the next 4 weeks.  Heuristics are helpful for survival, Herbert refers to them as “having deep ancient evolutionary origins.”  He then defines a few that can really mess us up if we aren’t careful.  When applying these to our lives right now there is the “familiarity heuristic” which is being extremely familiar with something that it seems a safe way to go or do. This heuristic leads us o sick with what we have already done and not switching it up. At this point I feel like a lot of us who have been in college for four years now are comfortable with where we are the the habits we have developed. But there is a turning point now where we can’t skip a class here and there just because we have before. We can’t not turn in something or risk doing poorly in a class because there is still another semester or year to make it up. We have to alter our choices to ensure our “survival” of college which ultimately leads to graduation.

Another heuristic is the “scarcity heuristic” which in Hebert’s words means, if something is rare, it’s perceived as more valuable.  This can be good in helping us make choices that we wouldn’t usually make like getting up to go to the gym because you know for the rest of the day you will be sitting down and not moving so the gym is “rare” occasion.

There are many on each side of the good and bad of heuristics. I believe that you should trust your instincts but also we self-aware of the environment or situation that you are in. There is a reason we have our “gut” instinct but we should also be able to stop sometimes and recognize when we need to slow down and not make impulsive decisions.

 

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2010/09/20/does-trusting-your-instincts-make-sense

 

Study Tip: Spatial/Relational Studying

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a problem with flashcards. Teachers would tell me to make flashcards for vocabulary words, for example. I found that once I’d written the words on the card, and added their definitions, I could already remember which definitions matched which words. Since I could match the words and definitions accurately, studying the flashcards no longer felt necessary. The whole process felt redundant and unhelpful to me. But the problem was that just because I knew which word went with which definition, that didn’t mean I understood the term.

In class, we discussed maintenance rehearsal versus elaborative rehearsal. Maintenance rehearsal is rehearsing a piece of information enough to keep it active. In this rehearsal, it doesn’t ver really move into long-term memory. Elaborative rehearsal, however, is rehearsal that involves processing. It helps us move information into long-term memory. Learning isn’t just about repeated exposure (think of the penny or the Apple logo). Learning needs deeper levels of processing. This might involve imagery, meaning, or personal tie-ins. Learning that involves surface details or sound patterns just doesn’t stick as well. Research supports the textbook and the discussion we had in class. In a study by Craik and Tulving (1975), participants were asked to answer questions about words. Sometimes, the participants answered about the meaning of the word (deep). Other times, they answered about the sound/structure of the word (shallow). They were then asked to pick the original words out of a longer list. While the deep processing took longer, the subjects who semantically processed the words showed greater performance on the recall task.

My original study tip is developed from several sources: my personal study habits, our class discussion, the research, and a technique mentioned in class by a fellow student. In a discussion about the problems of flashcard usage and maintenance rehearsal, this student mentioned how one could create flashcards using class notes etc., but then instead of engaging in repetitive and rote memorization with those cards, attempt to categorize them instead. I felt that this would be a much more meaningful way to interact with the material. As I thought about this suggestion, and pondered my own study habits, I came up with my suggested study tip: Flowcharts

You’ll need a whiteboard (a gallon plastic bag around a white sheet of paper works, but the bigger the board the better. In the ITCC, there are tons of big white boards free for our use!), dry erase markers, and small cards/sticky notes. First, write out important pieces of information on the cards. These bits of info can be definitions, theories, categories, relationships, tasks, people, ideas, studies, aspects of studies, etc. For example, if you have notes on a scientist who did two studies, each of which had two main findings, write out a card for the scientist, each study’s basic details, and details on each of the findings. When you’re done with the information for the chapter, shuffle your cards. Next is the fun part.

diagram-empty-2Now, you want to take your cards and start sorting them into a flow chart! You can stick them up on the board, and use the markers to draw connecting lines and arrows. The most important part here is to emphasize relationships. Thinking about how your concepts interact is important for making them stick in your long-term memory. It’s much more effective than just memorizing!

flowchartPractice putting your cards in a linear/chronological flow and drawing arrows between steps. Show what came first conceptually, and influenced later steps. Then try a hierarchical structure. What are the overarching themes and categories, and the subcategories and details? How do they relate to each other? Don’t be afraid to draw tons of arrows! The more times you engage with the pieces of information in different ways, the more comfortable you’ll be with them.

Good luck studying!