Over the years I’ve read many articles about memorization. Many are against it (“We have the world’s information a Google search away”) while others are for it. I’m heavily in favor of taking time to memorize things, but I’m always open to new perspectives on how valuable (or not) that practice might be.
I recently found an excellent article from Pearl Leff that gives great support for memorization and the value it can bring. Her main points are summarized here:
But as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to understand that memorization is important, much more than we give it credit for. Knowledge is at our fingertips and we can look anything up, but it’s knowing what knowledge is available and how to integrate it into our existing knowledge base that’s important.
Among other reasons, Pearl suggests that memorization leads to an increased ability to tie different areas together. Looking up individual facts is easy, but having a scaffolding to connect various pieces can offer huge advantages.
It’s similar to some of the thoughts that David Epstein gave in his book “Range“, saying:
“Modern work demands knowledge transfer: the ability to apply knowledge to new situations and different domains. Our most fundamental thought processes have changed to accommodate increasing complexity and the need to derive new patterns rather than rely only on familiar ones. Our conceptual classification schemes provide a scaffolding for connecting knowledge, making it accessible and flexible.”
Memorization is seemingly less important these days than it’s been in the past, but there are advantages if you can take the time to memorize the right things.
I encourage you to read Pearl’s full post, as it really is excellent.