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What is the Australian Memorization Technique?

Searchable databases may work for other professions, but sales reps need knowledge at their fingertips. That’s why training for pharma sales reps always includes learning technical information. A new study suggests medical students can improve their results by using an ancient memorization technique developed by Australian aboriginals.

This peer-reviewed study was published in May 2021 in PLOS One. It was led by Dr. David Reser from Monash University, Dr. Margaret Simmons from Monash Rural Health, and Dr. Tyson Yunkaporta from Deakin University’s NIKERI Institute. They documented an increase in knowledge retention after explicitly teaching students memorization techniques.

Why Teach Memorization Techniques?

Many people are familiar with the “memory palace” memorization technique from ancient Greece. The memory palace works by connecting information to certain imagined locations and objects (Thomas, 2014).

Australian Aboriginals developed a similar technique that they’ve used for over 50,000 years (Reser et al., 2021). Since they never developed a written system, they became masters at memorization.

Unlike western memorization traditions, Australian Aboriginal societies use stories. Individuals create narratives using local places, animals, plants, and even time (Reser et al., 2021). Then, they practice these stories so they can recall the information rapidly. Stories also allow for modification as the information changes.

Which is Better: the “Memory Palace” or the Australian Aboriginal Technique?

Reser et al. (2021) pitted both of these techniques head-to-head. Turns out that both helped medical students learn the material, but the story-based aboriginal technique increased students’ ability to recall information sequentially. Students were also three-fold more likely to gain perfection using the Australian aboriginal technique.

Why Teach Memorization Techniques?

Wouldn’t it be great if your training made memorization more fun for your sales reps?

Reser et al. (2021) surveyed students to find out how they felt about the ancient memorization techniques. Interestingly, 59% of the medical students found memorizing either neutral or difficult. Yet, 70% of the exact same students rated the memorization tasks in his study as moderately easy or neutral.

This finding suggests memorization techniques make it easier for our brains. Instead of trying to cram information in, we can harness our brains’ love of stories and location for knowledge retention.

Even more importantly, Reser et al. (2021) discovered that 93% strongly agreed with this statement, “Specific memory training as a component of medical education would be worth my while.” You’d probably find that anyone involved with medical sciences feels the same, including sales reps.

Benefits of Memorization Methods for Sales Reps

Engaging sales reps in training is tough. They’re busy taking phone calls or responding to emails. Cutting through the noise has become a challenge.

The aboriginal memorization technique doesn’t only help sales reps with memorization. It also helps keep them engaged in their training in three main ways.


Tap into Sales Reps Natural Aptitudes

Sales reps generally love communicating. In fact, they’ve built their livelihoods on building rapport with others. That’s one of the key skills for sales reps.

Traditional training methods often focus on reading and writing information. Rather than encouraging sales reps to use the skills they’ve honed on the job, they’re asked to go back to grade school. No wonder they start to feel anxiety about training.

The Australian aboriginal method used by Reser et al. (2021) encouraged medical students to make up stories. This method encourages sales reps to use their communication skills while memorizing technical information. They can even share their stories with each other to improve engagement.


Learn New Drugs Effortlessly

Drug launches create stress for everyone, including trainers. Everyone is frantically trying to cram all of the information into their brains at the last minute. It’s exhausting because it feels like a test. Who isn’t stressed out by a test?

But these memorization techniques reduce stress precisely because they don’t feel like a test.

Instead, Reser et al. (2021) hypothesize that these ancient memorization techniques work by tapping into the brain’s instinctual processes. Turns out cavemen might not have had tests, but that didn’t mean their memories were less important. In fact, their very survival depended on their memory of where the food was stored. To survive, human memory became great at remembering locations. The memory palace and the Australian aboriginal memorization technique both improve knowledge retention by tapping into our instincts.


Add Cultural Sensitivity Training

Diversity and inclusion remain top of mind for the pharmaceutical industry. An Australian aboriginal memorization technique provides a great way to highlight diverse ways of knowing.

An Australian Aboriginal Educator administering part of the training program would be another great way to incorporate inclusion. It would also provide an opportunity for cultural sensitivity training. In this way, sales reps can learn about another culture, while still training on relevant topics for their jobs.

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Pearls of wisdom can come from unexpected places.

No one expects cultures thousands of years old to hold the key to knowledge retention. However, it isn’t surprising that the cultures with strong oral traditions would create master memorizers.   Luckily, we can use these same techniques to make our own learning easier and more engaging.

At CLD, we pride ourselves on using evidence-based learning techniques. Even though ancient, these memorization techniques proved helpful in medical training.

Schedule a call today to find out how we can help design your next training.