Lots of us use visual mapping techniques (like mind maps) to help us deal with planning work and remembering things: they are great for condensing what you know about a topic into a diagram that is easier to remember. Sketching out a quick mind map can also help jog your memory, too, making them a good tool to use when planning answers to those higher mark exam questions. So it is no wonder that they are a very popular revision strategy.
Although the concept of a ‘mind map’ was introduced and developed by psychology author Tony Buzan, this way of mapping information is not new. A fascinating review of similar techniques on the Mind Mapping Blog gives examples from ancient Greek philosopher Porphyry of Tyre, ancient Roman philosopher Boethius, and newbies Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, amongst others.
Why do they work? The mind-mapping process of organising information and making links between different bits of information is replicating how we think the brain makes enduring memories, so revising with mind maps should help the brain remember information. And retrieving information from long term memory is made easier through association – that is why mind mapping experts recommend adding unusual images and colours to your mind maps to strengthen the association between a topic and its connections.
Then there is elaborative rehearsal: mind mapping makes us consider the information we are revising more deeply than if we just reread it or highlighting bits that seem like they could be important. We have to consider how one aspect of a topic links to another. Elaborative rehearsal builds enduring memories and makes them easier to access, too.