Draw the letter J in your mind.
Now draw the letter D. Turn it 90 degrees to the left and put it in top of the J.
What does this shape resemble? An umbrella, of course!
Good job: By mentally rotating these letters you have exercised your working memory, a crucial ingredient of cognition and problem-solving.
Working memory as temporary mental workspace:
Not only can we store information in our short-term memory, but we can also manipulate it in real-time, as we think about it. This is why short-term memory is technically called working memory.
Think of working memory as our temporary mental workspace. We use it in everyday tasks ranging from driving (where you need to keep in mind the location of the cars around you as you navigate through traffic), to preparing a budget (where you need to keep in mind one spending category while working on another), to writing a letter (where you need to keep in mind all you want to say while developing each point a sentence at a time).
Working memory enables active thinking:
Increasing one’s working memory ability can have enormous benefits in life. It could be compared to boosting the processing capacity of a computer. Working memory is where you do your active thinking and problem solving. So, a well functioning working memory is key to successfully completing many complex activities that require to reason, understand and learn. Try the exercises opposite to use your mental workspace in different situations.
Quick brain teasers to exercise your working memory:
When trying to find the right jigsaw puzzle piece, you often mentally rotate the ones you see on the table to “see” in your working mental space whether they would fit. Let’s practice mental rotation now.
In each box to the right, study the top figure for 5 seconds. The cover it up and circle the figure in the bottom part that matches it once rotated. Yes — you will have to mentally rotate the figures to find the answer.
Work on one word at a time: Read each word to the left once, then cover it up and spell it backward.
Ready. Set. Go!
Solutions to mental rotation
Box 1: 1st figure on the left
Box 2: 3rd figure on the right
Box 3: 3rd figure on the right
– These brain teasers come from Max Your Memory by Dr. Pascale Michelon. Dr. Michelon holds a PhD in Cognitive Psychology, co-authored The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness and blogs regularly about cognitive fitness and brain health.