When we remember events from the past, personal or national, certain things stick out in our minds more than others. We are more likely to remember deeply emotional events, such as a first kiss with someone we love than we are a totally normal day. The way our brains encode memories is very much correlated with our emotional state, as that is what alerts our brains to significance. It’s not just the memories themselves that are colored by our emotional reaction to them, but the details and focus of the memory.
This article from the New Yorker talks about a variety of studies on how our memories are formed in relation to our emotion around them. What I took away from this is that creating emotional significance enhances memory recall. I think this is the reason creating a significant “why” for students and helping them relate to the content is so vital for learning to take place. When students feel connected to the content, they remember it better.