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The word consolidate turns up in all types of disciplines, from history to psychology. Much of the time, it suggests that individual items, groups, people, or ideas have been united or combined in some way (sentences 1 and 4). But it can also refer to internal strengthening or deepening (sentences 2 and 3). In the context of subjects like earth science, it's more likely to mean that different small particles get compressed into one solid mass (sentence 5).
Related forms: consolidation
Memory Pegs. The prefix con carries with it meanings like "together," "with," or "jointly." Keep the meaning of that prefix in mind to remember the definitions for consolidate, all of which suggest bringing or holding some things "together." If you need an image to help you remember the meaning of consolidate, keep in mind how the pieces of a puzzle look when they fit together.
Image courtesy of Amada 44, who released it into the public domain.
Specialized Use in Psychology. The term Memory Consolidation describes the process by which the brain responds to incoming information registered by the senses but not yet firmly anchored in memory. Through consolidation, the brain finds a way to hold on to new information (or at least some of it) and transfer it into long-term memory.
Oddly enough, it's during sleep that consolidation often takes place, and while you may be out cold, your brain is busy. It's sorting through the day's news and figuring out where the new information fits or hangs "together" with what you have already learned or experienced. That's one of the reasons why learning researchers suggest that students go to sleep right after studying for a test.
And you know what else helps consolidation? Believe it or not, coffee! According to a new study published in the January 2014 issue of Nature, the caffeine in coffee enhances memory consolidation if the coffee is consumed within 24 hours of learning. So if you can't take a nap right after studying, drink a cup of coffee!
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Last update of this page: March 22, 2014