Thursday, September 27, 2012

Memory Palaces: The Procrastinator's Best Friend

What if I told you that there was an ancient memory trick that you could use to memorize long strings of random numbers or information in significantly less time? What if I told you that it has saved my grades many a time while crunching the day before a test? You not might believe me, but it's true. The Method of Loci (also known as "The Journey Method," "Memory Palace" and "Memory Walk") is an easy way to commit information to memory quickly and fully.

What is the Method of Loci?

The Method of Loci is a process discovered by ancient Greeks that uses the human brain's spatial memory in conjunction with normal mnemonics. To use The Method of Loci, you should first decide on a Memory Palace. This can be a real or made up location, it is only required that you can visualize walking through it and remember some specific details. I've heard of people using an old house, the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz, or a walk to the grocery store as some examples. Feel free to be creative, however. 

A Mnemonic Within a Mnemonic

Once you've chosen your Memory Palaces, you can start to place hooks. These can be any specific places (loci is latin for places) from a window to a desk. You will then place information onto that point. This information can be raw information, for example righting a 1 one your wall, or mnemonics. A mnemonic can be anything that will help you remember your information. An example of a mnemonic would be Roy G Biv, a mnemonic for the colors in the rainbow, R standing for red, o for orange, and so on and so forth. You could create a person named Roy G. Biv, give him a nametag, and have him bend over in the corner of the room like a rainbow, if you felt like it. The more outrageous the image of the mnemonic is, the more likely you'll remember it, so try not to use boring or repetitive places or images. After you've placed your first mnemonic you can continue on in a path through your memory palace. Once you've finished adding to it, make sure to go through it often to strengthen your memory.

Memory Palaces have been used for the memory championships to achieve such feats as memorizing 203 within 5 minutes. They can also be used by procrastinators (like myself) to cram for tests more effectively, or by professionals to keep their memory fresh. Whatever the case, this is one of the most useful and interesting ways to memorize out there.

Check out Memory Palaces, Continued for more info and an example of how to memorize the elements.

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