Join Paul Nowak for an in-depth discussion in this video Memory palaces and the method of loci, part of Improving Your Memory.
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- The memory palace also known as the method of loci, is a memory technique developed in Ancient Greece over 2,000 years ago. It was used widely by the Greeks and later the Romans to memorize lengthy speeches. Back then, before you could digitally record something, it was very important to have trained memory, and strategies like the method of loci were widely used. These strategies are still used today by competitors in memory contests to remember digits, faces, decks of cards, among other things. Loci, by the way, is the plural of the Latin word locus, which means place.
The strategy is based on the idea that you can best remember places that are familiar to you like your home or workplace. According to Cicero, the method of loci was developed by the Greek poet Simonides, who was the lone survivor of a building that collapsed during a dinner that he attended. He remembered who was sitting where to identify everyone. He realized that through this it would be possible to remember anything by associating it with a mental image of a location. This method, which has also come to be known as the memory palace technique, is very easy to implement.
Here's what you do, try to picture a place you're very familiar with. Let's start by having you imagine your home. Next, visualize a series of ordered locations within your home. Make these locations in a logical order, so the first place could be your front door, the next location within your home might be the living room, the next could be your kitchen. Picture yourself walking through your home in a particular order. Pieces of furniture can also serve as locations within your memory palace. The next thing you need to do is place each item you need to remember at different locations that you've decided on.
These could be items on a list, or topics for a presentation you might be doing, whatever these things are you need to make sure you visualize them, and add some exaggeration. As we discussed earlier, exaggeration makes things more memorable. Here's an example, let's say I was trying to remember a grocery list, and item number one was carrots. For me, when I use my home as a memory palace, the first logical location for me is the mailbox, because it's one of the first things I check before I walk in through the door, so I would imagine a bunch of carrots sticking out of the mailbox.
Next, let's say item number two on our list was broccoli. The next logical location that happens for me is my two dogs greet me at the door as I walk in. I'm going to picture them bringing me large pieces of broccoli in their mouths, and I would continue from there with item number three and location number three. Be sure to exaggerate your visuals, and make an effort to actually picture them to get the full effect. Once you've placed all the items you need to remember in their appropriate places, don't forget to rehearse the order several times in your head.
You want to rehearse because repetition is still one of the most effective ways to remember anything. The great thing about this method is that you can have multiple memory palaces to help you remember various things. One memory palace might be your home, another might be your office, another could be a friend or family member's home. If you take the train every day to work you might use that route as a memory palace, putting different items at different stops along the way. The memory palace technique can be used to remember a list of almost anything, or you might use it to remember the important points of a presentation you have to deliver, or maybe the names of people at an event, you can even use this technique to remember your to-do list.
Regardless of how you implement it, memory palaces are effective, because they are places you are already familiar with. Even if you had a 50 item list you can use a memory palace. You can place five items in each of the 10 locations. Just make sure those five items are somehow interacting with each other in that location, and make sure you turn these things into concrete visuals that include exaggeration. Now that you know the basics of how memory palaces work, try practicing it. Pick the location figure out the order of locations within the memory palace, and then apply it to something you need to remember.
For example, think of today's to-do list items, and try to memorize them using the memory palace. Like anything the more you practice this the better you get at it.
- Memory principles that work
- Taking notes
- Using songs and rhyming techniques to remember details
- Building a "memory palace"
- Remembering names and passwords
- Memorizing long texts and speeches