Memory is the treasure house of the mind wherein the monuments thereof are kept and preserved. -Thomas Fuller
Take a close look at the picture above. Imagine yourself walking up to the front door. The door is a mess because a banana cream pie has been thrown at it, but it has arms made from bananas that are clinging to the door. The arms are slippery though, so the pie is slowly sliding down anyway.
You go into the house and look at the coat rack. There’s a purple fur coat that’s making noise. You notice this strange coat has three sleeves, each with a mouth that growls and tries to bite you as you pass.
You walk through the front room and see 14 hard boiled Easter eggs on the coffee table. They’re crowded around the edges looking at the ground and murmuring together. On the ground you see 15 more Easter eggs, but these are covered in war paint, waving toothpicks, and shouting threats at the eggs above, declaring war. You realize the 14 eggs on the table are discussing their chances of winning the upcoming egg war with their fewer numbers.
You cast the eggs a sympathetic glance, go to the kitchen, and open the fridge. Inside are 9 baby penguins trying desperately to open 2 cans of tuna, but they can’t work the can opener with their flippers. You offer to help, but the penguins caw at you and slam the fridge door.
A hum from the dining table draws your attention. A man with 6 fingers on his right hand is there, and he’s stacked 5 bicycles onto the table and is dissembling them to try to create a strange kind of machine. He waggles his extra finger at you and says: “I wouldn’t try to help them if I were you. I bet them $3 they couldn’t open those cans themselves, and they’re very intent upon winning.”
You stare at the man for a moment, and he stares back. You break the awkward moment by muttering “Thanks, that’s good to know,” and you go to leave through the back door. On your way out, the doormat sinks when you step on it, settling 5 feet into the ground. You struggle to climb out of the new hole to leave the house, and eventually succeed.
And now you know the first 10 digits of pi: 3.1415926535.
Wasn’t that fun? I promise it will be much easier when you use a location that you already know intimately well, like the pizza restaurant you worked in as a teenager, your childhood home, or Grandma’s house.
We’ll go over the steps to make your own memory palace, but first let’s examine why memory palaces work.
“The Memory Palace technique is a memorization strategy, based on visualizations of familiar spatial environments to recall information. . .The technique involves envisioning a location or physical space that you are extremely familiar with. In this location you attach the terms and factoids you are memorizing to various locations/spots within that place. As you use memories based on space that is familiar to you, your brain, which has already remembered the specific space, enables the terms and facts you associate with the space to be easily recalled.” (Memory Palace/Method of Loci)
Here are the steps you need to follow to make your own memory palace:
1. Decide upon a very familiar location. This is now your memory palace.
2. Draw out this location, including the big furniture.
3. Pick 2 or 3 big pieces of furniture per room and mark them on your drawing.
4. Pick something you want to memorize (your passport number, the formula to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, your bank account number, etc.).
5. Choose an easy route through your memory palace.
6. Invent crazy or fun images to represent pieces of the thing you want to remember (to introduce pi we had a poor banana cream pie clinging to the door with banana arms. This is far more memorable than simply setting a nonspecific pie on the front doorstep), and put them on or in the furniture you have marked on your drawing.
7. Walk through the palace repeatedly, giving your brain plenty of practice so it can easily recall this unique route later.
Are you nervous about trying this? Then follow the steps above and write down a little story of yourself traveling the route, just like our pi example is written out in this article. As you practice and use your memory palace you will have an easier time placing and recalling new memories there with their own routes.
The trick, like anything, is to start.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind for your own mind palace:
· Always use a place you know well
· Use different routes for different memories
· Return to your palace often to review your routes and memories. This can be a habit that lulls you to sleep at night, or something you do while you wait for your computer to start up before work.
· The stranger the image the more memorable, so make your images strange.
(Use A Memory Palace)
And that’s it. Practice makes perfect, so grab a paper and map out your memory palace now!
“Memory Palace/Method of Loci: Memorization Technique.” Pitt Study Lab, https://www.asundergrad.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/Memory%20Palaces%20-%20A%20Memorization%20Techniquef7a17061125c5b111e9a370b999da402bbd47cd097a9095dfe0163a8d0e04ad0.pdf.
“Use a ‘Memory Palace’ to Deliver Your next Presentation without Notes.” Speechworks, 23 Sept. 2020, https://www.speechworks.net/use-a-memory-palace-to-deliver-your-next-presentation-without-notes/.
Photo Credit: Rosalene Bowler
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