Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Did you know that people compete every year to win the
U.S. Memory Championship? To attain the rank of grand
master of memory, you must be able to memorize 1,000
digits in under an hour, the exact order of 10 shuffled
decks of playing cards in under an hour, and one shuffled
deck in less than two minutes.

To this day, there are only 36 grand masters of memory in
the world.

And while you may not be interested in memorizing digits
and playing cards, I'm sure all of us would like to increase
our mental brain power. Whether you want to quickly
memorize the periodic table, learn a new language,
recite the names of each president forwards and
backwards, or cut down on your studying time, the
following memory techniques will help you do it.

The brain wasn't designed to remember abstract symbols like
numbers and miscellaneous facts. However, if you can
translate those symbols into vivid visual images and
associations, even the dullest list of dates can become as
memorable as your own telephone number. The key is to
develop a system that allows for quick encoding and easy

1. Acronyms

One of the most common memory techniques is the use of
acronyms. This technique uses an easily remembered word
whose first letters are associated with the list of items that
need to be remembered. Pilots use these extensively to run
through essential checklists during flight time.

An example would be:

ROY G. BIV: the colors of the visible spectrum Red, Orange,
Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet

Keep in mind that associations which are exaggerated, absurd,
humorous, and involve all five senses are much easier to
remember than normal ones. We remember emotionally charged
events much better than boring ones.

2. Chunking

Chunking is one of the oldest memory techniques. Using this
method, the items to be memorized are divided into small
chunks or groups. Chunking is especially helpful for memorizing
telephone numbers, ID numbers, etc.

For example, if you want to memorize the number 411645754,
then split it up into small groups: 411, 645, 754. You can
then memorize each group by rote. By dividing the
larger number into smaller subsets, it will be much easier
to commit the number to memory.

When using this technique, it is also helpful to make
connections and associations among the different chunks and

For example, if you want to memorize a grocery list, you
should group each of the items into related categories. So,
one chunk or group might be composed of oranges, apples, and
pears, while another chunk is made up of vegetables.

3. Acrostic

An acrostic is a memory technique that uses a made up
sentence or poem with a first letter cue. The first letter
of each word is a cue to an idea you need to remember.

One example is:

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (PEMDAS).

This acrostic represents the sequence in solving or
evaluating math equations. Parenthesis, Exponents,
Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction

4. The Method of Loci

The Method of Loci is a memory technique that dates back to
ancient Greek times when orators, philosophers, and others
had to rely on memory for memorizing speeches and knowledge
in general. This was essential seeing that the printed book
wouldn't come around until approximately two thousand years

Therefore, they invented the Method of Loci. This memory
technique involves associating information you want to
remember with specific locations, also known as loci.

These locations can be points along a journey or objects in
a room. The ancient Greeks not only created rooms, but
entire palaces and cities to remember lots of information.

According to Wikipedia,

"In ancient advice, the loci were physical locations,
usually in a familiar large public building, such as a market
or a church.

To utilize the method, one walked through the building
several times, viewing distinct places within it, in the
same order each time. After a few repetitions of this,
one should be able to remember and visualize each of
the places in order reliably.

To memorize a speech, one breaks it up into pieces, each
of which is symbolized by vivid imagined objects or symbols.
In the mind's eye, one then places each of these images
into the loci.

They can then be recalled in order by imagining that one is
walking through the building again, visiting each of the
loci in order, and viewing each of the images that were
placed in the loci, thereby recalling each piece of the
speech in order."

To create your own mental journey, you must first select the
path you wish to use. Be sure to choose a location that has
the same number of locations as the number of chunks in the
information you wish to memorize.

Take a mental journey through the selected path. You should
be able to recall the specific order of the locations
without trouble.

Now it's time to associate this new information with each
location along your chosen path. If you want to
memorize the presidents, then you might take a
mental journey through your school. In the first
room, you could have George Washington in an
astronaut suit and cutting firewood. In the
second room you could have John Adams
break dancing in front of the classroom.
And on and on until you have completed all
43 presidents.

Remember, emotion and exaggerated associations
are the key to memory.

5. The Image-Name Technique

Here's an excellent (but simple) memory technique for
remembering names.

All you have to do is make up a relationship between the
name and the physical characteristics of the person's name
you are trying to remember.

For example, if you were trying to remember a person by the
name of Tom, you might associate their name with the person
you went to prom with who was also named Tom. In this
instance, you are making the connection between Tom and prom
(rhyming) and between someone you previously knew from
high school.

If you want to remember the name Sally, you might imagine
them in a ballet. This association will help you remember
their name because of the visual imagery and the connection
between the "closely related" words that almost rhyme:
Sally and ballet.

By making connections, you are instantly more likely to
remember their name the next time you see them.

6. Mind Mapping

One of the best ways to learn new things is to relate what
you want to learn with something you already know. This is
known as association and it is the mental glue that drives
your brain.

Associations are also one of the best ways to improve your
memory. To maximize our mental powers, we must constantly
look for associations that connect new ideas and knowledge
with old ideas and concepts that we are already familiar

Association is the primary method that memory champions use
to win international memory competitions. If you want to
enhance your mental abilities, then association is one skill
that you will definitely want to practice.

Mind mapping is one of the best ways to practice association.

According to Wikipedia, mind mapping:

"is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or
other items linked to and arranged radially around a central
key word or idea."

Mind maps have been used for centuries to aid in learning,
brainstorming, memory, and problem solving.

To start creating your own mind map, simply get
out a piece of paper, multiple colored pens, and begin
drawing a handwritten mind map that connects a variety
of ideas and concepts to a central key word or idea.
The simple act of using your hand for thought can really
get the brain going.

7. Write an Article

One of the best ways to learn a topic is to start writing
about it yourself. This forces you to clarify your thoughts
and dig a bit deeper into the topic at hand.

By expressing the core ideas in your own words, you will
gain a much deeper understanding of the topic.

Explaining a topic to others will help you to "really"
understand the matter because teaching something to others
requires a completely different level of insight.

Think about it. If you had to teach a class, wouldn't you
make sure that you understood the material even better than
the students. Take on the role of an instructor and you will
find yourself gaining a much deeper understanding of the
topics you study.

8. Peg words

Peg words are extremely powerful, but it does take some time
to learn how to use them. However, once you master this
technique, you can probably cut your studying time in half.

The use of pegs goes all the way back to the seventeenth
century and Henry Herson. He came up with a list of ten
objects that physically resembled the number itself. For
example, the number 1 was represented by a candle.
Number 8 was a pair of spectacles.

Peg words essentially become "hangers" or pegs on which
you can hang different items that you want to remember.

This system works by pre-memorizing a list of words that
are easy to associate with the numbers they represent. To
begin, you can connect simple objects with the numbers 1-20.
Those objects form the "pegs" of the system.

Once you have created a list of words for each number, you
can then begin using your peglist to quickly memorize a
list of objects.

For example, let's say you want to memorize a grocery list
of 10 items. To begin, you would need to make a peg list for
the numbers 1-10. Here's an example:

1- pencil
2- shoe
3- phone
4- door
5- book
6- basketball
7- hat
8- radio
9- car
10- barn

Now, you must associate the groceries on your list with each
of your peg words. Remember that your associations must be
exaggerated and filled with emotion in order to make them
easy to remember. Here are some examples of how you could
associate the grocery list with each of the peg words:

1- tomatoes - Visualize an army of pencils attacking a field
of overgrown tomatoes.
2- grapes - Visualize your favorite TV character stomping
through a big barrel of grapes with bright white shoes.
3 - cereal - Visualize opening your phone and having your
favorite cereal start shooting out of the mouth piece.

Get the idea?

Once you have created your list of peg words, you can use
them over and over again to memorize a variety of different

You could use the peg system to memorize the Presidents of
the United States, the periodic table, or the state capitals.

When creating your peg words, it's best to use tangible
things or objects for each peg word because objects are
easier to associate other items to.

Also, make sure that you don't use similar peg words for
different numbers. For reference, always keep a full list
of the peg words close by. In fact, putting this list in
your wallet or purse is one of the best places. This way,
you will always have access to the peg system.

At first, you may find it difficult to come up with the creative,
illogical, and exaggerated associations that help you
remember more. It comes with practice. However, once you
have mastered the technique of association, you will find
that you have also increased your creativity and problem
solving skills at the same time. The key to creating good
associations is thinking like a child again. Let your mind
wander past the limitations created out of what we now know
as "adulthood".

9. Visualization

Visualization is an extremely powerful memory technique.
However, visualization doesn't just improve memory. It can
also help reduce stress, improve sports performance, and
increase your motivation.

Create descriptive pictures of your possible future and move
yourself towards it. Visualize your next sports event or
public speech to improve your performance.

When studying history, play out visual renditions in your mind
of historical events that you want to remember. Imagine the
smells, sights, and sounds of Gettysburg or the excitement
and unity created by Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a
Dream" speech. By visualizing history with mental replays,
you are much more likely to remember them in detail.

10. FlashCards

When it comes to rote memorization, flash cards are my
favorite memorization tool. Flashcards can help you learn
new subjects quickly and efficiently. They are especially
useful for learning new vocabulary or even a new language.

One of the biggest benefits of flashcards is their portable
nature. They allow you to study anywhere at any time. It
doesn't matter whether you're on the bus, stuck in
traffic, or in the doctor's office. You can always whip out
your flashcards for a quick 2 to 3 minute study session.

To create effective flashcards, dedicate one point to each
card. For example, you could put a vocabulary word on one
side and the definition on the other side. This way, you can
repeatedly quiz yourself until you have mastered all of the

Considering that memory is such a fundamental skill, it's
surprising that schools don't teach us more about how to
learn and use our memory to its optimum potential.

Our mind, just like the rest of our body, needs continuous
exercise and training. Those who think they have a poor
memory actually just have an untrained memory.

Just reading this article won't improve your memory. A good
memory comes from practice. Find something new and exciting
to learn. Start testing out these methods as soon as possible.

You could learn how to fly, learn a new language, photography,
or even investing.

1 comment:

Millenniumhealth said...

This is a great post. I have always had trouble remembering names and so will definately give this a try. Thanks

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