Improving your memory will help you in countless ways.
Look at the following three scenarios:
- You have a college exam coming up which counts as a high percentage of your grade.
- Your boss asks you to give an important presentation at work for which you need to memorize a long list of facts.
- You’re simply tired of forgetting things all the time.
Wouldn’t your life be so much easier if you had a better memory?
The good news is that there are methods and techniques that you can apply in order to improve your memory. This is what Joshua Foer discovered when he was given the assignment to write about the US Memory Championship held each spring in New York City. Joshua—whose memory at the time was average–expected to walk into the championship hall and find it filled with savants and people with photographic memories.
Instead, he discovered that the contestants were just normal people. After spending some time talking to them he learned that their memory prowess was due to the fact that they had trained their memory using memory techniques. One of the contestants offered to teach Joshua these memory techniques and Joshua took him up on the offer.
Joshua spent the next year applying the techniques in order to improve his memory. Then, Joshua returned to the US Memory Championship. However, this time he wasn’t an observer, but a contestant. To his incredible surprise, Joshua won the competition.
The moral of Joshua’s story is the following: you can improve your memory by using memory techniques. As an aside, Joshua wrote about his experience in the book, “Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything”.
In this post you’ll discover three of the most effective methods for improving your memory. These three methods are the following:
- The Memory Peg System
- The Method of Loci
- The Dominic System
Discover how to apply each of these methods below.
The Memory Peg System
The memory peg system is a technique for memorizing lists. It works by pre-memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers that they represent. Those words are your memory pegs. When you need to quickly memorize a list of arbitrary objects, each object is associated with the appropriate peg.
For example, choose a word that you associate with the number “1”. Suppose that you choose “gun” since it sounds similar to “1”. Now look at the list that you need to memorize. Peg the first item on the list to “gun”. As an illustration, let’s say that you’re trying to memorize a grocery list, and the first item on your list is “cotton balls”. Visualize a gun that shoots cotton balls.
Now, choose a word that you associate with the number “2”. You could choose “zoo” since it rhymes with “2”. Peg the second item on the list that you’re trying to memorize with the word “zoo”. To continue with our grocery list illustration, if the second item on your list is “toothpaste”, you could visualize a gorilla in his cage at the zoo brushing his teeth.
For the number “3”, you could choose the word “tree” as a memory peg (again, because tree sounds like “3”). Peg the third item on your grocery list to the word “tree”. So, if the third item on your list is gum, you could visualize a tree with packs of gum hanging from the branches like fruit.
To make the technique even more effective, tell yourself a story which involves all of the items on your list. In this case, vividly visualize a gorilla brushing his teeth while sitting underneath a tree with its branches filled with packs of gum. Suddenly, someone appears with a gun and starts shooting cotton balls at the gorilla. The weirder and more colorful you make your story, the easier it will be to remember.
Wikipedia recommends the following pegs for numbers 1 to 10:
Once you’ve memorized the pegs you can use these same pegs over and over again each time that you need to memorize something.
The Method of Loci
An ancient Greek poet named Simonides was asked to recite a poem at a banquet. After reciting his poem, Simonides left. A few minutes after his departure, the entire building in which the banquet was being held collapsed.
The bodies inside the building were mangled beyond recognition. Therefore, Simonides was asked to create a list of the people who were at the banquet from memory. He did this by recalling where people were sitting at the time of the accident.
This memory device of associating things with a place or location became known as the method of loci (loci means “places”). Today it’s also known as the journey method.
The essence of the loci method is to piggyback information you need to remember on top of information that you know like the back of your hand. For example, it would be nearly impossible for you to forget the layout of your house. Therefore, you would select five to seven locations in your house and use these as landmarks to remember the items on any list that you’re trying to remember.
Just as in the peg system, you’re going to use visualization. In our grocery list example, you want to remember the following three items:
- Cotton balls
Let’s assume that the three places that you selected from your house’s layout are the following:
- The small lobby at the entrance.
- The hall filled with family photographs.
- The living room at the end of the hall.
For each of these places visualize an association with one of the items on your list. As an illustration, you could envision the following:
- You walk into the lobby of your home when, suddenly, you discover that the front door has been booby trapped with a bucket filled with cotton balls which tumble down on your head.
- As you walk down the hall you look at the family photographs and see everyone’s gleaming, white smiles.
- Then you walk into the living room and find your spouse sitting on the couch blowing a huge bubble gum bubble which pops and splatters all over his face.
The Dominic System
The Dominic System is a mnemonic system invented by Dominic O’Brien. It’s a system for memorizing long sequences of numbers by associating the numbers with people and actions.
For example, suppose that you associate the number “1” with the group “One Direction” (obviously, because “one” is part of the band’s name). The action associated with “One Direction” is singing and dancing.
Richard Nixon–a former president of the US–was well known for his “V” victory sign, which consists of holding up two fingers. Therefore, you could associate the number “2” with Richard Nixon. The action associated with Nixon is standing with arms outstretched, making a victory sign with each hand.
You can associate the number “3” with the movie “Three Men and a Baby” starring Tom Selleck. Selleck is best known for his starring role as Hawaii-based private investigator Thomas Magnum. Magnum always drove around in a red Ferrari. Therefore, the action associated with Tom Selleck is driving a red Ferrari.
You can associate the number “4” with the movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral” which stars Hugh Grant. Everyone remembers the incident in which Hugh Grant was arrested in Hollywood with the call girl Divine Brown. The action associated with Hugh Grant can be posing for a mug shot.
Now look at the following number: 12243341. In order to memorize that number, do the following:
- Divide it up into four-digit chunks: 1224 and 3341
- Look at the first chunk and split it in two: 12 and 24.
- The number “12” is the band “One Direction” which is associated with the number “1”, and the band is carrying out the action associated with the number “2”. The action associated with the number “2” is holding up the victory sign. Therefore, visualize all the members of “One Direction” holding up the victory sign.
- The number “24” is Richard Nixon—who’s associated with the number “2”–, and the action associated with the number “4” is posing for a mug shot. Therefore, visualize Nixon posing for a mug shot.
- You would remember 1224 by seeing the band “One Direction” holding up the victory sign while they stand next to Richard Nixon posing for a mug shot.
If you follow this same logic, you would remember 3341 by visualizing Tom Selleck (3) driving his red Ferrari (3), with Hugh Grant (4) in the backseat singing and dancing around (1). Put it all together and you’ve memorized 12243341.
Use the three memory techniques described above and begin living your best life by improving your memory right away. What are your favorite memory techniques?
- Fourteen Ways to Increase Your IQ
- 20 Brain Hacks To Keep Your Noggin In Tip-Top Shape
- Adopt Good Habits With Temptation Bundling
- 10 Smart Things To Do Every Night
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “Daring to Live Fully” by clicking here and get free updates.