23 Feb

Method of Loci Memory Madness

Not everyone is good at memorization. Have you noticed? Some people easily absorb long lists of facts and recite pages from their books for fun. Others wrestle just to remember their own phone number. Yet the same person who forgets their phone number can remember pictures, faces and places with ease.

Has anyone told you “I can’t remember your name but your face is sooo familiar”? That’s because your brain remembers pictures and places better than words. What did your family cat look like when you were a kid? That’s easy. Just picture kitty cat sitting on the couch in your mind. You can ‘view’ the scene in your head and describe everything you need.Where is this bench?

I’d like to introduce you to an ancient memory trick that helps us ‘visual’ memory people recall words and facts. It’s called Method of Loci i meaning ‘technique of places’. How does it work? You use familiar places and images to ‘stick’ your facts and words. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Use a familiar place like your house or your dorm room.
  2. Set up ‘stations’ or ‘rooms’ that will become stops along a ‘memory walk ‘.
  3. Write up the material you need to memorize on a sheet or list. Perhaps your chemistry class already gave you a list of equations to memorize. Have the list in hand.
  4. Create a ‘walk’ which starts at one place and moves through a series of rooms or stops. This walk should be the same walk you use each time you want to memorize. The same stops in the same order.
  5. Walk to your first ‘stop’  (such as the front door) and stand still. Read the first fact or item you need to memorize out load. Then close your eyes and repeat it again. You might even write it onto a post-it note and hang it there at the front door.
  6. Move on to the next stop (such as the kitchen stove) and read your second item out loud. Now close your eyes briefly and say the item again out loud.
  7. Continue on your walk until you have covered all the facts or items you need to memorize. Ideally your memory walk should have enough ‘stops’ to memorize your whole list and return you to the starting point.
  8. Now walk the whole memory circuit again, stopping at each station and reading out your fact.
  9. Do the circuit three or four times, preferably on different days.

When the exam comes, imagine your self standing in the location where your started your memory walk.  Then visually recreate the walk in your mind.  The facts or items you memorized during your walk should easily return to your mind as you imagine yourself moving through the ‘stops’ of your Loci walk.

Extra Credit Tip

Sometimes you need more ‘stations’ than your little dorm room allows.  Don’t fret!  You can use furniture or other familiar items in a room to make more memory stops.  Each room should have no more than five items you use to ‘hang’ your memory items on.  Pick the same items in each room in the same order every time.  Like door – chair – desk – bed – sink.  Some people use this method to memorize hundreds of facts.  Yes … hundreds.

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