Saturday, March 31, 2007

Memory technique

I've been using many memory systems lately. I've devised this technique (well, it kind of evolved, really) that injects a little creativity into the use of any memory system. It's working well for me.

The basics of a memory technique

With most of the existing memory techniques, a ridiculous and exaggerated association is created that features the two items that need to be remembered. So, if a shopping list has two items:

1) Coffee
2) Ladder

I can imagine a ridiculous association between the items. Such as:

I see myself climbing a ladder to pour coffee into my cup from a great height
I open a coffee jar and a massive ladder falls out
I see someone standing on an enormous coffee jar to reach a window

Adding a little creativity

To add a little creativity and make my image more memorable I use an adjective to modify the image. So if I label one of the associations - perhaps: I see myself climbing a ladder to pour coffee into my cup - as the event, I can ask the question:

How X is the event?

and find a random adjective for the "X". If my adjective is sloppy, I can set about finding ways to make my ridiculous image sloppier. Maybe:

It takes several attempts to climb the ladder - I keep falling off - and when I do finally get to the top and pour the coffee it misses the cup and pours all over the floor.

(If you're familiar with memory systems you'll recognise the need to keep the image ridiculous and exaggerated.)

If the next two items on my shopping list are:

3) Dog food
4) Pizza

I can form my ridiculous image: I imagine the dog joining us at the table to eat pizza. With the adjective low I set about making this surreal event lower. Maybe:

Everyone huddles beneath the table with the dogs to eat the pizza

Odd. Pretty surreal. But a lot more memorable than the image of us just sitting at the table with the dogs.


With a short list of items to remember there's usually no need to modify the images with this technique. However, lately I've been memorising lists of two hundred items plus, and I find that intensifying the image with the adjective helps to keep my associations ridiculous and creative when my brain is suffering from "association fatigue".

Memory systems

Here's a post about a useful embellishment I've used to improve my use of memory systems. For those who are not familiar with basic memory-improving systems, and on reading the post think that I must be taking drugs, I recommend the books of Tony Buzan and Harry Lorrayne to learn about such memory systems.

Is there anyone reading this who has tried memory systems? Such systems were a godsend to me at school and I've enjoyed using them ever since. Are they suited to everyone though? I tried to teach someone at work how to form exaggerated associations and I'm sure they thought that I was mad.

Use Your Memory. Tony Buzan.
The Memory Book. Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas