You don’t have a bad memory. You don’t know how to remember. Today, you’re going to learn the memory technique used by world-memory champions, in-the-know students, and super-learners.
Imagine how easy learning would be if you could easily remember anything you studied! Well, it’s entirely possible, simply by using the Memory Palace Technique.
If you’re still in school or studying, this is an incredible tool for acing exams with ease. It’s also great for everyday life and work, remembering names, numbers — pretty much anything you can imagine!
What is the Memory Palace?
The ‘Memory’ or ‘Mind Palace’, sometimes referred to as the Method of Loci, is a memorization technique developed thousands of years ago to accurately and precisely recall vast amounts of information on demand.
The technique involves storing information in the form of associative images in our minds. We then store these images in a virtual location in our mind, such as your house, street, school, etc. When we walk through this virtual location, we can work out the information from the images stored there. Before we do a deep dive into the technique and how to do it, let’s go over the science quickly. Understanding this will help you more effectively use the method.
What is the Memory Palace used for?
Competitive world memory champions and super-learners from around the globe use this method. Your imagination is the only limit to the Memory Palace’s capability. You can store almost any type of information when using it.
In 2015, 20 years old, Suresh Kumar Sharma used the Memory Palace technique to recite pi (𝜋) up to 70,030 digits in one sitting. It took him 17 hours.
Now you won’t need to be doing anything crazy like that, but you can use it to remember virtually any item of information. Here are a few things you might use the Memory Palace for:
- Language Learning
- Learning and Test Prep in School/University
- Names and Phone Numbers
The Baker/baker Paradox
The reason the Memory Palace technique works so well is best explained with the ‘Baker/baker paradox’. The paradox goes something like this.
Two groups of people are both shown the same picture of a man.
Group 1 is told the man in this picture is Mr Baker.
Group 2 is told that the man in this picture is a baker.
A few days later, both groups were asked to remember the information they had been given.
Individuals in Group 2, who were told that the man in this picture is a baker, had a much higher recall rate than those who were told that this man is Mr. Baker.
The results of this experiment may seem like an odd fluke of human psychology. However, it reveals something incredible about human memory. Our brains remember sensory and emotional information amazingly well. Mr. Baker is a meaningless name to most people; the information is just a word with nothing distinctive about it. However, baker the profession does mean something. The word has many sensory and emotional associations that our minds automatically process. For example:
- The Image of a man in a white apron and baker’s hat
- The texture of flour
- The smell of freshly baked bread
- The memory of visiting a bakery
These emotional and association hooks helps our brains remember the information easily.
The Memory Palace Technique: Step-by-Step Guide
The Memory Palace technique takes advantage of the fact that our brains remember visual, spatial, sensory, and emotional information incredibly well. We’re going to use this to force our minds to remember any piece of information we want. The technique is as follows:
1. Pick a Palace and Route
Pick a place you can remember easily and visualize in your mind. This place could be your house, street, school, place of work, etc. The only prerequisite is that you can easily mentally walk around and visualize it.
Once you have a location, choose a route that you will walk through mentally. You’ll do this so you can recall information in a specific order. Walkthrough this route several times, becoming familiar with it.
2. Turn Raw Information into Images Though Associations
Once you have chosen what information you want to remember, you will now create mental images through association. To remember these images, you will want to make them as mad and ridiculous as possible. The more ridiculous, the better our minds remember.
Let’s say, for example, you meet a new male work colleague, and you want to remember the information they tell you about themselves. He introduces himself as James Baker. He is a web developer, was born in Wales, and likes to cycle on the weekends. The information we want to remember is as follows:
- James Baker
- Web Developer
The associations I would make into images would be as follows:
|Web Developer||Spider’s Web 🕸|
So my mentally created images would be imagining James Baker dressed as a baker covered in jam and spider webs, riding a bicycle on top of a whale.
You can combine your images in any way you want. If you choose to make a story out of the elements, then that is great too! Each of the features in your images represents an item of information you want to remember.
3. Add Sensory and Emotional information to your Images
Once you’ve created your mad and ridiculous image through mental associations, you can start to add sensory and emotional information. You should go into as much detail as possible. Here are some questions you might as yourself:
- What does the Jam feel, look, and taste like?
- Does James Baker feel scared with all these spider webs on him? Is he panicking?
- What does the outfit the baker is wearing look like? What’s the texture of it?
- What type of Whale is it? What sound does it make? How big is it?
- Does the bike James is riding have a bell? If so, how does it sound?
You want to add as much detail to your image as possible Add anything to do with the five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing, etc. Remember also to add emotional information, such as in our example, the fear James’ feels with spider’s webs on his head.
Now as ridiculous as all this seems, these crazy details help you remember all the information.
4. Place Images Inside your Memory Palace
The next step is to place the image you have created inside your Memory Palace. For my example, I will use the entrance room in my house. This room is somewhere I know well and can imagine vividly and easily.
Once you have placed your image, you will want to interweave it with the surroundings in your chosen location. Get creative in how your image interacts with its environment. Combining the image and the surroundings helps anchor your image to that specific location.
5. Walk Back Through your Memory Palace
Once you have repeated the process for as many items of information you want to remember, you can now take the final step.
The final step is mentally walking around your Memory Palace. You will need to do this several times to cement it inside your mind. Each time you revisit an image, the memory will get stronger.
How do you Remember Numbers with the Memory Palace?
Remembering numbers isn’t as tricky as you might think! All you need is a system. To get you started, let’s get you up and running with the most straightforward system. This method involves assigning an image to the numbers 1 to 9. For example:
|One (1)||Dynamite 🧨|
|Two (2)||Swan 🦢|
|Three (3)||Butterfly 🦋|
|Four (4)||Sailboat ⛵|
The associated in this case refer to the shape of the number. However, you can choose whatever images you like; if something comes to mind fast, use that! Using the numbers 1 to 9 has its limitations. It is typically used for short strings of digits. If you want to remember long strings of digits, then you will need to invest in the major system. A major system involves assigning images to numbers 1-99.
If you want to learn more about the Memory Palace, such as more advanced techniques and the science behind it, then here are some resources to get you started!
- Joshua Foer’s TED Talk: Feats of Memory Anyone Can Do
- Joshua Foer’s Book: Moonwalking With Einstein
- Ed Cooke’s TED Talk Experiential Learning
- Ed Cooke’s Book: Remember Remember
- Co-Founder Ed Cooke’s Memory Palace Based Language Learning Website & App
- World Memory Champion Dominic O’Brien’s Website
If you want an extra boost to your learning, check out our explanation of how the brain learns new information efficiently.