Memorization has nothing to do with intelligence or brain structure. Memory mostly behaves like a muscle that you can train to perform better. So, in the same way you workout, you can do some mental gymnastic to enhance your memory skills. The best way to memorize lists, numbers, or objects is by using mental images and spatial memory. That’s when “the method of loci” comes into play.
The method of Loci, used by most memory athletes, comes from the ancient roman and Greek civilizations. This technique is based on memorizing a stop-points route through a familiar environment. The goal is to firmly establish a familiar path through a real or imaginary living space with specific stop-points where the objects to recall will be placed and memorized.
Memorizing A Special Place
That’s the crucial part of the training that will require a little work. Using your imagination or an existing place, memorize an environment that will serve as a reference. It’s the place you will revisit taking always the same path. This location needs to be populated with multiple discrete spaces — stop-points — where you will “place” the objects to recall. The more bizarre and outstanding the stop-points are, the easier they will be to remember. You can use vivid past memories of objects and places, or invent details, crazy enough to do not be forgotten.
For example, On the left side of the building’s hall sits the big ugly coat rack from your childhood: It is your first stop-point. A little farther on the right is the unique painted console table that you always wanted but could never afford, that’s your second stop-point. It can also be a gigantic red frog with yellow polka dots or the spiky chair of “Game of Thrones”.
When you decide to remember a set of items, just mentally walk through the place following the familiar route, and in order, assign each to-be-remembered item to the stop-points you encounter. Picture each object interacting with your stop-point. For example, if the first object to remember is a ball, “see” the ball hitting the ugly coat rack, making it fall in the middle of the hall. The image or scene will be committed to your long-term memory. In the same way, if you want to remember to call your husband, picture him in his underwear sitting on the spiky throne with a big telephone on his lap.
To retrieve the list of items, you will follow the same route, stopping at each stop-point and ask yourself the question: “what happened to it?” or “who was there?”. That will activate the scene you created when you placed the item, and trigger your visual memory. “oh yes, the ball made it fall in the hall”.
The Science Behind It
It’s no magic, it’s a brain training technique that anybody can master. This mnemonic system creates a visual association between the items to remember and the familiar physical locations you have imagined.
Using this technique, a person with ordinary memorization capabilities can, with a little practice, remember the sequence of a shuffled deck of cards.
As a recent study shows, a group of regular persons had their brain network reshaped in the same way memory athletes exhibit, with only 6 weeks of mnemonic training. The use of visual mnemonic techniques reorganized, after a while, the brain’s functional network to enable superior memory performance.