There comes a time in a person's life when they realize that their memory isn't quite as quick, or as sharp as it used to be. Luckily for me this happened in my twenties, (I'm now twenty four) and just in time for me to be able to do something about it. I decided to learn what I could about memory, and how one is able to train it to be able to work better. Quicker, more effective recall is what i was after, and by golly I got it!

I was going to node it today, but after typing in my node title, discover to my surprise (and admiration) that kaatunut has already done an excellent job.

There's really not much more to add, except that the tricks used above aren't just tricks, they are exercises that do help to train and strengthen your memory and your imagination. Also they aren't an exhaustive set. There are a couple of methods missing, the most important of which is the Roman Room Method, which is the basis of the Memory Palace.

Roman Room System

Long ago, before printing made books widely available, and writing was the privilege of the tiny minority ( < 1%) the world carried on quite normally.

This seems like an odd statement to make, until you realize what exactly it means.

None of these people wrote, but they had to trade, remember debts owed, paid, directions, days for planting, days for harvesting, family members, friends names, addresses, what they owned, what they had lent, the laws, their scriptures, history and the many other countless but vital things that our culture writes down and puts away.

How did they do it?

Well, they used their memories, and most of them got along just fine without any sort of 'memory system' except teachers.

It's all very well remembering the day to day things, but a teacher had to be able to remember vast quantities of data and reproduce it at will with perfect form. For this he needed a much more reliable system, and one such system was developed by the Greeks, and then matured by the Romans, and is thus called the Roman Room System.

It's quite simple. Imagine if you will, an empty room (complete with door, light and window). Now stick a sofa into it, facing the fireplace, or the TV. How about a coffee table, and maybe a bookshelf? Got them? Good. Now walk out the door and relax. Do you remember what was in the room? Of course you do. It's like a normal living room, there's a sofa, coffee table, fireplace, tv, and bookshelf. All well and good, but here comes the interesting bit.

Lets imagine I'm going shopping in the town and I want to remember the following items:

  1. clock
  2. tonka truck
  3. bowl
  4. toilet paper
  5. model of robot
So now what we're going to do is put these items in our imaginary room. Clock on TV, Tonka Truck in the fireplace, Toilet paper strewn about the place, model robot sitting on the sofa, watching the TV and eating from the bowl.

Now walk through the room again, and see everything. Sofa - Robot - Bowl, TV - Clock, Fireplace - Tonka Truck, Room - Toilet Paper.

Easy, isn't it?

Memory Palace

A memory palace is simply a collection of Roman Rooms with suitable corridors, and interesting architecture. You create a few rooms and keep things there, then you add more and more, until you realize you're keeping thousands of items, at which point you may start a new and better organised Palace elsewhere in your mind. Which will not only contain a labyrinth of rooms, corridors, halls, gardens, tunnels, domes, and other features, but also sometimes even people you've met in real life roaming the halls and tending your ideas. It's a whole new world in there. Yours. Ready to be made, and explored.

The limit is your imagination.

(I should perhaps add a note that this takes some gentle practise to begin with. Trying it for one or two rooms is a revelation, but for 2-300 it's a revelation of a different order completely. That's not to say it isn't great. I've been doing this for a couple of years now, and have come across a few rather interesting challenges in my practise, if anyone decides to start using this method, then by all means feel free to get in touch with me, if you think I can help.)