I realized last night when I was half asleep that I completely neglected to mention the Memory Palace of Simonides in yesterday’s entry on Dantalian no Shoka, which was mentioned as a mental device along with Vedic mathematics. This is really cool, so my neglect must be corrected.
I originally learned about the Memory Palace in my college psychology class (although not by that name) and I can attest first hand that it actually works. It’s a technique that enables you to expand your short term memory. The human brain’s temporary scratch memory is limited to seven things, on average, but you can remember many more. Try this as an experiment. Get a friend to write down a list of twenty objects. Have your friend read the list to you, slowly, saying the name of each object only once. Then repeat the list back to him, in order. How many did you get right?
Most people get around seven right (myself included) if they don’t have some technique for memorizing more.
Here’s how to get all twenty right. Think of a route you travel everyday (for me, it was the route from my dorm room to my first class). Decide on twenty waypoints on that route, and memorize them. Then get your friend to read a different list of objects. As he reads the list, associate each object with the waypoints on your route.
Let’s do an example using my route. First I would get out of bed, then I would go to the closet to get my toothbrush, then I would go past my roommate’s bed, then into the hallway, then to the bathroom, and then to the water fountain. So the first six stops. I’ll pick six random objects that are within my field of view: fan, football, quarter, tissues, mouse, and gravestone (my house for the summer is next to a cemetery, and my nearest neighbor is a corpse). Now let’s associate the objects with the landmarks. You would do this as the list is being read.
- The fan keeps me cool when I’m sleeping.
- I store the football in the closet.
- I’ll steal my roommate’s quarter.
- I blow my nose with a tissue in the hallway.
- I flush my mouse down the toilet.
- I rinse a gravestone in the water fountain.