Mnemonics Course (Part 3) – The Method of Loci

Hello and welcome to the third part of the course!

I really do hope that you’re making truly remarkable progress!

Yesterday we concentrated on rules of creating images.
And that’s definitely a step in the right direction.

Now we have to fully understand the second element of memorization.

What’s that?
Choosing the right locations.

You might be adept at creating images.
However, it’s not enough.

Images won’t be very useful without places and locations to place your images in.

 

THE METHOD OF LOCI (or THE ROMAN ROOM TECHNIQUE)

 

This technique, as fancy as it sounds, was already known to the ancient Greeks and Romans.

So what’s the gist of its technique?

“In this technique, the subject memorizes the layout of some building, or the arrangement of shops on a street, or any geographical entity which is composed of a number of discrete loci. When desiring to remember a set of items the subject literally ‘walks’ through these loci and commits an item to each one by forming an image between the item and any distinguishing feature of that locus. Retrieval of items is achieved by ‘walking’ through the loci, allowing the latter to activate the desired items. The efficacy of this technique has been well established (Ross and Lawrence 1968, Crovitz 1969, 1971, Briggs, Hawkins and Crovitz 1970, Lea 1975), as is the minimal interference seen with its use.[3] (Source: Wikipedia)

It’s a very neat definition but it misses one point.
You don’t have to memorize, at least not at the beginning, any layout.

Why?

Because you already know the layout of so many places by heart!
Think about it.

You know exactly how your flat / house looks like and probably at least a few places of your friends and family members.
Not to mention restaurants where you frequently eat, your university, movie theatres, etc.

That’s a lot of places you can use!

 

CREATE YOUR OWN LIST OF LOCATIONS

In order to be able to memorize many items rapidly, we must prepare our own lists of locations.

What are you waiting for?
Grab a piece of paper and pen and get down to work!

Try to prepare at least 30 locations, although ultimately it would be great if you have 100 of them.

One important thing is that these locations should be distinctive to you.
Usually, that means that they are immobile (e.g. furniture) and there are not many copies of them.

If you choose some dull objects or locations and you try to bind them with your image, very often you’ll discover that you simply don’t remember them.

I’ll give you a short example.
Let’s say I want to memorize the words “snake” and “peanuts”.

I would imagine myself reaching for some peanuts which happen to be on my desk in my room (1st location).

Suddenly, I see a snake sitting in my chair (2nd location) which becomes alarmed and tries to bite me.
I start screaming like a little girl and so on, and so on…

 

PRACTICE TIME!

Now, here’s the list of 28 words.
Try to memorize them using the techniques you’ve learned so far.

* padlock, uniform, cider, wig, door, curtain, panther
* throne, wardrobe, carpet, kitten, toilet paper, pen
* bacon, vase, salad, spider, radiator, wallet, necklace
* worm, cork, snow, pyjamas, comb, paint, mud

Remember, you’re in the process of rewiring your brain.
It’s natural that using these techniques doesn’t come easily.

If you struggle with creating images in your mind you might try drawing your story at the beginning. ‘
Yes, even when you suck at drawing. Quality is certainly not important.
So go on! What are you waiting for?! Let your imagination run wild!

 

WHAT NEXT?

In two days you can expect a fourth part of the course. This is where it becomes really interesting. We will learn how to quickly acquire foreign vocabulary.

But for now, take some rest. You definitely deserve it!

Bartosz Czekala

18 comments

  • Cool. Got them all first time. Took me about 60ish seconds. Odd is that I added one at the wardrobe. I looked in my wife’s ‘closet’ to see all the kittens shitting on the bew carpet.
    I inserted closet between wardrobe and kitten. Good caution. Ty.

  • I really don’t like Loci, for me it is the dumbest method if you use them systematically to memorize things(especially vocabulary, and dates).

    BUT i really enjoy using ONLY during short trips listening podcast , when i “re-listen” the podcast i remember about the trip , when i “re-travel” to same local i remember the podcast. And it is so terrific, so amusing, so fantastic.
    Our brains love places,

    By the way, Loci in portuguese is called “palacio da memoria” and it means memory maison/ palace of memory, and it sounds really cooler in portuguese.

  • I have heard about this method and others in the past, but I don’t understand when or why I would use them. Maybe for a grocery list? If I want to learn vocabulary words and meanings, do I memorize the word in one place and the meaning in the next? Will that really help me to remember the word? How do these methods work to help me memorize phrases or commonly used sentences and then to memorize their meanings? Thank you in advance for your answer.

    • Hi!

      They have many uses. For example, you can quickly memorize an outline of your presentation. If you get stressed on the stage you will able to easily recall
      what you should say next.

      No, you combine the meaning and the word into one picture,
      Yes, it will help but not in the long-term. THat’s why I don’t recommend it for learning languages,
      These methods are notoriously terrible for memorizing phrases. The mental images get complicated very quickly.

      Hope that clarifies things at least a little bit!

  • I’ve tried it. I got 24 words out of 28 because I forgot the part in my story with the radiator …. Do we need to have a word = a location ? In fact my story began in my house but quickly went like Alice in Wonderland with doors and curtains to go through and therefore I got away from the locating idea…

    • It is not necessary but definitely useful. Most of my stories also tend to be all-over the place! So don’t worry 🙂

  • Eli Ben-Joseph

    I got 22 words quickly. Perhaps I could have gotten more if I concentrated, but the method works for me. Thanks!

  • Can we use palaces for multiple things at the same time? I’ve heard it wasn’t a good idea, but that was from competitive mnemonists. Is it ok in more relaxed settings?

    • It’s possible to some limited degree. I wouldn’t advise it though. There are so many locations available that it’s hard to justify using the same location too often.

  • In my case this method doesn’t work well for abstract words like a “high time” or “have a point”.
    Have You some suggestion about memory palace method & memorize abstract words

  • Managed 25 words and that was because I forgot part of my own story!!!!!

  • Part three was great. I could get the story, weird though, in no time. And, got 24 words, missed 3. Real fast. It works man!
    Thanks Bartosz!

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