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Mind Palaces


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Hi there, I was wondering about the topic of mind palaces mainly seen in recent Sherlock Holmes films and TV series. From what I have heard some people can do something like this with memory where they take a piece of information and add it to a mental room like an office and imagine them adding the information to a file or draw. This is I believe is called the method of loci.


What I don't understand is if this method developed by the Ancient Romans and Greeks can be used by anyone or only specific people that are born intelligent. Hope this makes sense, all comments welcome :)

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There are techniques to help one remember, and practice can improve your memory.

Eight Ways to Remember Anything

I once came up with a metaphor I thought perfectly captured the sheer mass of material my classmates and I were expected to memorize in our first two years of medical school: it was like being asked to enter a grocery store and memorize the names of every product in the store; their number and location; and every ingredient in every product, in the order in which they appear on the label—and then to do the same thing in every grocery store in the city.

When I look back now, I can't imagine how any of us were able to do it. And yet we did. The mind's capacity to store and recall information is truly wondrous. And we've learned a lot about memory and learning since I attended medical school. Though much of what follows are techniques I used to survive my first two years of medical school, much of the science that proves they work is new.

There are other similar tips on the internet. Just search for how to remember.


Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Vince Lombardi

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Memory Palaces take advantage of the fact that humans (not geniuses, but humans in general) often have better spatial memory than other kinds of memory. For example, I have no idea how many bookshelves there were in my childhood bedroom. That's not a fact I know. But I can call up a mental image of my room and count the number of bookcases and tell you there there were 10 (mostly skinny) shelving units full of books in my room.


I'm able to call up the correct number even despite not knowing what that number is beforehand because of the way the brain stores spatial information. The memory palace concept exploits this and the fact that often one of the major obstacles to recall is an inability to get at a piece of information because the memory lacks associations.


We use things like sights and smells to trigger memories or come at things that are "on the tip of our tongue" from different directions (e.g. I think the name starts with 'r' do I start reciting names that start with 'r' until I hit one that either sparks recognition or makes another connection I can use to get at the memory I want) because all of the information in our heads is associated with other information and we remember things using those associations.


A memory palace creates an additional association for a piece of information, which makes it easier to recall. You can associate a fact with an object in your memory palace, and once you've made that mental association, thinking about that object will help you remember the fact. Placing the object in a "physical space" in your mind uses spatial memory to help you keep track of that object and make it easier for you to find.


You don't have to be a genius, and it isn't magic. It doesn't actually make your memory any sharper than it is otherwise. It just helps you exploit certain quirks about the way our memory works so that you can use yours more effectively.

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If you want to learn more about the memory palace technique I highly recommend the book: "Moonwalking With Einstein". I read that book a few years ago and ever since have used the memory palace technique to study / memorize things for school. T.V. obviously embellishes things to make a better story. For me the memory palace technique doesn't work like: "I store a memory in a file folder or in a room". What I do is imagine myself walking along a specific route through my town (which I have fairly well memorized from just walking around in it) and in order to memorize a list of facts, ideas or concepts I leave a symbolic scene at different landmarks along the route. The more vivid the scene is, utilizing more of my senses simultaneously the easier it is to recall it, it also helps if the scene is absurd, or funny. Like Delta1212 said anyone can learn to use the memory palace technique, most people can fairly easily memorize a list of 30-45 random words on their very first try. This is quite amazing since most peoples "working memory" for memorizing stuff without utilizing this trick peaks at about 5-7 words / or things. It takes practice though to be able to use this technique to memorize things quickly, for example in the book I mentioned (which is a true story) the author talks about how one of the people he meets in it holds the world record for memorizing a deck of cards the fastest, at something like 15 seconds.


I've also been using this technique to basically break Lumosity's LPI system for memory. After a few plays of a specific memory game I've managed to get myself into the 97th percentile for memory in my age group. The way I understand how the LPI system works, basically the site ranks me as having a better memory than 97% of all other website users worldwide in my age group. I did this by basically just memorizing a random list of about 200 objects (the "tidal treasures" game).

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