The Girl in Black

Se necesita una poca de gracia.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Memory Palace

So a friend of mine was telling me last night about how people are able to memorize and recall vast amounts of information quickly. One such method is a "memory palace." It's a place you create in your head, however you want, that you walk through constantly, enough to cement it in your mind. And then, when you want to remember things, you place things that bring whatever you want to remember to mind in your palace, and when you want to recall them you walk through your memory palace and find them.

That is, if I'm explaining it right.

The whole idea of this is fascinating. He was telling me about how the mind actually remembers better by movement and location, rather than just raw data. It's part of our oft-forgotten animalistic nature. Another piece of the puzzle is that the more we repeat something, the stronger the memory becomes, and once we have a strong enough memory of something, we can lay a short-term memory over the stronger long-term memory, and it will be that much easier to recall, because you are using a well-traveled neural pathway (how memories are formed) instead of creating a new one.

Pretty neat, huh?

Of course, the romantic in me just loves the term "Memory Palace." It sounds beautiful. Perhaps I shall make my own...


  • At 4:29 PM, Blogger outlawpoet said…

    The Memory Palace is a development of a greek/roman technique orators were known to use, in order to quickly memorize masses of material(like long speeches) without error.

    Cicero is known to have been a practicioner, which is likely why it was preserved by classicist monks through the middle ages in Europe.

    The process is both simpler and more complicated than you describe. The important point is the spatial relationship between the objects, in order to improve recall of the details you link to them. For example, I may want to remember my social security number, and so I'll place a social security check in the hands of a suave female secret agent, who is speaking to JFK, who is holding a beer(giving 65(the age I thought social security started) 009(the number of an unnamed female Bond agent) 35(the youngest someone can be president) 21(the youngest you can drink)).

    The more ridiculous and imaginitive tableux you can construct, the better. It's also better to use a space you invent, rather than a real house, because your spacial recall will conflict.

    It also requires that you review and reimagine your series of rooms regularly.

    Hannibal Lector is depicted in the book "Hannibal" as having a huge memory palace he has maintained his whole life, which contains all his vast knowledge. This is in theory possible, but it would be a very different application of the technique, not at all the way it was historically used.

    It's worth noting that spatial storing of details has been independently reinvented by several noted scientists, mathematicians, and memory contest competitors.

  • At 10:10 AM, Blogger The Fabulous Miss Rose said…

    Yeah, my friend mentioned the Hannibal Lecter thing to me, but I'm not a huge fan so I left it out.

    Thanks for detailing the process! I wasn't quite clear on how it worked. I do similar things to remember sometimes, but mostly just as I had learned mnemonics to be, which was associating strange things together in order to remember one or the other.

    But in theatre, plain ol' repetition usually worked best. By the end of our rehearsals I knew the entire show, and would frequently correct fellow cast members on their lines.


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