Have you ever heard of people capable of memorizing immense amount of stuff? You know, those geeks calculating huge numbers in their head or even recalling thousands of Pi number’s digits after comma. They all seem to be some sort of superhumans.
Are they indeed?
The truth is most of them are just ordinary people like you and me with no special memory talent, but with the only distinction that they have mastered mnemotechnics. Mnemo whaaaat?!…
Mnemotechnics – an ancient memorizing technique
Mnemotechnics is an ancient learning technique based on visualization and used e.g. by Cicero to memorize his speeches. It has become obsolete over the years of typography development and was abandoned, as people can store as much information as needed on external media. However, it can come extremely handy especially for those who have to keep a lot of factual information in mind.
How our memory works
Let’s dive in and try to understand how it works. First, what is indeed memory? It is literally protein links between neuron cells in our brain. Our whole brain consists of billions of neurons divided into areas including those responsible for our senses.
And now 2 scientific facts which are cornerstones of mnemotechnics. Fact #1: links between neurons responsible for the same sense are formed much faster than those between neurons of different senses. In plain English, it is generally easier to memorize two connected images than an image and a word.
Fact #2: 90% of the information about the world people obtain through their eyes. So there is a gigantic library of images in your head, way bigger than Google images. And you most probably use them in the background while talking, indirectly. But competitive memorizers…they make use of this shortcut immediately.
How to create a mnemonics
- Select a pair of interconnected notions you want to learn
- Come up with visual images strongly associated with them (the more notorious and funny the images are, the better)
- Physically connect the images in your imagination (or less strict, you imagine how they interact, this way you end up with a cartoon)
- To not lose them, store the couple in your mind palace
That’s it, now you are officially a memory master. But okay, let’s explain it a bit more detailed.
Stepping into the mind palace
First, what is a mind palace. No, my fellow Sherlock fans, it doesn’t look like a real library with bookshelves. Most of the times it is a space which (1) you are strongly familiar with and (2) where you can find a sequence. So it’s a route basically. A route you complete daily during your morning routine at home. A route from home to college. I even created a route in the world of an RPG video game, for God’s sake. You simply detect a familiar object, say, a coffee machine, on your way at this route and place the couple of images you’ve just created on it. The other day you wake up, travel all the way to the coffee machine (in your imagination obviously) and find your images safely resting on it.
Why two images then?
Another question which may arise, why did we pick only two images. Well, it is a widely known rule that a human brain can only keep as much as seven things in focus at a time. In mnemotechnics we want to trick this constraint by only connecting two images on our imaginary screen at a time and then swiping to the right to see the next two. Think of it as moving along a metal chain always keeping only two links in sight. You should granulate your study contents down to simple logical chains because a chain is the simplest element of images structure in mnemotechnics. But of course, you are free to experiment.
Wait…but what about numbers?
Finally, you are most certainly thinking, hmmmm, that’s cool, but I am still far from understanding how are they capable of memorizing numbers like this? What image on Earth can you come up with for a number?
Especially if you read some poor quality articles on mnemotechnics before, you might have encountered suggestions like 5 resembles a snake. And if it is 55, then imagine a snake and a whip. And if there are six number fives at random places in a mobile phone, what then? Forget about this pattern. Completely.
A rule of thumb in mnemotechnics has become to reuse images for notions which appear frequently. And as numbers appear all the time, there is an alphabet of images for them. You just need to learn 99 images each representing a double digit – and voila, you are fully equipped to remember years of historical events, aluminium melting temperature and your crush’s phone number.
By the way, we collected those image numbers for you and put them together into a predefined set of flashcards on our learning platform. Sign up for free & gain access!
Now reap the benefits of mnemotechnics
To wrap this all up, I will just briefly list the benefits of using mnemotechnics or why you even need to bother making up some strange pictures instead of traditional serious cramming:
- Memorizing images is extremely easy and natural, you will be impressed to discover that you are capable of retaining your whole grocery list on the first try (if done correctly)
- Revision of images is much faster for you can pretty much fly along the route in your imagination, plus you won’t need to check your notes again and again because images don’t vanish that easily
- Revision is much more effortless because essentially what you are doing is skimming comics or cartoons, which takes little to no energy
- You feel much more confident before the exam because you are absolutely sure that the images are always there and you control them unlike the abstract knowledge
I hope this perspective on memorizing was surprising and thrilling for you. Try it out and comment how it worked for you guys, we are very excited.