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[Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci by Jonathan Spence]
The Technique of the Memory Palace

For several thousand years, human beings have used what is called the "technique of the memory palace" or "the method of loci (= "places" in Latin)" as a way of quickly memorizing new things in perfect order and recoverability. The technique relies upon a person's ability to travel mentally through a familiar environment and to deposit in memory at different spots in that environment the new things they have learned.

Consider that you knew well this scene:

[Memory Palace example]
  • Memorize completely a trip through some place (your "memory palace") that has many different surfaces, nooks, and cranies. The place can be something very familiar to you or can be something you make up. But, you have to be able to visualize it perfectly. The yellow line shows one example of such a trip.
  • As you come across different items or objects to memorize, place each of them at a specific place along the route you have already learned by heart. Create "pegs" on which you can hang the new item or object, i.e., something that will associate what you are learning with that specific spot.  Each of the 19 letters (A, B, C, D...) above in the image might be just such a spot or peg to place an item or object.
  • In order to recall what you have memorized, just retrace your steps in your memory palace and look at the different spots that now hold in your imagination the new items or objects.


See The Method of Loci in Wikipedia



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This page originally posted on 9/23/08 and updated on 9/23/08