Memory Techniques

We have all seen fantastic feats of memory, or at least heard of them. In 2005 Lu Chao set a new world record by reciting the value of pi to 67,890 digits. Memory expert and author Tony Buzan’s first day at University was dominated by his professor calling the roll from memory & demonstrating that he knew the name, address, date of birth, phone number, and parents’ names of absentees.

Essentially these feats are technique based, and they are as old as history. Themistocles could remember every name of the 20,000 citizens of Athens. This blog explains the simple starting technique that anyone can learn quickly. With a little practise you can develop quite the party trick!

The pegging technique involves assigning an image of your choice to each number from 1 to 10. Importantly, the image should echo the shape of the number. Here is a list of suggested images:

1. Paint brush
2. Swan
3. Camel (two humps!)
4. Yacht
5. Hook
6. Elephant trunk
7. Street light
8. Snowman
9. Tennis racquet
10. Bat and ball

To remember a list of items one simply creates a mental picture of that item in association with the relevant number image, starting at 1 and proceeding in order. To make the memory take hold quickly the picture should be exaggerated, like a cartoon effect. And if you can involve your sense of taste & smell so much the better.

For example, your shopping list might be eggs, bacon, tomatoes, cereal, pork chops…

Your images might then be:

1. Using a paint brush to paint a box of eggs bright green, getting the paint all over your hands, smelling the paint solvent, and feeling sticky between your fingers
2. A tiny swan swimming across a lake with a huge cartoon pig on its back, wobbling & squealing, nearly falling off clutching a packet of bacon in its trotters
3. A camel tramping through a landscape of luscious red tomatoes, squishing them and sliding around on the mess with wonderful greenhouse tomato aroma rising up
4. Looking down on your huge breakfast bowl of cereal and milk, and being astonished to see a perfect little yacht, four sheets to the wind, racing across the milk sea with spray flying in the micro gale

And so on, I’m sure you get the idea…

For people who are more audio than visual you might find it easier to remember your 1-10 images using the number rhyme system rather than number shape as above. For example:

1. Sun
2. Shoe
3. Tree
4. Door
5. Hive
6. Sticks
7. Heaven
8. Gate
9. Vine
10. Hen

Or you can use both systems so you now have a list capacity of 20 items!

Once you’ve mastered remembering 10 or 20 things like this you can multiply your abilities. Simply add other conditions, so e.g. you could have another 10 or 20 pegs using the same images, but everything being seen through a pink haze. Another set underwater. Another set on the moon. The only limit is one’s imagination and ability to visualise!

If you’d like to know more about how positive psychology can transform an organisation’s effectiveness and its people’s well being, please get in touch .

Happy memorising!

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