Anybody can Remember
Lecturing in France, I covered some simple memory techniques. As it went down so will I thought I would share with you part of what I spoke about.
The simplest way to memorise a list is to make up an imaginative story linking the elements together in sequence. However if you forget one of the items it is difficult to pick up the story again and you can lose everything that occurs after the break, just like a weak link in a chain. The solution to this is to use a series of memory pegs. If you imagine a cloakroom, there are a series of pegs that you can hang your coat on. They are screwed to the wall and don’t move about. Memory pegs are analogous. They are fixed things in your memory that you solidly know. To memorise something new you ‘hang’, or associate, each element to each peg in turn.
It is easiest to explain this with an example. A series of 10 things that you know are the parts of your body. You always have them with you! These will act as our pegs.
Let’s learn 10 items on a shopping list.
- Associate feet with eggs. Imagine standing on eggs, the smooth shell pressing against you soles. As your full weight bears down on them they crack. You feel the pricking of he broken shell and the contents oozing through your toes. Smell the slightly rotten odour of the eggs.
- Associate French bread with knees. Imagine gripping a French loaf between your knees. You have to walk peculiarly to avoid dropping it. You can feel the warmth of its freshly baked crust and smell the delicious aroma.
- Bananas and hips. You have bunches of bananas strapped to your hips, perhaps attached to your belt. See the yellow skins flecked with brown as they are very ripe. You can even peel one and take a bite into the creamy flesh.
- Milk and your stomach. Imagine pouring milk over your stomach. Tiny rivulets of cold white liquid flowing across your skin, eventually puddling on the floor.
- Link ham and hands. Picture yourself juggling whole hams on the bone like clubs.
- Grapes and chest. Imagine draping a bunch of grapes over your chest. Feel the woody stalks and the stickiness as some have started to go past their best. Smell the sweet fruity fragrance.
- Mushrooms and shoulders. You have mushroom epaulets on your jacket.
- Cherries and neck. You’re wearing a necklace with bright red cherries instead of beads.
- Tomatoes and nose. A big red tomato nose like a clown.
- Cheese and head. Imagine balancing a whole round cheese on your head. It is especially ripe and stinky.
If you have been able to picture these in your imagination and associate other senses you will easily be able to run through items 1 to 10. You can go forwards or backwards from any point. What came before tomato? What was associated to your knees? What was the third item? If you forgot what was on your neck you know you missed one and can still remember the tomato on your nose. A shopping list is a trivial example but exactly the same principles can be applied to learning absolutely anything. I chose ten body parts but if you included ankles, shins, thighs, buttocks, biceps, forearms, chin, mouth, ears and eyes you could easily memorise 20 items.
Next time you need to memorise a list – try it using your body and your imagination. Have fun with your memory.