As human beings, we’re prone to forgetfulness – some of us much more than others (you know who you are). But that forgetful stigma doesn’t have to define us. We have the opportunity to change the spots and stripes of our memories – it may just take a little visit to the mind palace.
Wait, “mind” what?
Your mind palace! An imaginary location in your, well … mind, where you store mnemonic images to improve memory retention. When trying to recall information, you take an internal visit – or journey – to a place in your mind that you know extremely well, like your childhood home, etc. Along the way, you visit certain rooms and objects where you essentially deposit memories so that you can recall them later.
The Foundation of Memory Palace
Leave it up to the Greeks to create a philosophical memory warehouse called the method of loci (translation, the method of places). The method is a memory enhancement process where you use visualizations via your spatial memory – familiar information about your perceived environment – to effectively recall information.
It’s a proven method used by memory contest champions (yes, that’s a real thing) to recall faces, numbers and words. Interestingly enough, the method of loci has no direct correlation with brain structure or intelligence – just spatial memory. All the forgetful people reading this, go ahead and take a big sigh of relief … you’re not dumb. Yay!
What is Spatial Memory
We all use spatial memory every day, we just might not be aware of it. Spatial memory is information we perceive about our environment. For example, when we drive, we use our spatial memory to navigate, gauge distances and more – it’s like our own cognitive map. Spatial memories form after a person has already gathered and processed sensory information about his or her environment.
By using spatial memory, we can create our own mind palaces. Imagine someone gave you a really long number to memorize, for example 26358741659. Just trying to remember the number is tough because there’s no frame of reference. However, by using your mind palace, you associate each number with something familiar, making it easier to remember.
A Trip Down Memory Lane: The Mind Palace Process
Start by picturing a very familiar location where you can clearly remember the ins and outs – like your house. Next, take this place, or loci, and break it into smaller locations like your sofa, your coffee table – even your pet’s food dish. Now, map out the chronological sequence of the locations – from the first thing you see when you enter the front door, to the last loci on the list. From here, you “deposit” whatever it is that you need to remember, attaching it to your sofa, coffee table, pet’s food dish and so on.
That means the first digit (2) in that long sequence of numbers is now attached to the first “stop” on your memory palace journey, aka the couch. The next stop is your coffee table, so you attach the next digit (6) with that item. Next, the food dish – rinse and repeat. After repeating this step for the duration of the number, you then simply walk back through the memory palace route you’ve created and recall all the digits you just deposited. Voila! You’re now on your way to becoming a bonafide memory champ!
Go ahead, try it out. You just might turn your brain from a forgetful Bermuda Triangle into a sprawling memory palace. At the very least, you’ll be able to remember where you placed your keys.