An ancient technique for boosting memory

by Regina Marie
Posted 8/31/23

Memory is an intrinsic part of the human experience, allowing us to retain and recall vast amounts of information.

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An ancient technique for boosting memory


Memory is an intrinsic part of the human experience, allowing us to retain and recall vast amounts of information. Yet, as any student faced with a challenging course load can tell you, it can sometimes be hard to remember everything you need to learn. 

Enter the Loci Method, more popularly known as the Memory Palace Technique. It’s an ancient technique for maximizing the capabilities of the human brain. It uses our incredible capacity for spatial and associative memory to mentally place information in specific locations within an imagined physical space, such as a palace or building, and then mentally "walk" through that space to retrieve the information when needed.

Memory palaces will last as long as you want them to once they're stored in your brain – and there’s no limit to how many you can build. For example, you might have your house store the names of all the U.S. presidents. Or your walk to work may contain the phone numbers of your friends and family.

Historical Roots

The origins of the Loci Method trace back to ancient Greece. Legend has it that the Greek poet Simonides of Ceos developed the technique after a catastrophic event at a banquet. When the roof of the banquet hall collapsed, he was the sole survivor. The faces of the deceased were unrecognizable, yet Simonides found that he could recall each guest's location based on their position at the time of the incident. From this realization, he developed the Memory Palace technique, associating pieces of information with distinct locations in a mental space or 'palace'.

The Mechanics

To harness the Loci Method, begin by choosing a familiar space, such as your own home. This space becomes the foundational ‘palace’. The subsequent steps are:

Visualize the Space: Begin by mentally walking through the chosen space. Familiarize yourself with the layout, noting specific landmarks like rooms, furniture, or other distinct features.

Associate the information: Each piece of information you wish to remember is associated with a specific location within your memory palace. The more vivid and unique the association, the better. For example, if you are trying to remember a list of groceries, you might visualize a dancing banana in the living room or a singing loaf of bread in the kitchen.

Walkthrough: Once you place the information in your memory palace, mentally walk through the space, observing each association. The act of moving from one location to the next forms a cognitive link, which enhances the recall process.

Recall: To retrieve the stored information, simply take a mental journey through your palace, accessing each memory as you pass its associated location.