Never Forget Again: It All Comes Back to Loci Method

Photo by Josh Hild on

I’ve spent years looking into memory. How it works, ways to streamline the learning process, how to remember everything I see, read, and experience. It always comes back to the same methodology.

For those of you not familiar with the methodology of Loci, let me relate a story to you. For you BBC fans, you’ll get it immediately if you watch Sherlock.

It was some time during the fifth and sixth centuries BC when Simonides was invited to a party. There was much drinking, talking, and overall pleasurable company. After a time Simonides stepped outside to remove himself from the party. It was then that the building came crashing down on top of the party goers. All inside were killed. In the aftermath Simonides aided rescuers in removing the rubble. Many of the party goers were unrecognizable after being crushed by so much stone. In his grief, Simonides could see these friends as they were at the party. Slowly, he walked around, remembering the location of each friend, and thereby helping in the identification of those killed in the collapse.

Since then the loci method has been refined, and was used in ancient Greece as a method for remembering much information, not the least of which is the famously long oratory of the Greek and Roman philosophers.

The method starts in a place with which you are familiar. It could be your home, or your childhood home, or even an area you’ve secretly created in your mind. This will be your palace, your loci, or mind palace, if you will.

Next, whatever you choose to remember. Currently I am learning and remembering Spanish so that I may communicate more effectively with my girlfriend and her family (motivation). For each item you wish to remember you will attach it to a particular loci in your mind palace.

Any item you wish to remember needs to follow the rules of memory. Words, numbers, and anything without substance will be nearly impossible to remember. The memory must be tangible. Use your senses to make the object as memorable as possible. I want to remember to buy milk when I go shopping, so I place a cow and bucket near the entry to my mind palace. I can see the giant heifer blocking my path, feel it as I push against it, and can smell it’s barnyard scent. The cow will not move for me until I milk it.

Continue with the process, filling your memory palace with what you wish to remember. After that, all you need to do to remember is to retrace your steps through the palace to retrieve the particular memory.

I have experimented quite a bit with this method and have noticed a number of points.

  • Loci Method is not infallible. The longer you leave the information unattended, the fuzzier it gets. Review is key, especially with new information.
  • Loci Method is a highly visual and experiential technique. The more you practice, the better your visualizations and memories will become.
  • You can have more than one palace.
  • The mind is a far larger space than anyone can imagine.

That’s it for today. For the remainder of the week I will be hitting on a few clarifying points about Loci Method and the Mind Palace. Do you have any experience with this technique, or have you heard of it before? Join the conversation below.

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