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Well, I have a friend (James Anderson - he'll probably appear on the "Jeopardy!" game show someday) who can just go right down a list of names, facts, or whatever and memorize it very quickly without using any kind of "tricks"  or other memory techniques that I describe in The Memory Page documents. For him to do so would probably just slow him down! But this is a rare, gifted person -- most of us can't memorize things quite that easily. Therefore, association is just one basic tool that we can use to remember things more easily and effectively. We don't have to use the tool, but, for most of us, it can help us enormously. "Think of your existing memory as a scaffold upon which to fit new information," says University of Michigan cognitive researcher Denise Park, PhD. "Don't isolate new information out 'in left field.' Always relate it to something."  Memory experts would agree -- association is a proven, highly effective technique. Nevertheless, countless numbers of people dismiss the method because it seems like it's too hard, too silly, or simply too much work. Well, sometimes it is more work, but a little extra effort done at first will save a lot of time (and anguish) later on. Does it seem too hard? Here's a secret: practice. Forming associations may be hard at first because you're not used to doing it... just like riding a bike is hard, or ice skating, or typing, or whatever. But with practice you can really perform well. I just thought of a good metaphor, so maybe I can elaborate even more. We all know that to type properly you have to put your left hand on ASDF and your right on JKL;. You also have to use the correct fingers to hit the letters. To someone who is used to hunt-and-peck typing, forcing yourself to use the right keys is going to really slow you down and seem tedious. But with much practice, you can type faster, and faster, and faster... until you reach 60, 80, even 100 words/minute, something not possible with hunt-and-peck. Here's an example of how the memory tool of "association" has helped me. To remember names, I associate names with faces. So I have to think of pictures for names, like "Shave" for "Dave," "Cave-in" for "Kevin," "Cross" for "Chris," etc. It was a bit hard at first because it took a while for me to think up a good picture for people's names. But eventually I developed standard pictures for many common names, and I now can go much faster. Now, every time I see a Mike, I think of a microphone. All I have to do is associate a microphone with the most prominent feature on the Mike's face and I'm set.
This can apply to you, too, in whatever you are trying to memorize, whether it is names and faces, mathematical formulas, historical figures, movies, delivery routes, etc. In practice, you will find that patterns will emerge, and you can do it much faster. You'll be surprised at how much and how quickly you can learn! I certainly surprised myself. Can you believe I've now memorized the capitals for all the countries of the world? A few years ago I thought I'd never be able to do something like that (or have the time for it). But with the memory techniques and a little practice I have achieved what seemed to be impossible.
1.7 • Instrumental Music Music can sometimes be very easy to memorize; sometimes it can be very hard. It depends on what you're trying to memorize. When presented with the concept of "music," for many of you the first thought that comes to mind are some of the most popular pop/rock hits. Usually there's no problem memorizing these: Since they are of special interest to us, we take a special interest in remembering them. The tunes are usually simple so they're easy to memorize -- in fact, often we'll end up with the song going around in our head all day! And before long we've memorized the words to the song, and once that is done, we've also memorized the title to the song because usually the title of the song is somewhere in the lyrics. Now... instrumental music is more difficult. Since there are no words, the tune takes longer to remember, though usually we do after listening to the composition a few times. The most common challenge is trying to remember the name of the composition. The key is to use creativity and some of the techniques you've learned on this web site. I've decided to present a few examples with increasing order of difficulty to give you some helpful ideas. If you don't know the examples personally, just read the text anyway, try to understand the concept and try to apply it to a similar composition you know. March to the Scaffold by Hector Beriloz. This is a famous classical piece you might hear in an introductory music class. The victim is marched towards a scaffold, makes a final gasp for life, then is hung. If you imagine all of this while you listen, it's a very powerful piece. In this case, it's very easy to associate the title with the music. If you forget the composer, you could associate the composer's name with the scene: For example, perhaps the prisoner is going to be hung because he has broken the "Bear Laws" (Beriloz)! He marches between two lines of angry bears which are all looking at him. Wow, this picture is getting more vivid by the minute. Probably even you will remember this for years even if you never actually hear the composition! Rondo Alla Turka by Amadeus Mozart. Here's a tough one. Unlike Bariloz's special story, this is just a generic march. Not only that, but the title isn't even in English. Here's a clever idea: We know that music is easy to remember if they have words... and difficult otherwise. Well, why not make up our own words? That's right... let's invent our own words to give to the composition. We don't need to do this for the entire musical piece, just the most prominent melody -- the most memorable part. For this composition I've thought of, "It's for Ron! It's for All! It's for Rondo Alla Turka! It's for Ron, it's for all, it's for Rondo Alla Turk." Silly, eh? Who
cares... you don't have to tell anyone what your silly words are, you're only using it for memorizing the title. Symphony Number 5, Second Movement by Tchaikovsky. Another tough one... this time it's all numbers! I have a 5 and a 2. To solve this problem, I turned to one of the techniques for memorizing numbers: peg words. I put the 5 and 2 together to get 52, then I thought of a picture word for 52: Lion. Then, as with Rondo Alla Turka, I invented my own words to composition. When I hear the main theme, I think to myself, "It is a li-on, Tchaikovsky's li-on!" Isn't that amazing? I not only memorized a very difficult numerical title, but I turned it into something quite interesting! To get the original title back, I convert Lion back into 52, then I assume the first number is the symphony and the second number is the movement number. There are a lot of symphonies that follow this pattern. Oxygene 7 by Jean-Michel Jarre. I love Jarre's music, but most of his compositions he's given insane names like Equinoxe 5, Chants Magnetiques 2 and Oxygene 7. One album I have is titled Oxygene 7-13 and contains the compositions Oxygene 7, Oxygene 8, Oxygene 9, Oxygene 10, Oxygene 11, Oxygene 12 and Oxygene 13. Yikes! To solve this problem, I again turned to peg words. I then decided to use these rules: I'll assign 7 to Oxygene (because the peg word for 7 is cow and a cow breathes oxygen), 9 to Chants Magnetiques (I think of a metallic bee -- 9 -- being affected by a magnetic field) and 6 to Equinoxe (I think of a shoe -- 6 -- having a matching shoe that is "equal"). Then I put the digit together with the other digit: so Equinoxe 5 is 65, Chants Magnetiques 2 is 92 and Oxygene 7 is 77. For Oxygene 10 to 13 I just use 10 to 13. Now that I have 77 for Oxygene 7, it's time to do the memorizing. The peg word for 77 is Coke. As I listen to the composition, certain portions remind me of the fizz in a glass of Coke. Have you ever looked at the little fizz bubbles? They appear out of nowhere, then slowly get bigger, and bigger, then finally get so light they take off to the top of the glass with a slight zig-zag movement. Some of the composition reminds me of a bubble making that zig-zag trip to the top. So if I hear the composition and want to know the title, I listen, then I remember the bubbles, then I remember Coke, then I remember 77, then I remember Oxygene 7. By the way, for Oxygene 10, there's more of a melody, so I can use the method where I make my own words: "Please, sir, don't tick-le my toes" ... and toes the peg word for 10. This may seem like a lot of work, but imagine trying to memorize compositions like "Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, 1st Movement" or "Etude in C Minor, Opus 10, Number 12" without it! Use some creativity. Don't be discouraged if you try something and it doesn't work and you forget it... keep trying, and with practice, you'll do well!
Here's an even more sophisticated method based on something I read in a book once about a piano player who wanted to keep track of hundreds of different instrumental tunes in his head. The idea was to convert musical notes to numbers, then from there to words. So you might convert "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" to 11556654433221, where C=1, D=2, E=3, etc. Then you could memorize Dot Lilly Judge Hill for the first seven notes, something like a pink DOT falls on the middle of a LILLY pad, then a JUDGE (fully robed) comes by and stomps on the lilly pad, then goes up a HILL. Then associate that with the tune, like you're looking up at stars in the sky, then a pink star, as a dot, falls down to a lilly pad, etc. So now if you are a hired piano player for a fancy restaurant, and someone calls out for you to play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", then you remember the story and keywords and come up with 1155665, then hit those notes on the piano, and after playing the seven notes your memory is refreshed and you remember how to play the rest of the composition! Of course, that convention above doesn't take into account sharps and flats. But the idea is simply to get creative and work out a system that works well for you. What I might do is come up with peg words for all 12 notes. It would take a while to memorize the 12 words, but once that is done, then you have a very flexible system. You could do something like this: C = Sea (by sound) C# = Seed (modification of "sea") D = Die (either the verb or the singular of "dice") D# = Dime (modification of "die") E = Eel F = Foe F# = Phone (modification of "foe", by sound) G = Guy G# = Guide (think of a female guide to avoid confusion with "guy") (etc.) Actually, you can use any word you want to go with a letter -- it doesn't have to be "logical" -but I chose the words above simply because they'd be faster to memorize. To be even more elaborate, you could come up with words for "D flat", "E flat", etc. You could even come up with a second set of 12 words just so you have more words to work with and thus avoid some confusion by not having to use the same words so frequently. The ultimate would be to come up with 144 words for every two-note combination... which would take a LOT of time, but it would be extremely powerful once mastered.
Anyway, suppose you want to memorize the major C chord, which is C, E and G. Then you'd have to memorize Sea, Eel and Guy. Imagine a big, raging sea. There is an eel (out of water) on the beach, and a big wave comes in and sweeps it back into the sea. Then there is a guy on a beach, and an even bigger wave comes in and takes him in! Note that when you memorize all 12 chords, you'll be using the same words multiple times, and you might get them confused. It is important to remember the correct starting word and the correct order. You could think of a "big" version of the starting object and "small" or "normal" versions of the other two. Also, notice that I put the eel OUT of the water to start out with rather than in the sea where it's supposed to be. This is because the sea has to come first, and if the eel is already in the sea, you might get confused as to which comes first. This is the sort of thing you learn with practice. The challenge is to come up with a very flexible system that works the best and reduces the possibility of confusion. If you had 144 words, you could memorize C, then E-G as a single word, which would be quicker, and you probably wouldn't have to re-use that word. Of course, it would take a long time to memorize the 144 words, perhaps the same amount of time it would take to learn all 12 chords by "brute force." However, once the 144 words are memorized, it can be used for MANY things in the future. It depends on just how much stuff you want to memorize.
2.3 • Mathematical Formulas In March 2000, I wrote an Email message to a young student who had asked me about memorizing mathematical formulas. With his message he included some example formulas for perimeter, area, etc. Here was my reply: There are lots of different ways to memorize mathematical formulas. I have always found that the best way is to know how the formula was created in the first place. Then, if I forget the formula on a test, I can just go through the steps of re-creating the formula. It gives me a great feeling to know exactly how a formula works rather than just taking the letters and numbers and trusting the "magic." Here is an example, using the formulas you gave me: >Perimeter: Rectangle: P=2 (L + W), Square: P= 4s To derive the formula for a rectangle, first picture the rectangle, like this: W +-----------------------+ | L| | W The perimeter, as you probably know, is the distance around the rectangle. To do that, we simply need to add up the four sides. The answer is L + W + L + W. This is equivalent to the condensed formula that you gave: P = 2(L+W). Is this pretty easy? The only problem you may run into is that you may use different letters than were used in the "official" formula. For example, you might use "a" and "b" instead of "L" and "W" and get a formula like P = 2(a+b). There is nothing wrong with this alternate formula. If you use it to calculate a perimeter, it will work fine. So the only question is whether your teacher expects you to quote the exact formula with the right letters or if he/she wants you to use the formula to actually solve a math problem. If you are solving a math problem, then the teacher will never see the formula you use, so you can use whatever formula you want (as long as it works). If he/she wants you to write down the formula on a quiz, you might have to use the same letters. But hopefully the teacher is reasonable. You could do something like this on a pop quiz: | |L |
Perimeter of a rectangle: c = 2(a+b)
where c = perimeter
a = length b = width Since you are specifying what the letters mean, the teacher should accept this answer as correct, unless he/she's really strict. (If you don't say what you use for your letters, the answer will not be correct, because someone else who looks at your formula has to be able to understand how to use it.) Here's another example of deriving formulas: What about the area of a triangle? Let's say you already know the easy formula for the area of a rectangle: A=LW. A triangle looks like half of a rectangle: ______ | W / | | / |/ |/ In that case, the area is half that of the imaginary rectangle: A = 1/2 L*W. Now, of course triangles have different shapes, so does this forumla work for all triangles? The answer is yes. If you doodle on the back page of your quiz, you can draw various triangles and fit rectangles around them. Some of the triangles may cut the big rectangle into three pieces instead of two, but, when you look at it, it still will look like half the area. Also, hopefully you've previously made an attempt to memorize the formula, and you know that it's a real easy formula, so it has to be right! The only difference is just the letters we used. The "real" formula uses B and H for base and height instead of L and W. But we already talked about this. "Base" and "Height" are easier to understand than "put an imaginary rectangle around a triangle as tightly as possible and take H for the height and W for the width of that rectangle and use that in my formula A = 1/2 L*W" ... so you'd want to use the preferred "base" and "height" on your pop quiz unless you really were having a memory crisis! The techniques I mentioned above can be applied to almost all of the formulas you gave me. But sometimes you may have to do something different because 1) the formula is too complicated, or 2) you don't have enough time on the pop quiz to derive the formula because it's a really short pop quiz and you're expected to know the answer immediately. / L| /
The most complicated formula you gave me was the area of a circle, which is A = 3.14*R2 (R squared). Actually, I hope you were told that the number 3.14 is a special number in mathematics called PI (and represented by a Greek letter). It is special because it appears in a whole bunch of forumlas, so once you've memorized 3.14159, you can really take advantage of it. If you know that 3.14 is PI, then that makes for a very intersting memory "picture"... you can think of a PIE for PI. Then you can think of two rats on top of the pie, eating it. You watch them as they gobble down the whole pie. The pie represents PI. The two rats represent R and 2 (2 for squared). The full stomachs represent the entire "area" of the pie. Actually, we have to be a little careful because "area" is a two-dimensional concept and the pie in our imagination is three-dimensional and we might think of it as VOLUME... we don't want to confuse it with a volume formula we might memorize in the future. So... just modify the picture a little bit... pretend we have a very FLAT pie... one that is perhaps only half an inch thick. Perhaps this was a rejected pie by a baker, so he threw it out the door into the alley, where the two rats found it. WOW!! What a picture! You'll be sure to remember the formula now! The only other problem is memorizing what PI is in the first place. There are different ways to do this. One way is to convert the numbers to letters using the mnemonic alphabet as described in my "How to Improve Your Memory" tutorial (you might think of meat, run, lip, then use that with "pie" to make a short little story). Another way, if you have the luxury of time, is to cleverly create a sentence like: "Hey, I feel a lumpy cantelope." The trick is that if you write down the number of letters in each word, you get PI! A third idea is simply to write 3.14159 on a card and tape it to your bedroom ceiling, front door, maybe even your Playstation console. It may take longer to memorize, but soon you'll have it memorized by "brute force," and you'll be able to recall it very quickly without even a story. Since it's such an important number in math, it may be worth it.
Here is an example from another Email message: >I found website very informative. Do you know of any information out there >on memory techniques for remembering detailed technical calculations ... ? Most of the good, published books out there on improving your memory include a section or chapter about memorizing mathematical formulas. The basic idea is that you convert the formula into a picture. For example: _()_ = V --A
This formula says that resistance is the ratio of voltage to current. For the horizontal line, you might think of a table. V is perhaps a V-shaped vase, and it's on top of the table, whereas under the table is an Ant. The Greek Omega symbol on the left side sort of looks like a horseshoe, and you could pretend someone throws the horseshoe over to the other side of the equation and hits the vase and it crashes. Some of the falling pieces disturb the ant. There, that is a beautiful and memorable picture for a formula! For more complicated formulas, you just creatively expand on the idea.
2.1 • Class Notes One question that's frequently asked of me is, "What's the easiest way for me to memorize class notes?" The question is difficult to answer because different people learn best in different ways. It also depends on what kind of material is being memorized (history, math, physics, charts of numbers, etc.). One strategy I've used in the past is to type in an entire term's worth of hand-written notes on the comptuer. This is long but the process causes you to think about the material again, just as if you were in class the first time taking notes. You think even more if you have a chart or graphics and have to try to figure out how to put that into the computer! Anyway, this strategy is kind of nice because you can relax... instead of going over a page again and again and being frustrated by not knowing it perfectly or having a clear method, here you just start at the beginning of your notes and type to the end. The plan is clear and it's something that you can do because it's mechanical and not trial-and-error. Other strategies include using lots of colored markers to give each page of your notes a very memorable appearance, making an outline of the notes, etc. And then of course there's the mnemonic techniques of using associations to memorize new terms and things.
1.1 • How Memory Works by Association How does our memory work? We remember things by association. Every piece of information in our memory is connected to other pieces in some way or another. For example, if you are given the word "apple", what do you think of? Perhaps something like this:
APPLE: red, round, sweet, teacher, tree, fruit
But it's unlikely that we might see "apple" and think of "dog" (unless you remember some funny incident in which your dog investigated an apple). And what if you were asked what the 7th letter of the alphabet was? Chances are, you wouldn't know that "G = 7," but you could easily think to yourself, "A B C D E F G," and then say "G". You used association to get to the letter G, because you knew A was the first letter, then you kept choosing the next letter in the sequence until you got to the right one.
Why do most of us have a bad memory? Most of us don't. Most of us have a really good memory, but we just don't have practice in using it efficiently.
If the above is true, then why is it so hard for me to remember things? As stated before, our memory works by association. If there is no obvious association between things, it's very difficult to remember them. For example, suppose you needed to remember that your plane takes off at 2 P.M. There is nothing about the plane that would suggest the number 2 more than it would any other number (at least at first glance). Therefore, 2 is easily forgotten. Likewise, how does your best friend relate to his phone number, an arbitrary string of digits? Or how does a new word, like "hypothalamus," relate to what it represents?
How can we learn to remember things better? Simple. If memory works by association, we actively work to create an association between two bits of information. For example, for the plane that we need to catch at 2 P.M., we can
imagine the plane in our mind, and notice that it has 2 wings. Two wings, 2 P.M. There's an association. We are now ten times more likely to remember the take-off time long after it has faded from our short-term memory. Sometimes an association comes very easily. For example, suppose you are introduced to a Mr. Hill who lives on a hill at the end of town. Mr. Hill on a hill. Pretty easy, huh? Or what if you're trying to remember the classroom number for a Chemistry class, and it just so turns out that it's the same as your dorm room number. Another natural association! Do you think you'll have a problem remembering it? When pieces of information are not obviously related in any way, however, we have to be a bit more creative in linking things together. But it isn't as hard as it seems. Most of us learned rhymes and acronyms in school that helped us remember things. Do any of the following look familiar to you?
i before e except after c, or when sounded like a as in neighbor and weigh (rule for remembering ei or ie) ROY G. BIV (colors of the rainbow) All cows eat grass; Every good boy does fine (notes of musical scale) Never eat sour watermelons (directions on a compass)
• • •
Why do they work? Because they form an easy-to-remember and clever association between themselves and the information that is to be remembered. The idea is to be creative and clever. You don't have to invent a rhyme or a poem every time you want to remember something, though -- just think of a picture in your mind that links pieces of information together, preferably something unusual or silly so it is more memorable. For example, suppose you want to remember that the football field is on Maple Street. You might imagine in your mind a burly football player eating a football for breakfast... he pours some maple syrup on the football, cuts off a chunk and eats it! To demonstrate how effectively this works, look at the following list of words, and try to come up with an association between the left word and the right word of each row. Some will be easy; others may be harder. As an example, for the first pair, you might want to imagine a mouse that has a long, wavy tail that is in the shape of the letter S. mouse fur train R bridge S
moat popcorn elephant toothbrush umbrella
boat chair pancake canal triangle
After you have formed the associations (if you had trouble on one or two of them, that's okay; just skip them for now), cover up the right side of the list and then try to name the word associated with each word on the left. If you formed vivid, clear associations, you may be surprised at how quickly and easily you were able to remember everything!
1.5 • Practice Makes Perfect Where to Go From Here At this point, you've learned a bunch of techniques for memorizing things more effectively: forming pictures and making associations, making vivid or funny pictures, converting numbers to picture words, "linking" items in a long chain to form a list, and pairing items with peg words to memorize numbered lists. These are the basic techniques. If you read a book or different web site on memory improvement, you may find different terminology or a different presentation, but the basic ideas are the same. By now, you actually know most of what you need to know! Probably, though, you have a specific memory application in mind that wasn't covered here, such as memorizing mathematical formulas for school. To help with this, I've provided the "Tips & Tricks" section of this web site. Each section focuses on a specific application. There is no magic "right" or "wrong" way to memorize something; the idea is simply to take the information and techniques you've already learned and adapt them to the specific problem. What you have already learned you can apply to your life right away to help you remember things better, but if you are really serious about improving your memory a lot, then I suggest studying more about memory. In addition to the two other tutorials on this web site which cover more advanced memorization techniques, I encourage you to find a book on memory or perhaps simply check out a couple of other web sites. You can find some resources on the "Enhance" page. Practice Makes Perfect! But above everything else, I encourage you to practice memorizing things every day. As a metaphor, consider this: If someone teaches you how to drive an automobile, and you study the car's Owner's Manual carefully, and learn perfectly everything there is to know about driving a car, that doesn't mean you can jump in a car and start driving flawlessly in downtown New York City! You know what you need to do, but it's awkward at first because you've had no practice. In the same way, you ought to keep practicing the memory techniques you've learned. Right now it still may be taking you some time to think of picture words for things, and you haven't learned yet what pictures work better for you than others. Look around your world and find things to memorize, such as your cousin's telephone number, your favorite chocolate chip
cookie recipe, the call letters of your local TV stations, the vocabulary words in your school science textbook, the few phrases of French you've always wanted to memorize, your license plate or driver's license, etc.! Go for it! If you have trouble, don't give up. Say to yourself, "If I keep at it, I know there's a way to memorize this, and I'm not going to give up. I will work at it until I succeed!" To end this tutorial, I would like to give you some more encouragement and motivation to practice. Someone from South Africa was boldly going forth to use the memorizing numbers technique to memorize telephone numbers, and he wrote to me with some questions. I noticed he wasn't doing it perfectly. But who cares! That's how you learn! I was impressed just by his motivation to even try to dive into a memory problem like this. The text prefixed with ">" is what was written to me; the other text is what I wrote in response. (Note: The telephone number given in the person's example and the corresonding picture story has been altered slightly to protect the person whose phone number it is; the new number represents no one in particular.) >Will things like this make more sense to me in the future? Can I >safely assume that after using this technique for a while it will >become easier and easier? Yes, with practice, you'll be able to do it more quickly, and you'll make fewer mistakes, and you'll have and idea as to what works and what doesn't. > Here in South Africa we have cellphone numbers which go something >like this - 082 746 4071. Taking this example I have broken it up >into pairs with accompanying letters : > > > > > > 08 - SF 27 - NK 46 - RJ 40 - RZ 71 - CD Sniff Nike Rich Rizlas Card
You'll want to use different words for the first and the last numbers. The word "Sniff" actually forms SNF which is 028. Likewise, card is 741. You could use "Sofa" or "Safe" for 08, and "Cat" or "Cod" for 71. "Rizlas" is okay for 40... it actually is 4050, but if you always memorize everything in pairs, you'll know it's only two digits, so you'll drop the extra digits. >Is the following a good example of remembering the number? >"My friend walks into a shop and can Sniff the smell of new Nikes. >Seeing as she is not Rich and only has Rizlas she decides to use a >credit Card to buy a pair." -- This seems a bit confusing.
Well, that's pretty good for a first try! If it were me, I'd want to emphasize what the key words are so I can be sure to pick them out... otherwise I might try to turn words like "Shop" into numbers. Of course, much is lost when you try to write down your memory picture in words. Actually, you'll be thinking pictures in your head and will be seeing a kind of movie. Also, if you use mostly nouns for your picture words and not adjectives or verbs, it's easier to form your movie. Usually I use adjectives and use verbs not as part of the picture but only to help link things together. This is something that I got only with quite a bit of practice. So, as an example, I'll do 08-27-46-40-71. Note that I'm using the words and pictures that work best for me; Your own personal experience will be different so different words/pictures will work better for you (by the way, isn't that neat? You'll come up with some picture movie unique to you that only you can appreciate in a very deep way because it reflects your own personal experience/likes/dislikes/ideas/etc!). Sofa, Nike, rash, rose, cut. I picture the friend (whose phone number it is -- important, since I need to link this person in with the story) entering his house. She opens the door and is surprised to find the house empty except for a single SOFA in the middle of the room. Then, she notices a very strong, terrible smell! She goes to the sofa, lifts one of the cushions, and finds a stinking pair of NIKES underneath (by the way, you might love Nikes as your favorite brand, but if you picture Nikes in this way it will be such a vivid picture in your head you'll never forget it!!). She drops the cushion down, but then she looks at her hand and sees a large RASH because apparently she accidentally touched one of the Nikes and got infected somehow. She goes to the bathroom to try to wash her hands, but instead of a bar of soap she finds a ROSE flower. She tries to wash her hands with the rose under the faucet, but it doesn't seem to work. In fact, in the attempt she scratches her arm with the stem of the rose and gets a CUT. (As if the rash on her hand wasn't bad enough!) That's a long story, but remember, a picture is 1,000 words, and I'm trying to picture this in my mind. In reality I wouldn't need to write down this story or even tell anyone about it (especially not the friend!!). There's a definite sequence of events so it's pretty clear what the order is of the five items. Also, there are ordinary elements to the story (the house, the sink, the faucet, etc.) and then there's some very unusual elements. Each of my five items is not a normal element but an unusual and even surprising element. So I can quickly think back through the script of events in my mind: SOFA viewing, NIKE discovery, RASH acquisition, ROSE wash-offthe-rash attempt, CUT wash-off-the-rash result. A silly story, but memorable!! >Can a person ever get to a point where such 'story telling' is no >longer needed and when I hear a number I will be able to commit
>it to memory immediately without having to go the picture route? Not quite. Yes, you will still need stories for brand new phone numbers, though you might get faster with practice. BUT... if you keep recalling someone's phone number over and over again, eventually you're going to think of the number directly without having to use the picture movie. After this happens, you won't need the picture movie, and the movie will gradually fade away (but not the number). >Then again I suppose it's better to take a few minutes to recall >a number (in this case) instead of not being able to recall it at all. Yes, you are right! >Also, seeing as I am trying to remember someone else's phone >number should I include that person in the image that I create >with the number? I suppose there should be some link between >the two. Yes! One more thing: Most likely South Africa has "area codes" similar to the United States. In other words, if you are memorizing the phone numbers for 10 different friends, they're probably all going to start with "082". In that case, you can just skip the "082" and memorize only the unique numbers. You'll be able to guess "082" because probably "082" refers to some geographical region, and you know your friend lives in that region, so you can omit it from the story. You don't have to, of course, but if you do, you'll have a shorter story that will be faster to memorize. You certainly seem to be on the right track! Don't give up, and keep practicing, and I'm confident you'll do well and perhaps even surprise yourself! Sincerely, Kevin Jay North
1.4 • Techniques for Memorizing Lists Memorizing Short Lists Suppose you're going to the store for groceries and you need the following five items: eggs, bread, bacon, cheese and milk. How can you remember the list? For short lists, the easiest way is simply to "link" the words together in a long chain, like this: eggs -> bread -> bacon -> cheese -> milk Then, think of some animated story in your mind to link the items together. For example, imagine walking to the store with a grocery bag in your hand. We start with a grocery bag because it's a grocery list -- it would be difficult to jump immediately to eggs. On a street corner someone appears from nowhere, hands you an egg then walks off. Dazed, you take the egg and drop it in the bag. It cracks and makes a mess. (The mess is a vivid picture in your mind that strengthens the picture of "egg" even more.) So by the time the next person comes out of nowhere and hands you a loaf of bread, you don't want to put it in the bag, so you carry it in your other hand. You hold it by the tie and it twirls as you walk. This is a long story so far, but remember, you're not writing a story on paper, you're just thinking of it in your mind, so it goes rather quickly. In fact it often goes so quickly through your mind that the added, extra detail is very helpful in remembering later. The more ways you experience an object -- if you think of its appearance, its touch, its smell, etc. -- the more likely you'll remember it later! Suddenly, there's bacon on the sidewalk as you're walking, and it crunches under your feet. The grease gets on your shoes. Next there's cheese on the ground, and you walk on it. Yuck! Now there's grease and gooey cheese on your shoes. When you get to the store, there's no restroom or water fountain, so you, strangely, just take a gallon of milk, open it, and pour it on your shoes to clean them! (Don't worry, this is only imagination -- you would never do this in real life!) Wow, what an exciting finish to the story. Notice that we didn't just put all the grocery items in the bag one by one. The instances would be so similar we'd get them mixed up! So a lot of variety was used. The story was so fun that, no doubt, you can stop right now, look away from this document, think through the story again and remember perfectly the five items. Try it again tomorrow morning and see if you still remember!
Memorizing Long Lists The grocery list was easy, but what about longer lists, such as a list of all of the states of the United States? If you forget a word in a middle, the chain is broken and you've lost the rest! Also, if you want to remember the 15th state -- useful if you memorized the states in order of population or size -- you have to recall the first fourteen. Another way to memorize lists is to use what are called"peg words." Before we begin, memorize this short list of peg words. Note that they are numbered, and the peg word actually does translates into the correct number, so you should be able to form some associations right away. 1. Hat 2. Hen 3. Ham 4. Rye 5. Hill Practice recalling the peg words before continuing. Now, let's use the peg words to memorize a list of the five biggest cities in Michigan, in order: Detroit, Grand Rapids, Warren, Flint and Lansing. We'll take each of the peg words and place them next to each item in the cities list. Next, we'll form some simple paired associations between the words. Note that instead of making a huge chain, we are now working with only pairs. PEG 1. Hat 2. Hen 3. Ham 4. Rye ITEM Detroit ASSOCIATION Picture large top-hat with Model T cars stiched on it in an interesting pattern Grand Rapids Hen steps into a river, then is quickly carried away and gushes through rapids Warren Flint Ham on platter is given to Warren Beatty Start with rye bread. Use Flint and steel to make spark to burn the bread! 5. Hill Lansing The hills are alive with the Sound of Music (movie)! The whole land begins to sing!! After studying the above associations, cover it up, then look at the five peg items by themselves. Can you name all five cities on the list? Hopefully, you can. Note that we've solved (movie star), who looks at it oddly
our problem. Our long chain of items has been changed to a numerical chain, an easy list of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. These correspond to a certain peg item, which, after a little practice, you can easily name. Finally, we associate simple pairs of words: the peg words with the actual list of items. You probably could have done it easily by using the short list method -- I didn't want to give you a huge example so fast -- but it's obvious that this method would be very helpful for long lists (like the 50 states). To memorize longer lists, all you need to do is memorize a basic set of peg words, words which are derived from their associated numbers directly. Some example words are given below; you can also come up with your own. Try to come up with the shortest possible words for your list, because many different words can stand for a number, and you want to reduce the number of possibilities. (When memorizing numbers that aren't peg words, you can use longer words, because in that case, you will only be converting words to numbers, and a word always produces a unique number.) 1. Hat 11. Dot 2. Hen 12. Town 3. Ham 13. Dime 4. Rye 14. Tire 5. Hill 15. Doll 21. Net 22. Nun 31. Mat 41. Road
32. Moon 42. Rain
23. Name 33. Mummy 43. Room 24. Nero 34. Mower 44. Aurora
25. Nail 35. Mule 45. Roll 27. Neck 37. Mug 29. Knob 39. Map 47. Rock 49. Rope
6. Shoe 16. Tissue 26. Notch 36. Match 46. Rash 7. Cow 17. Duck 9. Bee 19. Tape 10. Toes 20. Nose 8. Ivy 18. Taffy 28. Knife 38. Movie 48. Roof 30. Mouse 40. Rose 50. Lace
The peg words method for lists is great for lists of items that must be in a specific order, because peg words are tied to specific numbers. Assuming you've previously memorized the five peg words, note how easily you can come up with the 4th item -- just go 4... rye... Flint -without having to go through items 1 through 3 first. For unordered lists, where the assigned number is not important, you could even exchange items in the list to come up with easier associations.
2.2 • Vocabulary and/or Foreign Words I received an Email message from someone who got a little confused about how to memorize vocabulary words. Actually, it's quite easy. Here's the Email message and my response. >Every week I have to take a vocabulary test. Very hard words >AND definitions. I cant think of any lists to do which to use >pictures for the word AND definition. Any suggestions? You do not need to make a list to memorize vocabulary words. All you need to do is make a picture for the word, a picture for the definition, then link them together. Example: polemic: a verbal attack on a belief or opinion You might think of a MICrophone on a long POLE (a pole-mic, even though it's pronounced differently), then you might think of it tipping over and falling right on top of a policital candidate giving a very passionate speech to a crowd... then the microphone itself starts talking and criticizing the politician! That's a very vivid picture that will instantly come to mind during a vocabulary test. Try it! You may be slow at first, but with a little practice, you will surprise yourself!
Here's another Email and response. >I'm having trouble using mnemonic systems for memorizing foreign words. >I've been reading the memory book by lorayne and lucas, and there example >works for concrete words, but for abstractions, it's not easy. I try >forming ludicrous movies in my heads between the German pronunciation >and its meaning in English, but i'm not finding myself all too successful >in remembering the meanings of those words. Like sometimes, I can see >the movie in my head, but I cant interpret it, since the English >meaning is also an abstraction; e.g., words like sorgfältig for meticulously. I think you're on the right track. But yes, abstractions are a bit more difficult since you can see an object like "chair" but you can't see "meticulously". One way is to think of some stereotype for the word. For example, you might think of Pinnochio for "lie" or Abraham Lincoln for "honesty". If you can't think of a stereotype, you can just pretend the English word is a foreign word. So let's work with sorgfältig. I don't know the correct pronunciation, so I'm just going to use Sorg-
fall-tig. I might think of "Borg" (from Star Trek) and "fall" (a verb). Now for meticulously. I might think of "metal tickle lousy", which kind of sounds like meticulously. Now to put that all into a story. A Borg robot creature walks along a plateau top and clumsily walks right over the edge of a cliff and falls -- kersplat! -- to the bottom. Someone walks up to it to see if it is dead. He touches its metal to tickle it. It moves and laughs, but it does so in a very lousy and unconvincing way which would be typical of an emotionless Borg robot creature. So, when I start with sorgfältig, I think of the Borg-fall story, and at the end the Borg "metal tickle lousy", which reminds me of "meticulously". That's a long way to go, but it works. After seeing sorgfältig about 10 times I'll probably start thinking "meticulously" to myself without having to recall the whole movie. After about 20 times I'll probably think of the concept of "meticulously" without even thinking of the English word to represent it. That is the ultimate goal. But the little movie is very helpful at first because you can learn the word quickly without having to run to the dictionary all the time. You can think of your own story for sorgfältig that uses the correct pronunciation and that works best for you, using objects and pictures that you personally are familiar with.
2.6 • Acronyms Acronyms are a technique for memorizing lists of things. The concept is so simple that I'm sure everyone has come across them: for example, ROY G. BIV to remember the colors of the rainbow or Never Eat Sour Watermelons to remember the points on a compass. Of course, knowing only the first letters of words isn't much of a clue to the words themselves unless you already have a good idea as to what they are, so this memory technique isn't as powerful as some of the others mentioned in these web pages. But acronyms are so simple that it a technique everyone should use, and sometimes it just works out the best. In the rest of this document, I present acronyms that I've collected from other sources. In addition to providing good examples and ideas, you might learn a few new things easily thanks to these acronyms. There's a few non-acronyms in here, but oh well!
The following text is taken from a November 1994 public BBS message written by Chip Edwards. I also like acronyms. Like for the classification system (at least the way I learned it in high school): King Philip Can Only Find his Green Slippers = Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species. or the classification for humans: Antropology Can Make People Hate Helping the Sick = Anamalia Cordata Mamalis Primate Hominidae Homo Sapien. My favorite one of all though is to remember the bill of rights. Our history teacher taught it to us and it involved a rather heavy-set man who student taught at our school and used to make jokes about how heavy he was (his name was Joe Bones). It goes: FATS AS Joe Bones are Positavely Stupid which equals Freedoms (SPRAP another acronym for the freedoms = Speech Press Religion Assembly Petition), Arms (right to bear), Troops (no more quartering), Search (unreasonable search and seasure), Accused (rights of the accused), Speed (right to a speedy trial), Jury (right to a jury trial), Bail (no escessive bail/fines or unusual punnishment), People (rights not mentioned in the constitution are reserved for the people), and State (powers not delegated to the U.S. are reserved for the states). It makes a real easy way to remember something that would have been nasty to remember otherwise. Here's a couple of acronyms for memorizing the first 20 periodic table elements from Enid and Philip Yim: Hi! He Lies Because Boron CanNot Oxide Fluoride
He Li Be
C N O
New Nation Might --- Sign Peace Security Clause Ne Na Mg Al Si P S Cl
A King Can Ar K Ca It looks as if Aluminum was forgotten, but perhaps you can invent your own word to fit! (One word I thought of is "Also".) From the column "Gamboling" by Lawrence Gibbs, in the Stillwater (Oklahoma) NewsPress, 19 Jan 97, 26 Jan 97 and 02 Feb 97. (C) 1997 Stillwater Publishing Company. Used by permission. Nearly 100 years ago, during our days in grade school, we learned a way to remember the names of the Great Lakes. Just think of HOMES -- Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. Using the word "homes" like that is a mnemonic. Here's another: What words are the exceptions to the I before E rule? We were taught a sentence that includes all the exceptions. It makes the rule go like this: I before E, except after C, with the exceptions of Neither Financier Conceived Either Species of Weird Leisure. And there's this one: Any word that fits in the blank of this sentence is a preposition: The squirrel ran --- the tree. Over, under, after, around, through, etc. Trying to explain a mnemonic to someone, we attempted to find it in the dictionary and without any luck. We had to call Debbie Hamble at the reference desk at the city library. We had tried nemonic and pnemonic and knemonic. What could be left? She called back and put us onto the M. In fact, in our lexicons, it's the only word spelled mn. Look in yours. Our book says: mnemonic, assisting or intended to assist memory; of or relating to memory; a mnemonic device or code. Mnemonics, a technique of improving memory.
We have another assignment for you. Send us your favorite or unusual mnemonic. Did you use a mnemonic to help you learn something in particular? We'll pass along some of them. Post them to Gamboling, c/o NewsPress, Box 2288, Stillwater, 74076. In this space last week, we discussed mnemonics -- a tool to aid memory. We mentioned HOMES as an example of a way to remember the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. We also asked you to submit mnemonics you recall from your school days. And we received several responses. It seems the spelling of arithmetic and geography was especially difficult because they drew the greatest response. Here are a few: Bethel Simmons of Stillwater wrote the following: I am over 50 and went to school in Kansas and I read with interest your Sunday article on mnemonics. I, too, learned the Great Lakes with HOMES. Other spellings that I learned are as follows: Geography: George Edwards Old Grandma Rode A Pig Home Yesterday. Arithmetic: A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream. When we learned the provinces in Canada in the fifth grade, we were taught an easy way to remember how to spell Saskatchewan, one of the harder to spell, as follows: Ask At Chew An with an S in front of it. I have always used mnemonics to learn lists of things for different classes or to help me remember what I would write in an essay question, etc. My I before E rule went like this, but I'm sure you will get many of these: I before E except after C or when sounded as A as in neighbor or weigh. Dona Cooper recalled from her country school days this help for geography (similar, but different): George Edison's Oldest Girl Rode A Pony Home Yesterday. And these two from Mken Mbreuninger of Stillwater: George Ellis' Oldest Girl Rode A Pig Home Yesterday. And, A Rat In Tom's House Might Eat Tom's Ice Cream.
(Not so fast. Go back to that last paragraph. Did you catch the contributor's gag?) Mildred Lee of Stillwater also mastered the I-E rule during her days at Stillwater public schools with the neighbor and weigh mnemonic. Mary Sawyer of Glencoe (thanks for the coverage of the Glencoe United Methodist Women's New Year's Day dinner, we served more than 400, the largest ever) wrote to say she had not heard of the word mnemomic, but she has used the method. Especially this example she sent along. She said she has used it many times ... especially since she has been helping her grandchildren choose colors for the rainbows they were coloring: Roy G. Biv, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, the colors of the spectrum. Then comes this letter from James M. Price, associate professor in the psychology department at OSU. We'll pass along his note: Here are some that you may have received from a number of people, he writes, since they were commonly learned by people in public schools (or other places) a few years back. For those who had to deal with the color coding on electronic resistors: Bad Boys Rape Our Young Girls, But Violet Gives Willingly for Silver or Gold. [KJN Note: Good grief! That's not very nice... but I guess it is memorable, and that is the whole point of mnemonics. Well, here's the one I learned that isn't so shocking: Bad Beer Rots Our Young Guts But Vodka Goes Well.] The capital initials, he writes, are a reminder as to the color codes on a numerical scale (black, brown, red, etc.), with silver and gold indicating the tolerance (precision) of the resistor. From astronomy, he said, here is one indicating the coding for the age and size of stars: Wow! Oh Be A Fine Girl! Kiss Me Right Now, Sweetie. Price also included the foil rule for multiplying the individual terms in two binomial quantities, like (x+4)(Y+8): FOIL -- First terms, Outside, Inside, Last.
(Just last evening, Mrs. Gibbs asked about the order of precedence among arithmetical operators. Well, Price covered that, too). He said it's Eek! My Dear Aunt Sally! (Exponentiation, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction.) Price concluded by saying such memory aids are fairly common and have been studied by psychologists for at least 25 years. "I haven't the slightest idea why. Have fun!" : A Helen Gibbs writes from Oklahoma City to say, "During Bible class last Wednesday, we were trying to remember the names of the disciples when Ralph (the Rev. Ralph Ranney of St. Stephen's Presbyterian Church) told of learning their names through a mnemonic." Mother, we mean, Mrs. Gibbs, went on to recite the aid: "This is the way the disciples run Peter, Andrew, James and John Phillip and Bartholemew Thomas next and Matthew, too. James the less and Judas the greater Simon the zealot and Judas the traitor." Dr. Don Cooper said almost every medical school anatomy class he ever heard of used the following to remember the eight small bones in the wrist: "Never Lower Tilly's Pants, Mother Might Come Home." That helps in recalling navicular, lunate, triquetrum, pisiform, greater Multongular, lesser Multongular, capitate and hamate. Now that will come in handy. He also submitted one to remember all 12 of the cranial nurves and used by almost all medical students. Pat Loveland of Stillwater submitted the same one, but with a bit softer wording here and there. They read:
"An Old Olympus Towering Tops, A Finn And German Viewed Some Hops." Remember that sentence and it will be easy to remember the nerves: olfactory, optic, oculomotor, trochlear, trigeminal, abducens, facial, acoustic, glassopharyngeal, vagus, spinal accessory and hypoglossal. And there's no excuse for not knowing the function of each nerve, be it sensory, motor or both. Pat said it's a help to remember, "Some say marry money but my brothers say bad business marry money." Now you know whether the nerves are S (sensory), M (motor) or B (both). Pat's mom gave her this one to learn the planets in order according to their distance from the sun: "Mercy! Vera Ellen Made Johnnie Sit Under Nine Planks." (Her mom had said Vera Ellen was a movie star "before my time.") We'll wrap this up with some sent in by students of Martha Olsen: David DeWeese, "eat all dead gophers before Easter" (EADGBE, the strings on a guitar). Laura Brown, "never eat sour wheat" (points on a compass). Stacy Baker and Feather Jim, "Mimal" (the shape of these states makes a person, his name is Mimal, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana.) Kristin Terrill, "please excuse my dear Aunt Sally," (a mnemonic device applied in prealgebra which my teacher says is the most important rule you can learn, to get you going: parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition and subtraction." And with that we'll bid farewell to mnemonics.
3.2 • Do I Read Too Slowly? This question does not relate directly to memory, but it is an important question not only because people often want to memorize what they are reading while they are reading it, but also because of fantastic claims from people who say they can teach you to read thousands of words per minute - i.e., Speed Reading. Therefore, I've included this document. I have no doubt that one could devote a whole web site to this topic, and I don't want to detract from the theme of memory improvement, so if you want to explore this subject further I invite you to search the web on the subject of Speed Reading or check your local library for books that exist on this subject. Personally, I haven't had time to study the subject a lot myself. Nevertheless, I've included my own opinion on the subject below, which is based on logic and my own personal experience. But to give a more balanced, fair view of this subject, I've also included the opinions of two others. My Personal Opinion Do I (the main author of the Memory Page) read too slowly? When I compare myself to others, yes, I probably am "below average." But is this good or bad? I can think of two possible conclusions: 1. God made me a slower learner than other people, so I should continue to read as I have been doing and not be intimidated by peer pressure or other outside forces that want be to believe that I am not reading fast enough. 2. I really am reading slow because I am not reading properly or efficiently. There must exist some techniques that I don't know about for better reading that I should find and put into practice. Either one could be true, or the answer could be a little of both. As of now, I guess I lean toward possibility #1, because I am a perfectionist and this probably affects my learning style. I like to understand things, so it is not enough that I just read something and accept it as true; I feel better (and I retain a TON more) if I understand why something is true. I also tend to "overlearn": this means I learn more than what I need to know, which forces me to think about much more those things that do I need to know (and to apply them), which causes me to retain more. I am not sure if what I am doing is "right" ... but it does seem to be working for me, and I am getting A's. My undergraduate GPA was 3.88 and my graduate GPA was 4.00. I wonder if the
speed-readers do this well. But it's also possible that my high GPA is more a factor of my intelligence rather than my reading technique; it's also possible that my reading technique does work but there is a different technique that could cause me to achieve the same success but in less time. The bottom line: it is not an easy picture. Oh, well, I'll just do the best I can. Really, the only time I feel bad is when I'm comparing myself with someone else; if I just forget everyone else and focus only on myself, then I enjoy reading, even if I am slow, and I don't feel bad about it or intimidated. Maybe this is the secret. It still may be true that I could be reading faster, but there isn't much I can do about it at the moment... if someday someone explains to be a better method, I will be very happy and I will accept that as an amazing gift; in the meantime, I will just accept the status quo. I guess that's true with my memory stuff. Until I learned the memory techniques, I really wasn't that unhappy. Maybe I got a little frustrated at times for forgetting things or for spending such a long time to learn stuff for a test, but I just accepted it as part of life. And really, there wasn't anything more I could do at the time. Then I discovered the memory techniques, and it was really a great gift to me.
Greg A. Chulsky sent me the following Email on the subject of Speed Reading: "Without trying to sell anything, I will tell people that their reading speed can be doubled in 20 minutes (though this might only work temporarily and require high concentration) and permanently within a few days. The problem, for most people, is that they cannot read without saying what they are reading to themselves; they have to hear what they are reading. The average person can talk at 200-300 words per minute comfortably, but the average eye can catch 1800-2000 WORDS PER MINUTE! You can try to read without talking, but this will be difficult and require high concentration. The way to make this permanent is, whenever you read, deliberately say it to yourself and force yourself to read slower than you can. In my experiences, the brain rebelled and the talking vanished completely. "Another interesting exercise is, try running your finger down the middle of a page, at a speed faster than what you believe is a possible reading speed. Follow your finger with your eyes, keeping them over the center of the printed lines. Speed your finger up until you are spending 2 seconds per page, and then you will realize that although all you saw at first was a blur, you end up picking up quite a few words!
"Oh, and one more thing! Most languages have some redundant words (in the case of English, the, and, or, and many others). You can therefore start reading not quite from the beginning of each line, and jump to the next line a bit before the end. This will further improve reading speed."
Ed Shanahan's View on Speed Reading Ed Shanahan is the copy editor of Brill's Content Magazine. He tried out Howard Stephen Berg's "Mega Speed Reading" product and published his comments in the magazine in June 1999 (page 98) as a sidebar to a main article titled "King of the Pitch", which focuses on Kevin Trudeau, the person who developed and sold the entire "Mega" series. I can't reproduce the entire sidebar here, lest I violate the magazine's copyright, but the basic verdict from Mr. Shanahan is, "Four hours, one videotape, and six audiotapes later, I'm stuck at my pathetic 420-words-a-minute rate, well below the 25,000 words a minute Berg claims to devour using his 'revolutionary techniques'."
3.1 • Introduction and Motivation Memorizing Bible Verses Etc. A Tutorial by Kevin Jay North, 3 January 1998 Introduction Most of the other documents on these Web pages relate to memorizing things by creating pictures in your mind. This is because for most people vision is the strongest, most vivid of the senses. However, sometimes memorizing by sound is more effective -- it all depends on what it is you are trying to memorize. Facts, names, numbers and such are best memorized via pictures, but if you are trying to memorize a chapter of the Bible (or other book) word for word, it would take forever to form a picture in your mind for every single word and then try to link it all together. Instead, sound is better. In this document I'll teach you techniques for memorizing things by sound which I've mainly learned from my own experience. Also, since with Bible verses it's often important to remember the reference, I'll suggest one (pictorial) technique for remembering references. Motivation I will focus mainly on the Bible in this document, but the techniques described here certainly are not limited to the Bible, nor do you need to be a Christian to be able to take advantage of them. But why take the time to memorize stuff word-for-word? After all, you're not going to be asked in a game of Trivial Pursuit to quote something exactly, and you don't want to memorize something just to impress your friends. Well, I suppose the answer may not be the same for all people, but for me, it is wonderful to have wise and truthful words available to me at any time, wherever I'm at. As an example, let's consider a couple of quotations: "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." -- Milton "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." -- Abraham Lincoln These quotes can be of great personal help to me if I'm depressed or upset about something. The quotes essentially state the truth that, to a large extent, happiness is a choice -- your own choice. I believe this truth, but when I am mad or depressed and full of emotion, my emotions seem to take me over and suddenly my mind is casting doubt on that truth. I feel trapped in misery! But I can fight back these emotions by reminding myself of strong evidence for whatever it is that I'm doubting.
And what is better evidence than exact quotations from famous people who have been through the tough times before or the timeless truthful verses of the Bible? When I start thinking the exact words, I re-establish my certainty of the truth I was believing in, and I can pull myself out of a situation. This doesn't mean that I instantly feel better, but if I simply know that what I believe in is still true -- and it's just my emotions messing with my mind -- this gives me a sense of peace and confidence to move on.
3.2 • Three Techniques Music Whether pictures or sounds, repetition can be used to remember something. But repetition alone is somewhat tedious and error-prone. Pictures can be enhanced by imagining the picture in vivid detail or by making it strange or humorous. How can sound be enhanced? By music. (Note: If you're not good at music, don't worry; I'll be explaining other ways to memorize sounds later in this tutorial.) It may take a lot of effort to memorize the U.S. Pledge of Allegience or a chapter from the Bible, but you probably know all the words to your favorite song on the radio without your even having to spend any effort at it! Songs are so rhythmic and so much fun that memorization comes easy. Just like one can create pictures in the mind to memorize something, you can also create songs in the mind. And once again, it may seem silly, but it works! I've come up with my own songs to memorize Psalm 117 and 1 Corinthians 10:13. I don't have to share the songs with anyone, but for me, it's a terrific way to remember the verses word-for-word exactly. Just try to invent your own tune... or attempt to fit the words you want to memorize to an existing tune. The only problem is that inventing a song is much more difficult than enhancing a picture. The song has to sound good, otherwise you won't remember it. Also, the more words there are, the harder it is to make a good, unified song. (Psalm 117 was easy because it's the shortest Psalm.) On the other hand, I think you can actually go to a Christian bookstore and find cassettes of verses which someone has set to music specifically for the purpose of memory... if you can find something like this, go for it!
Tape Recorder Is there a movie that you've watched 10 times? If so, chances are you know a lot of the lines by heart, especially the memorable ones. Because of repetition, your brain has remembered the sounds. And it works better than just saying something out loud 10 times, because it's someone else speaking, and they have an interesting voice, and they say the lines in a certain way. And you hear the lines in exactly the same way every time because the recording reproduces the sounds exactly.
Well, if it works for movies, why not take advantage of this approach to memorize something? Just get a tape recorder and record the Bible (or other) passage that you want to memorize, then play it back a bunch of times. It may get boring if you listen to it 10 times in a row, but you can do it once a day instead. In my own experienced I've discovered that after using this method I can almost get a Bible passage exactly right. But I still get stuck. So then I use traditional repetition to "fill in the gaps." But it goes a lot quicker because large phrases are already burned in the mind... it's just a matter of stringing it all together.
The Secret Repetition Method My biggest problem is time. Even the tape recorder method still takes time and effort to set up the recording and then to find suitable periodic time slots to listen to it. Arrrgh! I imagine many of you are in the same boat... always 50,000 things to do in a day. So when in the world are we ever going to find time to memorize whole chapters from the Bible? I have found a really neat idea. I write out a whole chapter from the Bible on a small card that will fit in my wallet. Or, alternatively, I can access my Bible on the computer and print it out on my printer with the smallest font. In any case, I make a card that I can take with me at all times. Then... I wait for an opportunity. I wait for some moment in which I'm alone and just waiting for something, such as waiting in line. Then I pull out my card and start memorizing what is on it. Even though I'm busy-busy-busy and want to use my time most efficiently, I don't have to feel guilty about memorizing at a time like this because I can't do anything else anyway. The only problem is that you can't read aloud from the card over and over again while other people are around -- they'll think you're crazy! Instead, I glance at the card and read the first sentence or other suitable sentence fragment that I can keep in my head all at once. Then I put the card away and silently repeat the sentence over and over again in my mind. It's really not very hard at all... and I can be looking around at other things, smiling at people, etc. ... and all the while gently repeating the sentence in the back of my mind. After I've repeated it about thirty times, I glance at the card again for the next sentence, then put it back again. What a terrific method! You'll soon find there are lots of occasions in which you might be able to memorize Bible verses at, including:
Waiting in line at grocery store
• • • • •
Waiting for movie to start Driving in car Taking a walk Lifting weights or doing other exercises Etc.
I even used the method while at a 3-day trade show in Chicago. Each day involved so much waiting and standing! But while standing there smiling and waiting for the next person to walk by, I was mentally rehearsing the next Bible verse from a memory card. So I had great fun during the trade show, and everyone thought I was so happy and patient, and no one knew I memorized all of 2 Corinthians chapters 4 and 5 during the show! My biggest desire is for time, and I've managed to find a way to utilize very long chunks of previously wasted time. And there's so much time available that there's no problem in using plain old repetition to memorize the verses. It may seem slow... like 5 minutes a verse, but if you are, for example, spending an hour in the car once a week, you'd probably be able to memorize a whole chapter in a month. Now that's pretty amazing! At that rate you could memorize the entire New Testament in only 22 years! During the long sessions my emphasis is on sheer quantity. I've found it too difficult to concentrate on getting the sequence of all of the verses perfectly, especially since that would involve looking at the card too much, so I just focus on sheer repetition. It's probably better to memorize a verse far more than necessary -- perhaps 60 times -- to pound it into memory permanently than to worry about how it all strings together. At some later time when I'm alone and can think more clearly I can do a quick review to get the sequence right and to refresh my memory on the verses. But this session tends to go very quickly because as soon as I start on a verse, the rest of the verse just mechanically comes right out!
3.3 • Memorizing Bible References I've been memorizing whole chapters of the Bible, but it's also very helpful to memorize assorted key verses, such as John 3:16. The sound techniques will work great for memorizing the words, but not for the reference. More cryptic numbers!! But if you have read "How to Improve Your Memory," then you will have learned a great technique for memorizing numbers. All you need to do, then, is to expand the system a little bit so you can keep the chapter number and verse number straight and also memorize the correct book with it. There are many ways to do this, and people have apparently written books about it, but I would encourage you to invent a system on your own... something that works best for you. There is no right or wrong way! Some may work better than others, though. I'll now describe my own method. Feel free to use it, adapt it, or whatever. Currently, my method only covers the New Testament. The most obvious approach is to come up with a picture for each book of the New Testament. Then you can link the book picture with a picture for the chapter and then a picture for the verse. The only disadvantage with this is that you're re-using pictures over and over again, and soon you might be saying to yourself, "was that sword-ham-tissue or sword-hen-tire?" The mnemonic alphabet is nice because you can use different words for the same number (e.g., rake, rock, Rick, rag, rook for 47). You can deliberately choose different words to avoid confusion. So my approach attempts to use this same productivity with the books. I've assigned a different letter of the alphabet for each book. There are only 26 letters in the English alphabet and there are 27 books, so it's a little bit tricky. But I noticed that Philemon, 2 John, 3 John and Jude only have one chapter each. So I created a new book from each of these in which each chapter is one book (Chapter 1 is Philemon, Chapter 2 is 2 John, Chapter 3 is 3 John and Chapter 4 is Jude). In the list below this book is marked with a star (*). I've also included a memory aid for each letter, but you don't have to use the aid I've provided... you can use the aid that works best for you, and you can even re-assign the letters if you find something more comfortable for you. Letter Book A B C D E F Acts Col Eph * Memory Aid (A)cts (C)olossians (E)phesians The (F)unny Book
2 Thess "Beta" character in German represents "SS" 2 Peter "Deux Peter" (deux is 2 in French)
G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Gal Heb Phil John Mark Luke 2 Tim -----
(G)alatians (H)ebrews Phil(I)ppians (J)ohn Mar(K) (L)uke "Hen Timothy" (hen = N = 2 in mnemonic alphabet) (not used) (not used)
1 Peter 1 (P)eter Romans (R)omans 1 Thes 1 The(S)salonians 1 Tim Titus Rev 1 Cor 2 Cor James 1 (T)imothy Tit(U)s Re(V)elation X in Greek is chi (pron. KI), so think "chi-rinthians" Y comes after X James sounds like "jam(Z)"
1 John 1 John sounds like "(W)un jon"
With a single letter for each book, you can now write references in a very compact format. It's not as easy to read, but it's much easier to memorize, as you'll soon see. Just write the letter for the book, then the chapter, then the verse, but always use two digits for the verse. If you want an entire chapter, omit the verse. (So 1-2 digits represents a chapter and 3-4 digits represents a chapter and a verse.) Examples: Traditional John 3:16 1 Cor 10:13 Mark 2:5 Titus 2:1 2 John 6 Jude 25 Acts 4 Compact J316 X1013 K205 U201 F206 F425 A4
Matthew 6:9-13 M609-13 To memorize the compact notation, use the same method as for memorizing numbers except make sure the first letter of the first word you use is the same as the first letter of the compact
notation. In the case of X, you can find a word that begins with "ox" because the letter O is not used. Examples: Reference Memory Pictures J316 X1013 K205 U201 F206 F425 M609-13 A4 air jam + dish oxide + Saddam (Hussein) Ken + soul unseat fan + sash fur + nail match + speedometer (ignore extra consonants)
Now all you have to do is link the pictures with the verse. That's a little tricky because the verse is by sound and the reference is by picture. But you can think of some image in your mind to go with the verse. Also, you ought to decide whether the verse picture should come first and then the reference pictures or the other way around. For most people, you'd want the verse picture first because you want to know where to find a verse when it comes to mind. But if you like to think of the words when you see only the reference, you may want to memorize the verse pictures first. Of course, you can always go backwards in your memory when necessary, but it's more difficult. Anyway, here's some examples: "For God so loved the world..." --> Think of God loving the world by taking the earth in his arms and squeezing it to give it a big hug. Then he takes some red JAM (perhaps representing Christ's blood?) and rubs it on the top of the earth. Then he puts the DISH on top of that and it sticks in place as sort of a hat. Strange way to love the world! But it's only a picture to help you remember the verse. Later on, you can think of JAM-DISH to come up with J316 which means John 3:16! "... but will with the temptation also make a way to escape ..." --> Think of being alone in a room wherein there is nothing except you, a table and a huge dessert (the temptation). God opens the room door so you can escape. You walk out the door, then close it, and you find that it's rusty so you got some iron OXIDE on your hand. Then you walk forward but find that SADDAM Hussein is blocking you in the hallway! Perhaps you can escape by turning around and running down the hallway in the opposite direction. There's a lot of details! How do you know which ones are the key words? Well, usually they're the ones that are the most unusual (the table and hallway are normal, the iron oxide and Saddam Hussein are unusual). I hope this document has been helpful to you. Happy remembering!
1.6 • Numbers in Spanish I received an Email from someone who enjoyed my tips on memorizing numbers but was wondering how he could do it in Spanish, his native language, instead of English. Here is a quotation from the original Email and my response. >I was reading part of the techniques use to memorize the >words and numbers and it sound very interesting. My question >is How is it can be applied to a different language as Spanish? >and if it is possible which words should I use as a Key words.? I assume you're referring to memorizing numbers and using peg words. First, you know that letters are assigned to the digits 0 through 9. But note also that these are by sound, not by spelling. Just survey the sounds, and make sure there is a corresponding sound in Spanish. If there isn't, you may have to change one or more of the entries so the table has all Spanish word sounds. It doesn't matter if you customize the table for your own personal use. After that, it works the same way. Let me think of a Spanish word: Senior. That's pronounced SEEN-YOUR, I think. So in the English version of the table, the numerical value is 024. To make your own peg words: Just think of words that have numerical values of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, etc. There's always more than one possible word. But you choose one and stick with it. As an example, the Spanish word "Aqua" (pronounced AHG-WA, I think), has the numerical value of 7. So that would be a good peg word for 7. "Fuego", I think, would be a good peg word for 87.
1.9 • Playing Cards It takes a bit of work and practice, but you can memorize playing cards. Instead of trying to remember "7 of spades," which is largely numerical; a picture "peg word" is assigned to the card -- and all other cards -- thus making the card easier to remember. For example, if "comb" is the peg word for "7 of spades," and your partner has played that card and you want to remember it, it's a lot easier to remember a gigantic comb tapping your partner on the head than it is to remember "7" and "spades". Also, once you have assigned peg words to all of the playing cards and have practiced a bit, you can play some very interesting memory games and impress your friends! Let's now discuss how we can assign peg words to the 52 playing cards in a standard deck. Before we begin, first you should be familiar with peg words: what they are used for, how peg words are assigned to numbers, etc. If you are not familiar with peg words, please look at the "Peg Words Tutorial" first! If peg words can be assigned to the numbers 0 to 99, then it follows that we can assign peg words to other things, like each card in a standard deck. There are different ways to do this, and you don't need to feel that you have to do it a certain way. One book that I read uses a special, distinct set of 52 new peg words, something like H2 = Hen = 2 of hearts, H3 = Ham = 3 of hearts, H4 = Hair = 4 of hearts, etc. There are advantages to this method, but to make things a bit easier, rather than have you memorize 52 more brand-new peg words, it's possible to use a bunch of the peg words you may have already memorized for 0 to 99. First we choose a digit for each of the four suits: 1 = spade (because a spade has one point) 2 = heart (because a heart has two halves) 3 = club (because a club has three leaves) 4 = diamond (because a diamond has four points) Next, for the cards 2 through 9 of each suit, we can just use that digit for the card and combine it with the digit for the suit. I put the card value first, then the suit, because in English you say something like "three of hearts", with the value first and the suit next. (Some systems put the suit first, then the value, which helps keep all of the cards in one suit together, but the disadvantage is that you have to reverse things in your mind.) For 2 of hearts I use 22, for 3 of hearts I use 32, for four of hearts I use 42, etc. When I get past 9, here's what I use: 10 = 0 Jack = 1 Queen = blank (use the single-digit peg words)
King = use NEW peg words: pad, cart, closet, king Ace = use pictures of the actual suits (spade, heart, club, diamond) To clarify: The numbers 1 to 4 have different peg words than 01 to 04, so I use the single digits for Queen and the "zero" numbers for 10. After that, there aren't any peg words left ending with 1 to 4, so I invented four new peg words for King, and I used the actual words "spade," "heart," "club," and "diamond" for Ace. Originally I used 1 for Ace, but I found it easier to use 1 for Jack because the letter J looks like the number 1 and because the aces have very large pictures of the suit on them. But you can use whatever works best for you! Putting it all together, here is my list of 52 playing card peg words: 2 spades = 21 = net 3 spades = 31 = mat 4 spades = 41 = road 5 spades = 51 = light 6 spades = 61 = sheet 7 spades = 71 = cat 8 spades = 81 = fat 9 spades = 91 = bat 10 spades = 01 = seed J spades = 11 = dot Q spades = _1 = hat K spades = pad A spades = spade 2 hearts = 22 = nun 3 hearts = 32 = moon 4 hearts = 42 = rain 5 hearts = 52 = lion 6 hearts = 62 = chain 7 hearts = 72 = can 8 hearts = 82 = fan 9 hearts = 92 = pen 10 hearts = 02 = sun J hearts = 12 = town Q hearts = _2 = hen K hearts = cart A hearts = heart
2 clubs = 23 = name 3 clubs = 33 = mummy 4 clubs = 43 = room 5 clubs = 53 = lime 6 clubs = 63 = jam 7 clubs = 73 = comb 8 clubs = 83 = foam 9 clubs = 93 = opium 10 clubs = 03 = seam J clubs = 13 = dime Q clubs = _3 = ham K clubs = closet A clubs = club 2 diamonds = 24 = Nero 3 diamonds = 34 = mower 4 diamonds = 44 = aurora 5 diamonds = 54 = lure 6 diamonds = 64 = cherry 7 diamonds = 74 = car 8 diamonds = 84 = fire 9 diamonds = 94 = bear 10 diamonds = 04 = Sarah J diamonds = 14 = tire Q diamonds = _4 = rye K diamonds = king A diamonds = diamond Once you have a picture for each card in the deck, you can use other memory techniques to memorize useful things. If you want to memorize a sequence of cards in order, you can just like pictures together. For example, for 2 diamonds, 7 clubs and Ace spades, you could imagine NERO picking up a COMB, then, instead of using it on his hair, he uses it to clean the dirt off of a SPADE. To remember if a card has been played, visually deform the peg word picture in your mind. For example, you could "burn" it. So if you want to remember that the King of Hearts has been played, picture a cart catching fire and quickly being charred black. You will know if a card has been played or not by checking its peg word to see if it has been burned yet or not! When the
deck is shuffled, you can switch to a different deformity, such as "freezing" so you don't get everything mixed up. After a half dozen variations, you can return to "burn" again.
1.4 • Sports & Short-Term Information In March 1998, someone sent me an Email message asking for suggestions on how to memorize sports statistics -- a difficult challenge because, unlike the other examples given in these web pages, the information is changing rapidly instead of permanent forever (or for a long period of time). Here's a small quote from his message and my response. >Everything is going fine with what I am doing but I am also interested >in sports and can not figure how to use the systems youve disclosed... >...and because this is March (MarchMadness) I >at the same time have to remember 64 basketball teams all of whom are >being eliminated on a nightly basis till there is one...I believe you >can see my confusion... Hmm, that's a very interesting problem! Your situation really is different than the ones given in my memory documents so far because the information you are trying to memorize is constantly changing. And yes, you would get confused if you associated the Giants with 3-13 one week, then 4-13 the next, then 4-15 the next, etc. I know of one good technique for memorizing temporary information. I'm going to use the 64 basketball teams example first because that is easier. Now I'm not sure exactly what you are trying to memorize, but let's just say you want to know which teams are still in the competition and which ones have been eliminated. (If you need to memorize more than simply that, perhaps you can think of a way to adapt/extend the system.) The first step is to associate each of the 64 teams with a peg word (see my "Peg Words" document). This assumes that you don't already know all 64 teams by heart and can instantly recite all 64 to someone without skipping or duplicating one of the teams -- the peg words will allow you to do this by letting you walk through the numbers 1 through 64, then say the team associated with each one. Because the teams probably don't already have numbers, you can strategically assign numbers however you like. Perhaps you can use 1-32 for an "Eastern" division and 33-64 for a "Western" division. Well, obviously I don't know much about basketball, but that's an example. Then when you memorize the 64 teams you'd have the added benefit of knowing which division each team was in. Or you could group them by color, alphabetically, favoritism, etc. Be sure to memorize your list very well. In order for you to achieve a high degree of success in the next step, you should be able to very quickly name the basketball team given a number from 1 to 64 or vice-versa.
The next step is to "burn" each peg word in your mind each time a team is eliminated. For example, suppose your peg word for 16 is tissue, and suppose today team #16 loses. Then, in your mind, picture the tissue burning. Watch the flames quickly consume the box of Kleenex (or whatever is your best picture), and watch it slowly turn black. This imagination is very important -- spend at least half a minute just thinking about it. Try to think of all the details you can: the smell of burnt Kleenex, the black flakes blowing in the wind. Now you have it! To figure out if a team is still in the contest, just think of that team's number. Then decide if that number has been "burned" yet or not. You should find it very easy to remember which peg words have been burned and which ones haven't. To tell someone a complete list of the teams that are still in the contest, start at 1 in your mind and walk your way to 64. Each time you get to a non- burned peg word, say the team for that number. It may take a minute or two to walk through all the teams in your mind, but you can do it! Next year, it is possible that you might get last year's burning confused with this year's. So you can just "drown" each peg word in water instead of burn it. The next year you can freeze, then you can smash them, etc. Eventually you will forget the burnings and you can go back to that again! >for example last Sunday SanFransiscoGiants were 3win13loss in the >CactusLeague(pre-season spring training)..easy enough to remember >(my giant ma being mad)but then Monday they were 4win13loss..besides the >shock of them winning a game I also have to "rememorize"their stats... >hopefully remembering both Perhaps you can use your list of 100 peg words again. Each time a game is lost, have a peg word smashed. When a game is won, have a peg word, which is probably already smashed, eaten by some furry animal. (This scheme assumes the Giants will lose more games than they win!!) For example, let's say the Giants are 3-13. Then peg words 1 through 13 are all smashed, and peg words 1, 2 and 3 are also eaten. Now they win a game, so it's time to eat number 4. My peg word is rye. I remember it already being smashed, so it's as flat as a pancake. The furry animal comes along, scrapes it off the ground with his claw and slowly eats it up. Suppose they lose their next game -- time to smash 14. My peg word is tire. A 2,000 lb. weight crashes to the ground on top of a tire. A tire is pretty tough, so it actually doesn't work this time. So we repeat this weight-smashing three times, and finally the tire flattens into some kind of a useless blob. To recall the team's record, you don't have to start at 1 and go through the whole list. Just start at the last thing you remember was eaten or burned. Perhaps you remember for sure that you
smashed a small town (12). You can start there. Was a dime (13) smashed? Yes, you remember putting it on a train track and having a train run over it. Was a tire (14) smashed? Yes, it was tough, but we managed to do it. Was a doll (15) smashed? No, it's still intact. So the Giants are something-and-14. Now just scan the eaten items to find their number of wins. The reason this system works so well is because we aren't constantly changing what we memorize... we're adding new things. The tire was already there, but then we smashed it. We don't have to un-smash it later... it's smashed permanently. When the Giants lose again, we will smash something new. So even though the Giants' record constantly changes, their record is cleverly translated into a different system in which only new things (or aspects) are added.
2.4 • Multiplcation Table Memorizing the multiplcation table is a special case. The other memory techniques on this web site give ways to memorizing things using pictures or other neat tricks. For example, you could, potentially, memorize multiplication using peg words. For 9 x 8 = 72, you could use the peg word bee for 9, ivy for 8, and can for 72, then think of a little story: a bee lands on the ivy, but the ivy must be poisonous because within moments it falls dead into a tin can placed at the bottom of the ivy (along with other insects). Now, is this story easy to remember? Yes! Can you think of 72 if you think of the bee and the ivy, assuming you previously memorized the fact that can is 72? Yes! There's just one problem here. It's not fast enough. If we're trying to recall the capital of Pakistan, and we use pictures in our mind, that's no problem, especially since we recall the capital of Pakistan very infrequently. But if you were trying to multiply some numbers on a math test, it would take forever! So in this special case we forget peg words or other pictures and just memorize by brute force... by saying "6 x 9 = 54" over and over again to yourself. This is not easy! It will take a lot longer than the other methods given in these web pages. But in this case we have no choice. Fortunately, only a few things have to be memorized this way... and, once you have it memorized, you have it for life! The bottom line: Consider each memory problem on a case-by-case basis, and decide what the best method is. Consider things like: How often does this information need to be recalled? How quickly must it be recalled? How much time to I have to memorize it? Is it vital that I memorize the information perfectly, or is it okay if I miss an item or two? I can't give you a magic table that will lay out what method should be used for what situation... it would vary depending on the person, anyway! But if you learn a bunch of different techniques on this web site, and if you practice a lot, then you'll get better and better!
2.5 • Periodic Table In March 1998, someone sent me an Email message asking for suggestions on how to memorize the periodic table of the elements -- a difficult challenge because it is full of complicated numbers and symbols. Here's a small quote from his message and my response. Lastly, I would like to ask you how to tackle the follow mnemonic challenge. How could I easily memorize periodic table data, such as the element's number (i.e. 26 for iron), mass (55.84), valence (2 or 3), electronegativity (1.83), and position (row 4, column 8) without confusing each item? When memorizing things, you form an association between two elements. For example, you might link Calcium with 20. Peg words are useful when you want to recall something from the number alone. But if you are always going from the non-number to the number and never the reverse (e.g., always remembering a person's phone number given their name but never looking at a phone number on a piece of paper and trying to figure out whose it is), then you don't have to use peg words. You can use the mnemonic alphabet to create a plethora of other words which have the same numerical value. For example, rock is my peg word for 47, but the words rake, Rook, work, York, hark and Rick also have the same numerical value. This way there are many other pictures you can use in your mind for the same number to avoid confusion with other numbers. For the periodic table, it seems obvious that the periodic number and the element name should be a two-way thing, so you can use peg words for those. But for the other information, the valence, mass and electronegativity, you can use any words you want. As for the position in the table, I would strongly suggest you do not memorize row and column number for every element... that's too many extra numbers to memorize. Instead, have a way to reconstruct an element's position after a little thought. For example, the first row has 2 elements, the second and third have 8, the fourth and fifth have 18 and the last two have 32. The place at which the table divides is after 1 element in the first row, after 2 elements in next two rows and after 3 elements in the last two rows (rows 4 and 5 don't divide). The metals/nonmetals division is a predictable zig-zag (except for #85). If you memorize all these rules, you can easily reconstruct the entire table. Of course, it may take quite a while to do it in your head, and you might even have to sketch something quick on paper, but you can do it all from memory.
To expedite things, you can memorize a few additional bits of information. For example, you can memorize which elements are inert gasses: 2, 10, 18, 36, 54, 86, 118. This will tell you what row an element is in. For example, Zinc is 30, so it must be in row four because 36 is the fourth element in the inert gasses list. Additionally, it must be 6 elements to the left of Krypton (36-30 = 6). So doing this allowed me to figure out where Zinc was more quickly than reconstructing the entire table. But it was also less painful than memorizing row, column pairs for every element in the table. You should try to eliminate redundant information wherever possible because the more numbers you have to memorize, the longer it will take and the more likely there will be confusion with other numbers memorized. Not that it can't be done: if you really wanted to recall the position of any element as quickly as possible, you could do the pairs, but it would take a lot more work.
1.2 • Organization of Material To memorize a large amount of information for the long-term, you have to be careful to organize the material that you want to memorize so that it is "coded" in your brain efficiently. Have you ever memorized a long list of items, and you were able to recall the items several hours later, but a few days later suddenly you forgot them all? This might be because the list wasn't coded very effectively. In this document, we'll explore the issue further, and I'll give you some suggestions. Harry Witchel of the Medical School at Bristol (U.K.) wrote me about his experiences with memory (28 Nov 96): >Dear Kevin ->I am quite interested in memory systems as well. As an someone in >academia, it is very important for me to remember a lot of facts (as well >as references). I work in the field of Physiology of the heart, and so I >have had to memorize a lot of technical information which is often >extremely abstract. Typically I translate abstractions into reusable >symbols, eg > K+ is a green banana (as per your example ) > Na+ is a blue salt shaker > Ca2+ is a yellow bone > Cl- is a red swimming pool > ATP is a native American teepee > etc. >and I use these symbols on a variety of mind maps. However, I find that >when I get new information, although it is possible to put the info into >a "rough" mind map which is neither colored nor pretty or even well >organized, a good mind map (which I can refer to indefinitely) pretty >much takes two or three attempts. Thus the transition from lecture to >usable notes is time-consuming and slow. Also, I find that although I >can usually remember the strucutre of mind maps, the words resident on >each line have a habit of being forgettable (unless a picture is >associated to each and every line). I have discovered the same thing. In trying to analyze the situation, here is a thought to consider: while we often complain about forgetting things, our brain actually does a really good job of filtering information. Imagine what it would be like if we remembered every exact detail of everything that happened to us during the day: including the exact time of day you brushed
your teeth, where you squeezed the toothpaste, where you placed the brush first, how many times you brushed, how long the brush was under the faucet to rinse, etc. We would explode from having too much information! But instead, we remember only the things that are important and the things we deliberately give our attention to. And the more attention we give, the more likely we are to remember. The "rough" mind map works well for short-term things: for example, if I have an appointment today in room 114, I might think of a "tire" in my mind (my word for "14" ) and I'll remember it that day. Tomorrow I'll forget about it easily, and it doesn't matter. But for remembering things for the long-term, it pays to slowly and carefully work out an efficient way to encode the information right from the very start. How do you do it? Practice. Over time I've tried to memorize lots of things. Some I've remembered quite easily; others I have totally forgotten because I wasn't careful enough. Now that I've had lots of practice, I can sense in advance which pictures are going to be harder to remember than others, and I deliberately spend more time on them and "walk though" them carefully in my mind. Also, I need to review often. If I'm memorizing a list of a dozen items, for example, I go back and review from the beginning after every four items or so. Then after half an hour I review again. Then later in the day I review again. Then the next day I review again. The review periods become less and less frequent, and the list becomes more and more permanent in my mind. It really isn't a big of a chore as it sounds; if I'm careful when memorizing the first time, and I'm careful not to forget to review frequently, then I don't even need to consult notes or cheat-sheets during any of the reviews, and I can do it while walking to class, or waiting in the cafeteria line, or wherever, and it's a fun way to pass the time. The biggest thrill I get is when I think I've forgotten something but suddenly I remember a bit of a picture and an item miraculously comes back to me! Apparently Harry has figured out a good way to encode information that works well for him: > So, in conjunction with mind mapping I use an index card testing >system, with questions on one side and the answers on the other. Using >real index cards would be a bore (for me), cluttered, and wasteful of >paper, but I have purchased a computer driven flashcard program. My >program is wonderful (although each question category uses 50K whcih >seems a bit wasteful for text which should take up less than 1K). >Anyway, this combination of mind mapping (with symbols) and flashcards >seems to work well together for me.
I think using flashcards is a great idea. Having them on the computer enhances the memory experience and makes it more fun. Recently I've been putting more effort into putting on paper what I want to memorize in an attractive format, even using my colored markers. Often when recalling things later I can still "see" what the paper looks like. Also, if I ever forget an item, I can just go back to the paper (which is filed away somewhere) for a quick review. As an example, I decided to memorize the 12 gemstone foundations from Revelation Chapter 21. I wrote them down in two columns, with 6 items in each column. I decided to memorize them by number, so I numbered each item. Also, since I don't know that much about gemstones, I thought it was time that I learn, so I also dug up a couple of dictionaries and figured out what color(s) each stone was supposed to be. After I put it all down, it took me only about 10 minutes to memorize them all (including numbers and colors). It probably took almost half an hour to write it down in the first place and look up all of the colors. So here is the key: A lot of effort was put in advance into organizing the material to be memorized. After all of this advance effort, the actual memorization process was easy. I'm very pleased, too: memorizing always seems to be a trial-and-error process, and often hit-ormiss. But organizing the material in advance is a very deterministic, predictable process which I can do very well. I've concentrated my efforts into the predictable part to make things a lot easier in the unpredictable part.
1.5 • Recycling Peg Words This document addresses an issue that arises after memorizing and using peg words for a while: What happens if you start using the same peg words to memorize lots of different things... can you use the same words over and over, or do you get confused? Here is an Email message from a Memory Page reader and my response. One more question; then I'll quit bugging you. Did you use the same pegs to remember: countries/capitals area codes the 10 Egyptian plagues from Exodus the 7 churches in Revelation 2 & 3 the 12 stone foundations from Revelation 21, If so, how do you keep them straight? That is five things per peg. pictures associate with it. Yes, all use the same pegs. For the plagues, I actually used 91-99 (tenth plague not memorized because I already know it), but 91-99 is also shared with area codes and countries. So far, I haven't had much of a problem distinguishing between them. I think part of it is because I already have an idea of what the picture will be. The foundations one is easy because there is a colored stone in each picture, so when, for example, I want the 8th foundation, I think of a picture that has ivy and gemstone(s) together. I have multiple ivy pictures, but only one with gemstones. For countries vs. area codes, I'm really not sure how I do it. For 53 (lime), I have two pictures:
So each peg would have five different
A lime is being squeezed in the air, and the juice is falling into the river Thames (United Kingdom/London). As this happens, a wizard with a magic wand (Rwanda) is observing, but someone gives him a malicious kick and he ends up in a gully (Ki-gali).
A cinnamon stick (Cincinnati=513) is jammed into the lime, which is then placed into an ore cart (Oregon=503) completely filled with other limes. Oregon recently got a new area code, so I've mentally enhanced the picture by picturing the same ore cart, but the left side is filled with limes and the right side is empty. Since it is the port side that is filled, then I know I'm dealing with the Portland, Oregon region (as opposed to Eugene=541, but that's in the 54 picture).
Somehow I just "know" that the first is the country lime picture and the second is the area codes lime picture. Once I get the right one, then following the remaining links is even easier. I think practice is how it really works. The ultimate goal is to learn the countries/capitals or area codes, not the pictures. Eventually I start recalling information by diving right into the middle of a link or even without any pictures at all. That, I think, is the kind of memory that everyone hopes for.
2.5 • An Advanced Example Well, practice the peg word system and try memorizing some things. You'll be amazed! For a more advanced example, here's a slightly longer explanation of the list of countries and capitals that I mentioned in the last section that I had memorized. My list looks like this: 1. Canada, Ottawa 2. USA, Washington 3. Mexico, Mexico City 4. Belize, Belmopan 5. Guatemala, Guatemala 6. El Salvador, San Salvador 7. Honduras, Tegucigalpa 222. Cook Islands, Avarua 223. French Polynesia, Papeete 224. Pitcairn Island, Adamstown So I've memorized 224 countries and capitals, and by number, too! Of course, the numbers I assigned myself, but they are still useful because 1) when going through the list to practice recalling countries and capitals, I'm sure not to skip any, and 2) I assigned numbers so that two countries that are next to each other in the list are also usually touching each other on a map (this gives me an approximate geography). For 100-109, I used 00 to 09. For 110-125, I invented my own peg words with bizarre associations. For example, 110 reminds me of Michigan's 110th state representative district and a prominent politician which sounds similar to the word "trash", so 110 is trash. It was an experiment and it took a long time to memorize those peg words, but I have them now. For 126-199, I appended my entries for 26-99 with additional information, like this: 26. Grenada, St. George's + Nigeria, Lagos 27. Barbados, Bridgetown + Cameroon, Yaounde 28. St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Kingstown + Equatorial Guinea, Malabo 29. St. Lucia, Castries + Sao Tome & Principe, Sao Tome For 200-209, I appended to 00-09, and for 210-224, I appended to 110-124. Of course, there are probably many other ways to do this... if you're interested in memorizing countries and capitals, try to think of the way that works best for you! Have fun!
2.4 • Avoiding Confusion One thing to be careful about when using peg words is this: Because you're using the same words when memorizing different things, there is the potential for confusion. For example, if you memorize a list of countries and capitals on peg words as in the last example, then you memorize the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution on the same pegs, you might, given a peg, want to recall a country and get an Amendment instead. Oops! How can you avoid this? It actually depends... some people may be able to have several things on the same peg with no difficulty, while others may get confused very quickly. This is where practice comes in... by practicing memorizing things, you learn what works and what doesn't. But to save you some trouble and to help you benefit from my own experiences, here are some suggestions: Short-term lists If you are memorizing lists for short-term memory, such as shopping lists, then you don't have to do anything special. By the time you memorize your next list, you don't care if you've forgotten the first one. Medium-term lists If you are memorizing lists for medium-term memory, such as a list of things to do for the week, or an upcoming football schedule, try using different sets of pegs. No, you don't have to memorize several hundred new peg words... most of the time, you only need about 10 anyway. So you can use the normal 1-10 on the first thing you're memorizing, then you can use 11-20 on the next thing. You will, of course, have no problem realizing that 11 really means 1, 12 really means 2, etc. (This is why it is handy to have 100 peg words instead of 10!) Long-term lists Memorizing lists permanently requires the most planning. As an example, I've memorized both countries/capitals and area codes using the same peg words. But this was done several months apart, so it turns out that my brain can actually keep the two things separate. Also, since there are over 200 countries but only 110 peg words, I had to re-use peg words again. But instead of linking a new country to a peg words, I linked it to another country. This makes recall slower, because I have to think of the intermediate country to get to the desired country, but it is encoded more efficiently and reduces confusion. In the next section, I'll give a little bit more detail on this. But one last comment: If I am recalling countries constantly, eventually I'll think of the country and capital without having to remember the peg word or mental pictures. When this happens (and it already is beginning to)... great! Not only does this increase the speed of recall,
but it allows you to "recycle" the peg words and other pictures into something new that you need to memorize. Long-term, super-fast lists This is somewhat off the subject, but I mention this because someone sent me Email asking for advice with memorizing the multiplication table. This is actually a little different than the case above because not only is a list (of multiplication equations) memorized permanently, it is essential that the items are recalled very fast. Normally we only care if we remember the items at all... we don't care if it takes a few seconds. But it would take forever to do math if we couldn't recall equations like "6 x 9 = 54" very quickly. So in this special case we forget peg words and just memorize by brute force... by saying "6 x 9 = 54" over and over again to yourself. This is not easy! It will take a lot longer than the other methods given in these web pages. But in this case we have no choice. Fortunately, only a few things have to be memorized this way... and, fortunately for you, you now have some memory techniques that will help you avoid memorizing everything the slow, difficult way! One last suggestion Do not use the peg word system when not necessary. For example, if I want to memorize a phone number, always will want to recall the number given a person's name, but never the other way around. In this case, there is no need to use specific peg words. The number 372-6624 can be converted to "ma coin Josh Nero" or "Macon ash China row" or a number of other things... you are free to choose words/pictures you haven't used before. If you have a short list, you could use the link system rather than pegs. The peg words would be saved for more complicated things, like long lists or lists in which the number is an important piece of information. Basically, you use whatever memory technique works the best for what you are trying to memorize (this is why it is helpful to learn a bunch of different techniques).
2.1 • Introduction Peg Words A Tutorial by Kevin Jay North, 2 December 1996 (Revised 20 Jan 97, 20 Jun 98) Peg words are useful for remembering a name given only a number or for memorizing numbered lists of items. In the "How to Improve Your Memory" tutorial, you learned how to memorize numbers by converting them to words which can be pictured and remembered easily. This works well when you want to recall a number given something else: For example, given my friend Jim, I might want to recall his phone number. But using the usual method you can't very easily recall something given only the number. For phone numbers, this isn't a problem, because rarely do we see a phone number on a piece of paper and we want to recall whose it is. But for other things, it might be very useful: area codes, football jersey numbers, etc. This is where the peg word system comes in useful. It allows you to recall both a number given a name and a name given a number. The secret is this: Instead of coming up with an arbitrary word for a number, you use a specific word every time. When you want to remember something given only the number, you recall the specific peg word for the number, then proceed to remember what name was associated with the peg word. The system is probably most useful for memorizing long, numbered lists. Lists, by the way, can be memorized by "linking" words together in a long chain, like this: Canada -> USA -> Mexico -> Belize -> Guatemala -> El Salvador For short lists, this is actually the most desirable method. Simply form an animated picture in your mind linking the objects, and you've memorized the list very easily! For example, you might think of a can (Canada) on the sidewalk. Uncle Sam (USA) walks along and practically trips on the can. He goes to a Texaco (Mexico) gas station to call for a doctor. While he's waiting, he feels the cool evening breeze (Belize). Etc.! What if, though, you had a longer list? In order to remember the 15th item, you need to recall the first fourteen, which can take a while. Also, if you forget a word in the middle, the chain is broken and you've lost the rest! Wouldn't it be nice if you could memorize the list like this instead:
1. Canada 2. USA 3. Mexico 4. Belize 5. Guatemala 6. El Salvador Now if you want to remember the fifth item, you just need to recall your peg word for the number 5, then remember the country that you associated with that word. In this country list example, the numbers aren't too important, but there may be instances where the number is very important. For example, we might be memorizing the presidents of the United States, the amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the elements in the periodic table or the 50 states in order of population. In these cases, the peg word system becomes even more valuable.
2.3 • Using Peg Words to Memorize a List Once you have taken the time to memorize your peg words, using the system is easy. As a simple example, we'll use the rhyming peg words and the country list example: 1 (bun) 2 (shoe) 3 (tree) 4 (door) 5 (hive) Canada USA Mexico Belize Guatemala
6 (sticks) El Salvador Note: This is an example only. You don't have to use the mental pictures that I suggest here; you should use those that work the best for you. You can also use your own peg words. 1. When I think of Canada, I think of a maple leaf, because that's what is on their flag. So I'll associate a maple leaf with a bun. I can imagine making a hot dog, but instead of a wiener, I put maple leaves in the bun. Now I eat it. Ugh! It's tough! And it doesn't taste very good! That should be a memorable picture. 2. The good ol' USA reminds me of Uncle Sam. So I might picture old Uncle Sam in some very new tennis shoes. There is a curious look on his face as he looks at his new shoes. 3. I think of a Mexican climbing a tree and getting stuck in it. Since this picture isn't as vivid as the others, I'll try to study it for a longer time in my mind and try to add details... such as carefully considering the exact skin color of the Mexican, what clothes he is wearing, what is his (or her) age, what type of tree he's in, etc. 4. Belize sounds like "breeze." I think of a strong breeze causing a door to slam shut! (This picture worked out nicely!) 5. Guatemala sounds somewhat like "go to mall". I might think of a bee leaving a bee hive and traveling some distance to arrive at a huge bee hive which could be a shopping mall for bees! 6. El Salvador ends in "vador" which reminds me of Darth Vader. I might think of Darth Vader using a stick instead of a light saber! With these vivid pictures, recall should be easy. Given any country, I can recall the number or vice-versa. Examples: I'm given the country Belize. I think of the breeze. What about it? Aha... it's a strong breeze, and it causes a door to slam shut. "Four is a door", so I know the correct number is four.
I'm given the number 6. "Six is sticks," so I need to think of what I associated with sticks. I recall the humorous image of Darth Vader using a stick instead of a light saber. "Vader" ... what country has to do with "vader"? Aha... it must be "El Sal-vador".
2.2 • Pre-Memorizing Peg Words Okay, you are now ready to use the peg word system except for one "little" problem... you don't have any peg words yet!! So your first task is to memorize a list of peg words. There are two ways to do this. Take a look at both methods first, then decide which one you want to use (or you could even use both). The first way is so simple that a young child can take advantage of the system: we just take the numbers 0 to 10 and we associate a rhyming word with each of them, like this: 0. Hero 1. Bun 2. Shoe 3. Tree 4. Door 5. Hive 6. Sticks 7. Heaven 8. Crate 9. Vine 10. Hen Of course, after the number 12, there aren't any easy rhymes. But there are still ways to extend the system. For example, you can "recycle" the words by imagining distorted versions of them. For 11-19, we can just use the words for 1-9, but imagine each word as burnt: so 10 would be a superhero wearing charred black clothes, so 11 would be an overly toasted bun, 12 would be a melted shoe, 13 would be a burnt tree, etc. For 20-29, we could imagine each word 0-9 as tiny. For 30-39, we could imagine each word as frozen in ice. Etc. The more powerful method is to memorize words for all the numbers from 0 to 99 (and even 00 to 09) using the number alphabet as given in "How to Improve Your Memory". This helps you form an association without having to memorize a tedious arbitrary association with a number like rhyming also does. (Also, if you think of the peg word, you are guaranteed to get the correct number by extracting the consonants and converting them to digits.) The much larger list is more powerful because you avoid recycling, therefore your brain is less likely to get confused. However, it does take quite a bit of time to memorize. But once you memorize the peg words, you have them for life and you never need to memorize them again! Below are the peg words I chose for my 110 numbers. You don't have to use the same ones; for example, 13 could also be "Tom" (Sawyer, perhaps?), 47 could also be "rake" and 89 could also be "fob." Use whatever word is the most comfortable/memorable to you. But once you make a choice, don't ever change it!
0. Sea 1. Hat 2. Hen 3. Ham 4. Rye
10. Toes 11. Dot 12. Town 13. Dime 14. Tire
20. Nose 30. Mouse 40. Rose 21. Net 22. Nun 31. Mat 41. Road 32. Moon 42. Rain
23. Name 33. Mummy 43. Room 24. Nero 34. Mower 44. Aurora
5. Hill 15. Doll 7. Cow 8. Ivy 9. Bee
25. Nail 35. Mule 45. Roll 27. Neck 37. Mug 29. Knob 39. Map 80. Fez 81. Fat 82. Fan 47. Rock 49. Rope 90. Bus 92. Pen 00. Susie 02. Sun
6. Shoe 16. Tissue 26. Notch 36. Match 46. Rash 17. Duck 19. Tape 18. Taffy 28. Knife 38. Movie 48. Roof
50. Lace 60. Cheese 70. Gas 51. Light 61. Sheet 71. Cat 52. Lion 62. Chain 72. Can 53. Lime 63. Jam 54. Lure 64. Cherry 74. Car
73. Comb 83. Foam 93. Opium 03. Seam 84. Fire 94. Bear 04. Sarah
55. Lily 65. Jello 75. Coal 85. File 95. Bell 05. Seal 56. Leech 66. Judge 76. Cage 86. Fish 96. Beach 06. Sash 57. Log 59. Lip 67. Chalk 77. Coke 87. Fog 69. Ship 79. Cape 89. Fib 97. Book 07. Sack 99. Pipe 09. Sap 58. Lava 68. Chef 78. Cave 88. Fife 98. Puff 08. Sofa
At this point you can decide what system you want to use. If you want to try the more advanced system, you don't have to memorize all 110 right away; you can work on 0-9 to start out with. You could also choose the easy rhyming system but expand it later using the advanced system. You'd have a hybrid system because the peg words for 0-10 are associated differently from those 11-99 and 00-09, but you shouldn't have a problem knowing the difference... just make sure no peg word is used for two different numbers.
3.1 • Reading Retention I'm not an expert on reading retention, but because this topic relates to memory, I thought I'd give some suggestions based on my own personal experience:
Take notes while you are reading. It may seem odd, but just as you learn more from a lecture when you write down what is being said, you can similarly write down the most important points from what you may be reading. This forces you to think about the material a lot more, thus increasing the likleyhood of your remembering it. Additionally, you can always go back over your notes for a quick review, and you will probably remember other details that you didn't write down as well.
After reading a chapter, stop and take a minute or so to summarize to yourself what you just read. If you can't remember the main points, you can go back and skim the material again to refresh your memory. (Some people may think that it's wrong to go back over material you've already read ... but that is just intimidating peer pressure, in my opinion. If it works for you to go back and look at what you've read, good for you!)
Force yourself to apply what you have read. If you have just read how to build a paper airplane... then build one! In the process of doing, you will remember far more. If you have just read about how to do a new type of integral (calculus), work on some practice problems. If you have just read about a famous American Civil War battle, look at a map to find the place(s) where the battle took place.
Overlearn. In other words, read more than you are required to or desire to. Read material that is more advanced than the other material. In the process of trying to understand the new material, you will understand the older material better. Later on you may forget the new material, but the older material will stay because you applied it.