OUR SPECIAL: How to develop your mnemonic skills like an expert! | In Good Shape - The Health Show | DW | 24.05.2012
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In Good Shape

OUR SPECIAL: How to develop your mnemonic skills like an expert!

A number of different techniques and tricks to aid memory are used by professionals and presented in books and coaching seminars. They are all based more or less on the same general principle:.

Use all your senses!

The idea is to link the different senses and abilities of our brain. That is why most methods for improving memory use pictorial comparisons and associations. Mastering these techniques not only makes memorization easy, but enjoyable.

The Method of Loci

The great rhetoricians of ancient Rome used the so-called method of loci, and it has remained the most commonly used mnemonic technique to this day. Also known as the ‘mental walk’, the method of loci creates a spatial map of the information we want to learn by heart. Each item to be memorized is associated with a vivid image assigned to a particular place. This can be located in one’s own home, along the route to work or the daily jogging stretch – or on one’s own body from top to toe. The images associated with the items are deposited in particular places, and recollected by retracing the route. For example, a shopping list. Say you want to buy bread, chocolate, tomatoes, batteries and a comb. Your way to work takes you past a playground, a newspaper kiosk, a bus stop, a church and a school. So you imagine the children at the playground riding on a loaf of bread, the kiosk covered by a giant chocolate bar, the bus with tomatoes as wheels, the church tower turned into a giant battery, and the windows in the school decorated with combs.

Remembering numbers – a simple method

Whether it’s a matter of remembering PIN codes, telephone numbers or long sequences of digits – most techniques for recalling numbers are based on similar principles – involving storing images and stories that stand for the numbers. In one method the digits 0-9 are assigned to certain consonants. 0 = z (for zero) or s; 2 = n because of the two legs the n has; 3 = m for a similar reason. 4 = r (because r is the last letter of the word four) and so on. These consonants can be used to make words. For example ‘rice’ would be a word for 40.

Other methods, by contrast, use more imaginative visual equivalents for the numbers: for example, a tricycle for 3; a hand with five fingers for 5, etc. In order to memorize a number one thinks up an interesting story involving these images. The method of loci can also be used for memorizing numbers. In one example, the numbers are associated with places in one’s own apartment, say 1= armchair, 2= flower pot, 3= television, etc. With this code, it’s easy to learn a number combination – and the method is quite safe as no one else will know the associated loci.