The Art Of Memorization

Imagine a delicate chinaware plate with a big crack running down the middle of it.

  • Now imagine a tiny fountain pen sticking straight up out of that crack.
  • Next imagine a full-grown Jersey cow balancing on top of this pen.
  • Then on top of this cow is George Washington.
  • Washington has a big cut on his forehead, so he put a bandage there to heal it.

Now, repeat the order back to yourself.  This is something my dad taught me years ago, and to this day I’ve never forgotten it.

It may appear nonsensical, but after inspecting what’s italicized it doesn’t take long to figure out that this chaos is really just a device for remembering

the first five of the original 13 colonies of America in the order they joined the Union (chinaware for Delaware, pen for Pennsylvania, etc.) (and in fact it continues on to cover all 13 of them).

College is riddled with tests.

You learn new material, and then they test you on it.  Plainly put there’s just no escaping them. So why make your life any more difficult than it needs to be?  Using the right study techniques can drastically reduce the amount of time required to study and get you a better grade in the process.  Sounds good right?

The following are a couple solid techniques that I use when I have to memorize a long list of things, and especially if I have to remember them in a specific order.

1.  Chaining

Chaining is the use of placing absurd objects together, much as the above example with the 13 colonies.  By focusing on images that represent something and intertwining them, you can remember long lists of things and the order in which they come in.

This method works due to the images you create in your mind;

they are so out of the ordinary that your brain can’t help but remember them. I heard the colonies pattern once and have remembered it ever since.  Two things to keep in mind however:  you need to make sure you know what each object represents (like George Washington representing Georgia) and you need to take a second and really imagine each picture in your mind.

Sit there and seriously think about the image for a few seconds.  In order to increase the chances that you’ll remember the objects in fewer attempts, more elaborate images should be used.

For example, instead of trying to picture a normal caterpillar, picture a bright red caterpillar with a scrunched up face panting from all the effort it takes to loft its fat body up the stem of a vertical blade of grass.  The second is much more memorable and will help you remember the image better when attempting to memorize dozens of other images at the same time.

2.  Method of Loci

The Method of Loci is similar to chaining in that the process uses images as well (the brain just so happens to latch onto pictures way better than text).

The first step is to find a familiar path for yourself, some sort of daily routine that you can picture very vividly in your mind’s eye.  Let’s say, for example, I pick waking up in the morning for school.

  • The first thing I see when I wake up is a Scott Pilgrim poster,
  • then I look at my alarm clock to turn it off,
  • followed by approaching my dresser to put on fresh clothes for the day.

You get the idea.

This chain of visuals can be extended as long as you want, so long as what you are picturing is familiar to you.

Once I have this routine set then I pick something I want to memorize.  Let’s pretend I’m trying to memorize a grocery list:  Bananas, Eggs, and Cheese.  I’m going to mix each of these items into my morning routine.

All right so I wake up and see my poster of Scott Pilgrim playing the guitar.  I’ll imagine seeing this poster, but now instead of him playing the guitar, Scott will be playing an oversized banana, and just to make the whole image a little more outrageous he’ll be wearing tiny banana earrings because he’s that cool.

Next, my alarm clock.  Let’s pretend the clock itself IS an egg with the LCD display and everything, and in order to turn off the alarm I have to smash the egg, getting all that goop on my hand.

Finally I’ll picture that my dresser is a large cut of cheese, Swiss cheese to be exact. Each of the drawers where I keep my clothes are actually just the holes in the cheese, and I have to reach into these holes to get my clothing each day, feeling around on that spongy texture.

As in chaining, it is important to make the images pretty weird,

As in chaining, it is important to make the images pretty weird, as this will help you remember the items more quickly and accurately.  Additionally, this method is very effective for remembering specific orders of things since you’ll go through your routine in the same order each time you think about it.

Related: Why Employeers Are Unsatisfied With College Grads

Related: Use Your Snooze Alarm to Stay On Task in the Morning

Both of these techniques are invaluable tools that I use quite often when faced with a quiz or a test, especially if I’m having a tough time remembering the information another way. I think they do an excellent job, and, once you get the hang of it, are pretty reliable measures in order to memorize things accurately.

By Alexander Ogloza via Uloop

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