How To Create a Memory Palace To Remember Information
The Method of Loci, or memory palace, is one of the oldest mnemonic devices that helps you to memorize anything from your grocery list to information needed for presentations or exams. In our previous article, What is the Method of Loci, we explained that “loci” is the plural form of the word locus, meaning location. The memory palace technique works by linking something you need to remember to a location or place that is familiar to you. To understand how to create a memory palace, let’s take an example using one of our favorite topics, literature!
Say you need to remember the exact order of when eight authors published their debut novels. The Method of Loci is ideal in this situation. In our example, the list of authors and their order of publication are:
- Ernest Hemingway, 1926
- Ayn Rand, 1936
- Roald Dahl, 1943
- J.D. Salinger, 1951
- Margaret Atwood, 1969
- Paulo Coelho, 1982
- Nicholas Sparks, 1996
- Khaled Hosseini, 2003
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to use the Method of Loci for this hypothetical exam.
Create a path in a familiar place
To create a memory palace, you must first visualize a setting you are familiar with, like your home. For this example, we’ll start at the front door. When you walk in, the first room is your living room. The next room is your dining room, where you open another door and enter your TV den. From the kitchen, you continue walking to the TV den. Down the hall and to the right is a guest bath. Across the hallway is the master bedroom, and the very last room in the hallway is the office.
A few notes when creating a memory palace; The memory palace works better if this is a route that you use regularly. Each location within the course you create must stand out, or else it can be easy to confuse one with the other. For example, visualizing two different bedrooms can make it tougher to distinguish one from the other. The route must also be something that you follow in order every time. If you go from the bedroom to the office every day, make sure you keep it that way for your memory palace. Now that we have our memory palace set up, we can continue to the next step.
Assign each author to its location
We have the list of authors in order, and we have the path of our memory palace. Now we’ll need to put the two together. Hemmingway is our first author, and he will be the door. Rand is next as the living room, Dahl as the dining room, and so on. The more you practice walking through your memory palace, the better you will be able to recall what you need to remember. You can even use a memory palace with something as simple as putting together a grocery list. After a while, it will come naturally for you to go back to this memory palace when you need to remember the order of something.
Create a substitute image for each location
For the memory palace to work correctly, you’ll need to create a substitute image for each location along your path. The more creative these images are, the better you’ll be able to remember them. Going back to our list of authors, we know that Hemmingway is the first published author of that list. The first location of the memory palace is the front door of your house. Think of something unusual that will always make you think of Hemmingway when walking through the door of your memory palace. Hemmingway was an interesting man and a Nobel prize-winning author. As he is the first person that we need to remember, we could make the handle of the door a large version of his medal. You could also make the door one of his books. The door could be the cover art for The Old Man and the Sea, but you must be careful. That could be too plain and not memorable enough. Another fact about Hemmingway is that he played the cello as a child. Maybe the door is a cello instead!
When you get to a stop that is tough to imagine associating an author to, you need to be extra creative. Again, merely having that author standing in the room isn’t memorable enough. In our example situation of listing famous authors in order, the kitchen is representative of Salinger. Salinger is known for his book Catcher and the Rye, a story about a grumpy teenager. Salinger served in the US Army during WWII and wrote several chapters from Catcher in the Rye while stationed overseas. If you choose to, picture Salinger as a soldier in full uniform wearing an apron with flowers while doing the dishes. For an extra touch, make him frowning while doing the chore no teenager wants to do.
Let’s fast forward to our second to last author. Romance novelist, Nickolas Sparks, author of the NYT bestselling novel The Notebook is representative of the master bedroom. Imagine rose petals on the floor as you enter the bedroom. On the bureau, there could be lots of wedding photos, but bizarre wedding photos, like of you with your favorite celebrity! A wedding gown is hanging on a hook behind the door, and a box of chocolates in a heart shape box is sitting open on the bedside table. Anything romantic is in that room!
We work with professionals and students, all looking to increase their memory. In one instance, we worked with a law student who was about to take the bar exam. She contacted us after she passed and explained how thrilled she was that the Method of Loci helped her with her studies. She took it to a whole other level by associating what she needed to remember in more detail. Her memory palace began when she walked into her apartment. Next, she went to her fridge, where she took out a gallon of milk. She associated memories with the door of the fridge, the color of the milk cap, the milk label, what vegetables were in the produce drawers. It was fascinating to hear how well it worked for her, and it can work for you too.
Contact us today and learn all about our online and in-person classes that use techniques like the Method of Loci and more to help strengthen your memory.