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Published on August 29, 2017

The Power of Memory Palace: How a Superb Memory Is Built

The Power of Memory Palace: How a Superb Memory Is Built

Since we are going to discuss a completely crazy technique, let’s first get our brain in the right frame of mind. What would you say if I posed the following question: Whenever Pavlov rang a bell, did he have an urge to feed a dog?

Now remain in this state of mind as we learn a crazy and amazing technique that works immediately.

Memory Palace — The Power of Remembering Without Memorizing

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    So, what is this crazy thing called Method of Loci, otherwise known as a Memory Palace? It is a method of memory enhancement using visualization and spatial memory. It anchors familiar information so you can quickly recall data. It is credited to the ancient people of Rome and Greece and is used by memory champions across the world.

    This is a technique that should be taught in schools across the globe. The key here is to forget about trying to force facts and information into your head through repetition. Instead, try to link the ideas in interesting ways that allow you to easily recall the data. Essentially, this is a journey through your mind.

    Creating a Memory Palace

    Let’s see how this technique works.

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    • Step 1: Choose a location you are familiar with (i.e. your current home).
    • Step 2: Rehearse this journey in your mind several times. Try to think of your emotion in each room.
    • Step 3: Place a piece of information in each room and anchor it in a corner or on a physical object like a bed.
    • Step 4: Draw your Memory Palace.
    • Step 5: Begin your journey and make things interesting so they pop in your mind (i.e. nude images in weird locations!). The key is for the information to stick. Essentially, go wild and crazy with this technique… you don’t have to tell anyone.

    Method of Loci for Geometry

    Let’s demonstrate how this can work with math. If you are learning Geometry, which is difficult enough as it is, let’s see how this can be done using a Memory Palace in combination with a mnemonic device (First Letter Mnemonic).

      How to Remember the Value of Pi

      The number Pi is a mathematical constant. It is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Typically, people will approximate it to 3.14 or 3.14159. Yet, Pi has been calculated to the quadrillionth digit… that is 2,000,000,000,000,000! I don’t expect anyone to calculate this, but let’s look at an easy way to remember Pi up to 10 decimal places.

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      To do this we simply count the number of letters in each word. Pi to 10 decimal places (word lengths are digits):

      • May I have a large container of coffee ready for today?
      • May (3) I (1) have (4) a (1) large (5) container (9) of (2) coffee (6) ready (5) for (3) today (5)

      So, we find Pi to 10 decimal places = 3.1415926535

      Mnemonic Device + Method of Loci = Superb Memory

      If you are looking for a superior memory, try combining a mnemonic device with the Method of Loci. Let’s look at a few examples of this.

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      Remember the Days in a Month

        Remember the World Geography

        Look at the first letter of each country and makes up an easy-to-remember sentence with each word’s first letter share the same letter as the county names’.

          Stop Memorizing, Start Having Fun

          You will be amazed how powerful these techniques are once you start practicing them. They are fun, easy to learn, easy to use, and they work immediately. It is hard to believe how powerful some of these crazy techniques are. So, get weird, have fun, and develop a superb memory!

          More by this author

          Dr. Jamie Schwandt

          Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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          The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

          The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

          It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

          Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

          “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

          In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

          New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

          There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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          So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

          What is the productivity paradox?

          There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

          In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

          He wrote in his conclusion:

          “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

          Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

          How do we measure productivity anyway?

          And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

          In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

          But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

          In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

          But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

          Possible causes of the productivity paradox

          Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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          • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
          • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
          • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
          • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

          There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

          According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

          Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

          The paradox and the recession

          The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

          “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

          This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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          According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

          Looking forward

          A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

          “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

          Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

          “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

          On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

          Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

          Reference

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