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What is a Memory Palace?

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  • Written By: J. MacArthur
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2014
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A mnemonic device, or memory aid, improves one's ability to remember and recall information quickly. One of the most elaborate devices ever created, a memory palace is an intricate way to store information in the “rooms” of one's mind.

The Greek poet Simonides of Ceo is credited as the creator of the memory palace system. He devised this concept at a time when pen and paper were not readily available and one had to rely heavily on visual sense. Simonides memorized mental pictures as though he could actually see them in a specific place or in a specific sequence. Those images were easily recalled exactly as though they had appeared in real life. This system came to be called memoria loci, Latin for memory location, or memory palaces.

To create a memory palace, one must first gather specific mental places and images, which in turn, represent rooms and ideas. The place should be one of familiarity and the image should represent the idea or object to be remembered or stored. Then the images and information are stored in the rooms. For this purpose, the more vivid or striking the image, the better. When imagining the palace, one should view it as being well lit and set in a very specific order.

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Start by dividing the rooms into sections, for example, each section could be assigned with a letter of the alphabet. Ideas can then be filed under the associated letter. If the room gets too cluttered, add another room or a hallway. Any combination of rooms and objects is acceptable as long as the specific rules of following the same order are applied. Memory palaces can be as simple or elaborate as the individual makes it.

After the rooms are filled, one must start visualizing moving through each room and recalling any image stored in that room. Recollection can begin at any point in the memory palace and continue in the direction the palace was created or in reverse order. Practicing recollection, by exploring the palace often, can be helpful preparation for the time that one might need the information. The more often one explores each room and image in the palace, the easier it will become to recall images or information on demand.

History’s greatest scholars believed that it is as important to strengthen the mind as it is to strengthen the physical body. The memory palace method comes in handy in this regard but requires patience, practice, and persistence to be successful. There are a number of books and memory-enhancement products available to aid in building memory palaces.

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LisaLou
Post 2

I find it interesting to memorize things by associating them with different rooms. Almost any memory aid will work when applied correctly, and it often depends on what your style of learning is. It is easy for me to remember dates, but when it comes to a list - I need some help.

Being able to visualize something in my mind, and associating it with a certain time or place is the best way for me to remember things. My first choice is to write them down, but you don't always have that option.

I have also found that this is something you have to continually work on. Your brain needs to be exercised just like other muscle groups in your body.

John57
Post 1

I have heard of and used several types of memory learning aids, but never heard of the term memory palace. I know there are many memory how to courses and devices available to help you with your memory.

It reminds me of how I would memorize things for tests. I would think of a word or phrase that was relevant to the material and then match each letter with a term or definition I would need to know. I used this method all through high school and college to help when studying dates and information I needed to remember.

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