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What is the Method of Loci?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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The method of loci is a memory aid which, according to legend, is quite ancient. This mnemonic device was supposedly used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans when they prepared for big speeches, and it has continued to be popular through the ages. People who need to memorize large amounts of material, especially in the form of lists of words or concepts, may find this method helpful.

In the method of loci, someone associates objects on a list with a specific location. While this might sound a little strange to someone who has not tried it before, the method of loci relies on the fact that people often have a very strong memory for the places they frequent on a regular basis. For example, if you were asked to close your eyes and take a quick mental tour of your bedroom, you could probably name many of the major items in the room and their locations from memory.

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Practitioners of this technique start by visualizing a location they are very familiar with. They build up a strong mental image, reflecting on specific objects in that location. Then, they associate words on the word list with objects in the room. For example, if one wanted to memorize a list of colors, one might link the colors with objects of the same color, as in “the coverlet on the bed is blue.” The method of loci can be used with a variety of settings; as long as the setting is familiar, it should be effective.

To make the method of loci more effective, it is important to make it as vivid as possible. One should imagine the objects on the list interacting with the objects in the room, and one should try to create not just a memory of a word, but a memory of a sensation. A medical student trying to memorize a list of muscles, for example, might try imagining the manipulation of various objects in the room, and think about which muscles would be involved for various motions.

When someone wants to recall the objects on the list, a mental tour of the place can be taken to work through the list. This technique can be used during a test, in a speech, and in a wide variety of other settings. The more rich the mental image, the stronger the powers of recall will be. The method of loci can also, of course, be used to memorize an assortment of physical objects and their spatial relationships, as seen in the game where people are shown a set of objects on a tray and then the tray is removed and they are asked to name the objects.

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FitzMaurice
Post 4

If you don't have a good memory of architecture or locations, you can also tie terms to other forms, such as methods you recall.

hangugeo112
Post 3

A lot of times, people spend a large amount of paper and flashcards trying to drill terms into their head. In learning to adopt a consistent pattern of memorization, you only have to use one set of flashcards to store a vast number of terms in your mind.

ShadowGenius
Post 2

Learning to memorize things well may seem difficult at first, but the difficulty is vastly outweighed by the difficulty overcome by it in the long run. I guarantee you will spend half the time you normally do studying for exams and memorizing business items if you decide to commit the appropriate amount of time into improving your memory.

Armas1313
Post 1

In using this method, it is important to be creative as well as consistent. Understanding the parameters of locations is the first thing to memorize. Then, when applying items to these locations, be creative with how they are interacting with the environment. The more memories you attach to the items the better. Also, the more vivid the actions taking place in the locations, the better. You always remember things which stick out.

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