The Memory Method Used by the World’s Greatest Detective

Have you ever heard about the Memory Palace? You might have seen Benedict Cumberbatch use it on Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock used one of the best and most effective memory techniques called Memory Palace, the Method of loci, or the mind palace technique. It is a really simple idea, yet it can dramatically increase your recall of faces, numbers, and lists of words. You can learn it too, and even learn things permanently so that you never forget them.

What Is the Memory Palace Technique?

The memory Palace technique (sometimes called The Method of Loci) is a method of memory enhancement that uses visualization to organize and recall any information you store in your memory palace.

This technique is the oldest mnemonic technique, dating back to ancient Greece. Cicero used it to memorize his speeches, and current memory champions use it today. In 2006, Lu Chao used this method to recall the digits of Pi. He successfully recited 67,890 digits of Pi in 24 hours and 4 minutes before he made a mistake. He stated he had 100,000 digits memorized.

Ancient Greeks knew that it is easier to remember images than words, so they invented a visual imaging technique through which thoughts were mentally captured as images. You recall the stored information by recalling these images.

In Memory Palace techniques, the mental images are attached to certain locations. You begin by using only one room in your memory palace. As you become better at using this technique, you can incorporate more and more rooms. Some rooms you can use as temporary storage to remember a phone number or a grocery list. Other rooms you can use for permanent information from your life or your work.

5 Easy Steps to Build the Memory Palace

1) Build your Palace
Begin by building this palace in your mind. It could be one room, a house, a big mansion, or any place you like. You can choose a place that you know well, someplace that you just visited, or it could be an entirely imaginary new place. When you first start using this technique, it’s best to choose a place that you know well, like your house, flat, childhood home, or office.

2) Plan the route
Imagine walking from room to room; plan out the whole route. Organize the space in your mind (where is hall, dining room, conference room, bathroom, etc.). Is really important to follow the same path, from the start to the end.

3) Create a system for traveling
Create a system for traveling through each room. Always start in the same place, follow the same path, and end in the same place.

4) Place objects on your route
When you walking from room to room, you can start placing various things you need to remember in specific locations. The things you want to remember each need to be associated with an image you won’t forget. You are not going to forget crazy things like a spaghetti monster in your bathroom, so you can connect this with your grocery list so you don’t forget to buy spaghetti for dinner.

5) Recall information
When you want to remember the information, take a walk through that building/room the same exact way you did as you were committing information to memory. It’s really important to learn your way through your Memory Palace.

Note: Exaggerate images to aid in the recall process. If you need to buy milk, try to imagine a huge milk box bigger than a human being. The more bizarre and surreal or vivid you can make these images, the better they will be remembered!

How this technique works

Example: Remembering the shopping list

A good first choice for your palace could be your own home. You know your home better than anything else. If you want to memorize your grocery list, imagine assigning each item to different parts of your house.

Try to define a specific route in your home, and imagine a specific walkthrough there. Pay attention to specific features in the place you chose. After you open the door, what’s in the first room, and what catches your attention?

You need to have a standard procedure that you are going to use to analyse the room. You will start searching from right and continue to the left (or left to right). When you are analysing the room, make notes of all things there – chairs, tables, lamps, etc. Learn and imprint the route on your mind.

Once you have your route in your mind, you will start to associate things from your list with things in your memory palace. Exaggerate images. Open the door and the first thing you can see in your Memory Palace is a big box of milk, then 50 small chickens. Just keep mentally associating images until there are no items from your shopping list left to memorize.

Once you are finished, you will be able to recall each item with ease.
To recall these stored items, simply retrace your steps.

Keep in mind that the more you exercise this technique, the quicker and more efficient you become at it. Key con­cept here is that every mem­ory can be trained through exer­cise.

Developing your memory can be fun, but you need to still practice, practice, practice!

You may not believe it works, but you will be surprised. Try it and let me know what your results are.

As always, thank you for sharing this post!

Joshua Foer: Feats of memory anyone can do. (Joshua Foer describes the memory palace technique)