An urgent question about memory palace and loci


Good afternoon, everyone!

Backstory: I’ve (almost) mastered my 00-99 list and I’ve decided to move onto the next stage in my memory training adventure. So, I’ve got my home designated with around 80 loci, although I still have to walk through it again to make sure the loci are somewhat familiar in my mind. Anyway, I was reading through the book Moonwalking With Einstein and I’ve come across something puzzling. It was in the Memory Palace chapter, I believe, where Foer is told to imagine Cooke’s To-Do list using their childhood home. So, the first few items go like this: Pickled garlic, cottage cheese, salmon and so on.

When Foer is told to place the first item—the garlic—onto his driveway, he was imagining a big bottle of garlic. And at his front door, he was imagining a TUB full of cottage cheese. And there was also a woman (I don’t remember her name) swimming in that tub of cheese. And MY question is, or rather what was bothering me is that… how come he imagined more things than he needed to in order for him to remember the to do list? Like, why was he imagining a tub when it was just cheese? I mean, he only had to imagine cheese. I’d imagine just big piles of cheese cubes in front of my door. But, Foer was told to imagine a tub full of cheese and that too with a woman swimming in there. So, how come he doesn’t get confused on what image to translate back to? I mean, if he had a tub in his 00-99 list or something, how come he doesn’t translate the tub, as well as the woman back into the to-do list instead of JUST the cheese?

And I apologise if that didn’t make sense, but what I’m trying to say is that, when I create my images and try to place them onto the loci, I’m questioning whether I should just place the images and nothing but the images themselves, or a collage of images to make it more memorable? But, if I do that I might get confused on what image to convert back to. So, for example, say I’ve the numbers 07 and 20. I place James Bond knocking on my front door and a nose opens the door, or something. This will definitely be forgettable, so I’m thinking if I should add other elements to it, like a plane flying by in the background, or raining, or something unique. But, I can’t seem to think of the fact that they might interfere with my conversion from image to number with so much images on a single loci.

Furthermore, I thought when we’re converting the abstract information into images and placing them onto the loci, I thought we’re placing JUST the images and nothing else so that other images won’t interfere with my recalling. I hope this makes sense, and I hope to hear from someone regarding this bewildering question soon. Have a great day!


Because just cheese is exactly that… “just” cheese, nothing inherently memorable about it. So you make it more memorable by anthropomorphizing it, making it grotesque, etc. He could have also taking a bunch of people taking a photo and everyone saying “cheese”. If he’s familiar with Asterix comics, he could have placed this kind of picture too:

…and that probably works too if you don’t also imagine a pile of garlic and then a pile of salmon and in the end you just got a bunch of piles of various things that you can’t distinguish anymore because the piles all become the same.

There isn’t just one right way, but one thing you should do is make ordinary things memorable. There are different techniques for that. I for one would have someone lick a car because “car-lick” sounds like “garlic”, use the above image for “cheese”, and Salman (Khan) for “salmon”.

Bear in mind that things have to be memorable to you and you alone. Joshua Foer on the other hand was writing for an audience, so he needed to use examples that are accessible to as many readers as possible and at the same time demonstrated the concept of making things memorable.

But how does the plane in the background or the rain relate to the image. That might just as well be in the background of your pile of cheese. James Bond knocking on the door with his nose, the way a woodpecker would, is something that would make the image more unique and is similar to the tub with the woman in the cheese.

Imagine you’re directing your own movie and setting the scene. You can be very minimalistic and make it a theater play where you just have a stage and very little props or you can make it an action movie with lots of explosions and whatnot… all depends on your personal preferences and what works for you. Use what works for you…

Luckily, you’re only doing this for an audience of ONE and that is you, so there is no people to please by using certain techniques in certain ways. If you prefer sci-fi movies over horror movies then nobody forces you to watch them.


I can see how that could be related to cheese, but I’m confused that I wouldn’t know which image to translate back to out of all the people and the camera saying cheese or something. I mean, there are so many things other than my main image representing my number which could be confusing to choose which image to use for recalling my information.

Right, even I thought of rhythmic mnemonics and whatnot, but I thought if I imagined Salman Khan or a person licking a car, I’d have to choose if the person would be my image to translate to my number, or the car, or just the whole action in general. Even Salman Khan, for instance, if I had Salman Khan in my 00-99 list I’d have troubles choosing if he represents the salmon or something from my list. But, I can see where you’re going with that.

Right, that seems plausible. But, let’s say it was backwards. Let’s say I had 20-19 so it would be a NoSe, and venom for me. So, if it was 1920 I’d imagine Venom growing a big nose and this works well because it has some order to it going from normal venom to a venom growing big nose so it represents 19, and THEN 20. But, if it was 20-19, it would be a NoSe and then venom. I can’t think of a scenario which starts with a nose and then venom. I mean, my mind’s eye sees the picture zooming in on a big nose and then zooming out to show venom, so it could represent 2019. But, to me, it doesn’t seem very efficient and it even seems laborious for other numbers if this happens to be the case where an object and then a person comes up. A person walking and then my mind’s eye moves to that person’s hand to have a suitcase in his hand or something. But, my mind’s eye zooming from the suitcase to the person is just too prolix, in some sense. If that didn’t make sense, then I suppose I’d simply say that I wouldn’t know whether to choose the nose first or James Bond first to convert back. I need some better way.

I suppose you’re right. I don’t want anyone to understand my mnemonics other than myself. And furthermore, I should be able to recognise which image I should choose from my collage of images I place along my memory palace so I won’t confuse myself on translating the image back to the number or the card. But yeah, thanks a lot @bjoern.gumboldt for your advise.


UPDATE: So, I’ve accomplished my first feat of memory. I recited 20 random digits from memory, forwards and backwards and starting at an arbitrary point. It’s not much, as O’Brien said in one of his books, small steps of successes are helpful for self-confidence. So, I’ve done that and I used (one of) my routes I take from my home to my bus stop. Now that that’s happened, I feel a lot proud of myself, even though it’s not much of a memory feat. Anyway, I wanted to reuse the memory palace for something more important like the digits of pi, but as I try to place my 14(tyre)-15(annabelle doll)-16(taj mahal)… and so on, I’ve come across another obstacle: Ghosting. So, all the old images of that 20 random digits I memorised are still there since I memorised them like 2 days ago and I’m not sure how or when they’ll go away, if at all. And those old images are sort of colliding with my new ones of pi which will trouble me. Any advise regarding this new obstacle is sincerely appreciated!

(Andreas) #5

I would probably just see a huge nose with arms and legs attacking Venom, or perhaps it sneezes and Venom pops out of it. Don’t be afraid of using your weirdest imagination.
For example: If I had 82 34, that could be Venom and Mario. I would be more likely to forget Venom and Mario dancing than I would if I imagined Venom biting Mario’s head off. :grinning:

Just out of curiosity; how is 19 Venom for you?


Hmm, I see where that seems to be going. And sometimes I was just unsure if I had some crazy collage of images, and then I was scared I wouldn’t know what to choose out of all of them. And like I said in my post, if I tried to imagine 70 and then a person, say Brad Cooper (23) I’d just imagine like the suitcase first and then the person. But, when I go to recall it might get difficult on choosing which one to translate back first. But yeah, that imagination of mine is just starting to unravel so it might some time for me to imagine things like a ‘walking nose’ but I think it will happen and maybe even sooner than I think. And even before that, I should work on erasing my current memory palace for which I stored like 10 images for 20 digits because I want to reuse it for storing pi and the digits I memorised were just random digits from a generator. And I don’t know how to clear my memory palace because of all these ghosting images.

Haha! That’s a funny story, mate. When I went to the theater to see the movie Venom, there were 9 teenagers. So, NINE-TEEN(agers) just springs Venom into mind. And even at that time 41 made me think of Riot from that same movie because Riot appears 41 minutes before the end of the movie (from my point of view). Surprisingly, the word RioT works in the Major System for 41. That worked out perfectly, I suppose. It was a crazy association I made to some of these, and I reckon they might stick for a while.

(Andreas) #7

Haha cool, and yeah whatever works!

Again, a little imagination and you could see a suitcase that is tumbling around on the ground, almost jumping. You’d be like “Is something alive in there?”
And boom, a naked and beat up Brad Cooper bursts out of it like a scene from Hangover!
You probably can’t even get rid of that image now, so that’s a great 4-digit pin to hang on to, 7023! :joy:

I see that as a good sign, it means your recall is great. But don’t worry, it will go away over time. Either just wait and use a different palace for now, or make really vivid Pi images that will take over the loci. Go slow and really focus on them until they pop out in your mind, then you move o to the next locus.
Good luck.


Haha, I mean, I haven’t seen that movie. So, I couldn’t relate with you on that one but yeah it definitely makes sense to create bizarre and memorable associations for my numbers and treat them not so abstract anymore.

As I’ve been reading the book Moonwalking with Einstein, I’ve come to know that many mental athletes actually stop a week before the competition and walk through their mind palaces and somehow clear the palace. The reason being—and it made sense—was because “the last you want to do is accidentally remember something you memorized last week” (Foer). And I’ve been working on creating new palaces and I’ve got lots of routes and houses to attach information to. But, I can’t seem to find much loci in any of the houses I mentally walk through, nor any of the routes. Even right now, I’m in a history class and I can’t seem to find more than 18 loci in this class. I think I’m looking the wrong way on desginating loci because I’m avoiding some of the stuff that’s repetitive.

Like there are like 20 student desks in the class and I’m not using a single one because I might confuse some information if I place some images on a couple of desks and can’t decide which one is on each of the desks which all look similar. And there is a teacher’s podium with a stool, and 360º chair next to it, and I’m debating on whether or not to use that as well. And there is a board, but I’m only using it as a whole, and not splitting into 2 sides, because I don’t know. Furthermore, when I try to find loci for my car, I just imagine the roof of the car from the outside as one loci, and then opening the right side door, to find the backseats of the car as my 2nd loci and the driver’s seat as my third and final loci. This doesn’t seem very effective for designating loci on cars or anything in general. I mean, I don’t even use the tires at all because of the similarities. I seriously need to rewire my brain and work on thinking. Then, it might help me how I can choose my loci, or better yet in creating bulks of palaces with little to no resistance.

(Andreas) #9

I think you might wanna be a little less picky with your spots and just go for it.

A tip for you; Imagine how you would walk through the place if you were to show a friend. Just walk along that path and mark spots as you go. Once you see the journey clearly in your mind you will know what comes next. As long as you don’t use two identical objects next to each other you should be fine.
If I walk mentally through my home I know that after the TV comes the sofa, but I could’ve added the window lamp in between them for sure. I have 26 loci but could’ve easily made 50.
I don’t recommend adding them post palace creation though. That’s why I’ve added 74 loci on a walk outside of my home, making 26 into 100. :slightly_smiling_face:


I guess the practise thing applies to this as well then. It’s like nothing will be mastered without practise, not even loci recognition. I suppose I shall walk through my palace mentally and just mark distinctive spots as I go, not repeating visually similar things. I’ll update you on how it goes after I create some more palaces and I’ll be sure to walk through them so much that I know it like the back of my palm.

One more thing, I’d forgotten to ask a question yesterday. If you won’t mind me asking, I have a question. So, yesterday on my way to home, I was on the bus just thinking going through my 00-99 list mentally and it took me well over 15 mins even though I can say what the image for each number is within .5-1.5 seconds. My mind was just wandering on the images and making them quite detailed. But, what happened was as I was thinking of these images, I was also sort of walking through my first memory palace—my home. So, when I got the number 19, Venom sprung into my mind and he just randomly got placed on my stairs after I open the door of my home. So, now I can’t get him off my stairs. I tried pushing him from the stairs, exploding him, and even fading him. But, he is not seeming to be leaving that location from my mind and it’s like I’ll get confused when I place some more objects on the stairs and I wouldn’t know what to pick. And I didn’t even try to place him there for any memory recall. I just saw him once when I thought of 19 and he got stuck there. If you could suggest something for this scenario, I sincerely appreciate it, @Pappamea.

(Andreas) #11

Wow, it seems your mind is connecting images very easily to locations. I think someone else will have to chime in here, I haven’t experienced that myself. Maybe someone else knows good techniques for erasing files in memory palaces. Let me know how it goes. :v:t2:


Ah well, I just hope that works during actual practise times rather than test trials. Right now, it just seems to be static as if the Venom was built onto the stairs.

Alright. And I thank you so much for the help you’ve been. Again, thanks a lot! :smile: