"Ancient Australian Aboriginal Memory Tool Superior to ‘Memory Palace’ Learning"

“An ancient Aboriginal memorization technique has been proven to be superior to the ancient Greek “memory palace” technique for recalling and retaining factual information.”

“Aboriginal methods of memorising also used the idea of attaching facts to the landscape, but with added stories which describe the facts and the placement to facilitate recall.”

“The researchers found the students who used the Aboriginal technique for remembering were almost three times more likely to correctly remember the entire list than they were prior to training (odds ratio: 2.8). The students using the memory palace technique were about twice as likely to get a perfect score after training (2.1), while the control group improved by about 50% (1.5) over their pre-training performance.”

Thoughts?

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Isn’t it the same like memory palace method -
Put objects in memory palace and add stories in them which further described the facts.

And they mostly said in a whole article that this was most helpful for medical students because med. have lots of things to memorize.
I like to know how this method works, and can I apply them to memorize mathematical concepts.

Is anyone here who tried this method, in the whole article they only showed statistics and and some other things.

Is anyone here who tried this method, or this is the same method but name changed just because we adding stories in memory palace. (Yeah, they said they used landscape for this too, but isn’t it included in memory palace too,

Even I am using too, according too given information I like to choose different memory palace for that.

If somebody tell me you have to Memorize shakespeare sonnets, poems then I like to use painting memory palace and each painting contains information of 1 poem.

It’s like I an going to buy new furniture and place them in a room , I mean If will memorize lots of poems then I will like to make a different categories of room for storing poems in them.
And systematically review them.

If I have to memorize speech then first I will read their main points , and then place them in my body.
Later I will read whole speech.

For memorizing small numbers fastly I prefer to chose open location like garden, park, outdoor place (well, this is my personal choice, everyone has their own taste)

And for the information that I already memorized them without loci (because that time I didn’t know about memory techniques and I am not wanna use memory palace for the things that I already know)
, I can’t say anything about that.
Like study materials country, pi, periodic table, and so on…

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I’d love to know more about the exact method here and how it was implemented. Attaching facts and stories to the landscape, as in imagining a story involving the facts happening in the landscape, relating to the different features of the landscape?

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I haven’t read the study closely yet, but it says:

Group 2: Australian Aboriginal memorization technique.

Group 2 participants were given an overview of the Australian Aboriginal memorization technique by an experienced Australian Aboriginal educator, including a short description of how Elders instruct young people, and the elements of place-based narrative, image, and metaphor. To construct a narrative around the butterfly word list (Fig 1A), the instructor walked students around a rock garden located on campus which contained multiple rocks, plants and concrete slabs arranged in the shape of a large, stylized footprint (Fig 1B & 1C). Each list item was incorporated into a narrative related to elements in the rock garden (Fig 1C). The narrative was practiced as students physically walked through the garden with the instructor, and participants were encouraged to visualize walking through the garden during recall. As the participants mentally “walked” the path in the narrative, they were encouraged to approach each feature in the garden and identify the place and its associated butterfly name.

It’s here:

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Conclusion

It is clear from these studies that students in the medical and allied health professions expect that memorization will play a substantial role in their training, and that they are receptive to learning techniques that can improve recall performance on memory tasks. In addition, the students sampled in this work viewed training on the Australian Aboriginal method, in particular, as meaningful, interesting, and fun. The attractiveness of this approach, combined with the clear quantitative improvement in recall after a single, short training session, suggests that memory techniques based on Indigenous knowledge can be beneficially incorporated into health professions education.

You guys should read the original paper (@Josh 's link above) before commenting. Have a look at how significant the difference is between the two “memory groups.” This might come down to sample size or might show the quality of instructions given rather than method used.

Group 1: Memory palace technique.

Participants received a brief, whiteboard-assisted seminar on the history and use of the memory palace, and collaboratively illustrated a schematic diagram of a simple memory palace, using a brief story containing student-suggested items, e.g. a cat, a guitar, food items, etc. Students were free to ask questions and seek clarification about the technique, and were encouraged to begin creating their internal ’memory palace’ using the remembered floor plan of their childhood home.

Group 2: Australian Aboriginal memorization technique.

Group 2 participants were given an overview of the Australian Aboriginal memorization technique by an experienced Australian Aboriginal educator, including a short description of how Elders instruct young people, and the elements of place-based narrative, image, and metaphor. To construct a narrative around the butterfly word list (Fig 1A), the instructor walked students around a rock garden located on campus which contained multiple rocks, plants and concrete slabs arranged in the shape of a large, stylized footprint (Fig 1B & 1C).

Not clear to me why it had to be their childhood homes in the first group. Is that a requirement for a memory place to be a memory palace? And, how exactly is the stone garden on campus not a memory palace itself?

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As someone who knows both methods and has likely practiced them in reasonable depth, I’m curious what Dr. @LynneKelly thinks. I’d love to see this same study done to include song, dance, painting, etc. to expand the potential effects.

If nothing else, it’s good to see some positive research on the methods which will hopefully draw more attention to the pedagogy and classroom use.

Dr. Reser said the Monash School of Rural Health is considering incorporating these memory tools into the medical curriculum once teaching returns to a post-COVID normal. “This year we hope to offer this to students as a way to not only facilitate their learning but to reduce the stress associated with a course that requires a lot of rote learning,” he said.
Ancient Australian Aboriginal Memory Tool Superior to "Memory Palace" Learning Technique

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No offense, but do you expect every professor to take a field trip with their class each lecture? Let’s be realistic here. How about the students get a workshop on it in the first week (and a book for all I care) and then learn to apply these techniques as they see fit outside the classroom.

Or not… some people prefer rote learning for certain actives and others find “song, dance, painting” a little too new age to take it seriously… not passing judgement, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. Let’s face it, be it law school, med school, or b-school… students manage to graduate with or without techniques at the moment, so it’s not like we desperately need memory techniques in higher education.

Then I’d like to see the memory palace done using proper metrical systems… have a look here if you don’t know what I mean… I guess this would relate to the “song” element you’d like to add, though it’s more a matter or rhythm.

Excellent… would you mind answering my question from my initial post up above if you don’t mind…

…I’d call that stone garden a “memory palace.” Is there an outdoor element or something that memory palaces supposedly don’t have? I really don’t get how this is different. I use outdoor memory palaces all the time (see post below):

I’ve used Hypothes.is to annotate the actual journal article for those interested in some commentary or who’d like to annotate or reply at the sentence, paragraph, or section levels themselves.

This link should reveal the annotation layer: https://via.hypothes.is/https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0251710

I’m fascinated by this:

“ Participation in the six week follow-up was markedly reduced, with a total of 8 participants (N = 3 memory palace; 3 Australian Aboriginal method; 2 untrained recall). The memory palace group exhibited the best long-term performance, with the results from the three participants trained on the memory palace technique achieving 8, 8, and 5 items correctly recalled out of the list of 20. There was a noticeable decrease in recall performance among the students trained in the Australian Aboriginal method after 6 weeks, with the participants in that group indistinguishable from the untrained recall group. ”

I wonder if this is because the Australian Aboriginal training used a location that was new to the students, while the memory palace training used their childhood home.

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From what I gather, the difference between the Aboriginal technique and standard memory palaces is that the memorized items have to somehow be related to some feature in the location - meaning, you don’t just plop a random image into a random place. I can see how that would assist recall, assuming you knew the location really well to begin with.

Well, I hope that’s not the only difference because that’s not how good memory athletes use memory palaces. You always somehow “connect” the item to be stored to the location. If it is the only difference then they’re the same technique in the first place.

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That’s approx. 10% of each group that showed up, so that’ll have more to do with statistics and averages (see original 95% c.i. in the study) than anything to do with the techniques. Also, managing to recall a handful of items of a list of 20 items is really the same as not remembering anything; especially, when you consider the names of the butterflies… who’s going to forget “dogface?” And, “admiral” is a pretty common butterfly that my brother was already able to identify when he was 8 year old way back in the days… that’s like putting “bluejay” on a list of birds. I’d be very careful reading anything into those results.

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No offense, but do you expect every professor to take a field trip with their class each lecture? Let’s be realistic here. How about the students get a workshop on it in the first week (and a book for all I care) and then learn to apply these techniques as they see fit outside the classroom.

The article is about applying these techniques at the highest levels of education, at the point where the learners have already gone through 16+ years of intensive study. I wouldn’t expect college professors to go on outings. But why not center these techniques and make them more mainstream at the lowest levels of education starting in kindergarten and for the first six years of formal education? Then they can become daily habits to make learning at the higher levels far easier.

The interesting, and all-too-often ignored, feature of most colleges and universities is that they are on expansive campuses with large numbers of buildings, grounds, and surrounding neighborhoods which could specifically be used to create massive memory palaces or extended local songlines.

Or not… some people prefer rote learning for certain actives

Some may prefer rote memorization, though I don’t personally know many who do, and I expect that most probably don’t. This research study specifically underlines evidence that these Australian methods are easier and more “fun”. The bigger issue is that the vast majority aren’t presented with any options for alternate methods anywhere in their educations. I would suspect that the vast majority here in the forums are 15 years old or far beyond by the time they hear about these alternate methods.

[…] others find “song, dance, painting” a little too new age to take it seriously… not passing judgement, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and you certainly have yours. I feel as if you have, however, passed judgment and simultaneously denigrated them (in my opinion) by labeling them “new age”. The research article itself states:

The foremost consideration with respect to teaching of the Australian Aboriginal memory technique is the cultural safety aspect and respect for the peoples who developed this approach. In our program, the teaching of this program was administered by an experienced Australian Aboriginal Educator, who was able to integrate the method into our teaching program, while simultaneously preventing several breaches of cultural etiquette and terminology which could easily have compromised the material had it been delivered by a non-Australian Aboriginal educator (TY), however well-intentioned.

They’re specifically mentioning here the lack of respect and attention (usually from Westerners, which I suspect includes you) that these methods are given outside of their home culture. I would suggest that you don’t value these approaches because they weren’t centered or focused on in your own cultural education. As a result you’re missing out on the value they do contain, of which the research study under discussion provides direct peer reviewed evidence. Incidentally the metrical system you wish were centered is exactly the sort of technique that is already built into many indigenous systems and was very likely even embedded into ancient Greek culture, but it has long since disappeared and was nearly completely snuffed out by (religious) Western education reformers in the late 1500’s.

I’d recommend looking at Dr. Lynne Kelly’s texts The Memory Code: The Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Other Ancient Monuments (Pegasus, 2017) and Songlines: The Power and Promise (First Knowledges) (Thames & Hudson, 2020) (with Dr. Margo Neale) for more details on some of these cultural traditions which have a more nuanced and respectful approach.

Too often here in these forums, and in life, people treat these these mnemonic techniques as “clever hacks”, when, for many current and past cultures, they were a literal way of both life and survival.

Let’s face it, be it law school, med school, or b-school… students manage to graduate with or without techniques at the moment, so it’s not like we desperately need memory techniques in higher education.

This is an incredibly privileged perspective. Sure these students do manage to graduate, but you’re also looking a minuscule proportion of the most highly educated people on the planet. For perspective, in 2018–2019, 21,622 applicants were accepted to allopathic (MD) medical schools out of the 52,777 who applied, for an overall acceptance rate of 41% in the United States. The accepted people represent roughly 0.0003 percent of the world’s population. This number doesn’t get much bigger (or rosier) when you expand the population to those in all graduate schools world wide.

I’ve got several hundred friends and acquaintances who did either MDs or combined MD/Ph.D. programs and very few would say their studies were easy. Why not make it easier? Why not make these methods more widespread? Why not provide them to everyone? Imagine the number who could have not only an easier time, but greater knowledge, (and more fun!)? Very few of the practicing physicians I know could still diagram the TCA-cycle described in the paper, but if you could have a more knowledgeable physician treat you, wouldn’t you want that? Wouldn’t you want a more educated and happier society all around?

…I’d call that stone garden a “memory palace.” Is there an outdoor element or something that memory palaces supposedly don’t have? I really don’t get how this is different. I use outdoor memory palaces all the time

The stone garden certainly is a memory palace for those who wish to use it that way. However, from the Australian Aboriginal perspective, there are additional layers of narrative, movement, (and potentially song, dance, and art, etc.) layered on top of it to enrich the experience. It’s unfortunate that the paper doesn’t go deeper into the subtleties or differences, but they’re also making at least some attempt to show respect to the culture from which the technique stems. This is a place where Drs. Kelly and Neale’s Songlines text may help provide additional depth and perspective, though even it would be limited in comparison with embedding yourself within a culture to have indigenous elders to teach you directly.

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I’m dissapointed, I was expecting an actual different technique to the method of loci. If it is using places, and if in the process of recall places are used, then the method of loci is used.

The method of loci makes use of the classic principles of memory: location, imagination and association. While it may be true that the aboriginal method is not a “memory palace”, it’s still a method of loci, and worse it feels a lot like a combination of techniques: loci method and storymethod (which I keep encouraging as the best for verbatim memorization and any thought memorization).

Everything that is the method of loci, which means: method of places, that is:

  • Memory palaces: to imagine a room and use either the Roman Room method or the Journey Method.
  • Paracosms or memory worlds: which involve in the active creation of a mental imaginary world of places with structure.
  • The use of objects: Lukasa, artifacts and crafts.
  • The body method
  • Repurposing Memory Peg System Lists of images: the images become places.
  • Combination of methods using images as places: the image palace technique, I named it.

Memory athletes or mnemonists:

It’s hard to take seriously the mnemonic studies if, trained memory users aren’t in play. Not everybody gets it, some don’t understand the method of loci, or what it means to imagine. Some people think they can’t imagine just because they can visualize things they have never seen (an impossibility) or cause they don’t project worlds in a whimp of tries.

About me:

When I started, it was hard for me to actually visualize my house. To the point I imagine a ghostly black shadow to traverse around my sole and only lifelong house, in third person. I couldn’t imagine in first person. It was difficult to visualize without moving my head, without closing my eyes. However when I started going full imaignary, it all changed, more practice and I’m a different person.

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As someone who has gone through law school, I wish like anything that someone had taught me these allegedly “new age” techniques (actually, aren’t they “old age”?) when I was memorizing vast amounts of information for my exams and stressing out. If there is a technique that can make memorizing 3 times easier than rote learning, why not use it?

And at least law school doesn’t emphasize memorization anywhere near as much as med school. Go up to a desperately cramming med student, pulling all-nighters to try to get all the vast amounts of information into their head, and tell them that there’s a vastly more effective technique out there for memorizing - and I bet they’ll do all sorts of songs and dances if it gets them to pass their exam without pulling an all-nighter.

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Alas, he speaketh not of himself in the third person!!! (How’s your Hamlet going?) When I say “some people” I refer to some people and not to myself. When I say “not passing judgement,” I mean I have no problem with other people’s opinion to not use these techniques. I use them myself but I am not forcing them onto others.

New age / old age… probably “ageless” but what does that matter, I could have said “esoteric” instead. Seems you got my point, but the pronouns mixes up. Let’s put that on @chrisaldrich ad hominem response to my original post. I might wanna talk to @Josh about that reply anyways.

Great; b-school myself; however, 99th percentile GMAT and tier-1… how about your LSAT? Are we talking about the same thing? Where I went, a third used mnemonics knowingly, another unknowingly, and the last third memorized by rote. Seems your experience was different to mine.

I’ll take that bet, because they’ll just pay 20 bucks for some Adderall or Ritalin instead… sorry to burst that bubble for you.

Aren’t you just a peach… maybe you read up on some of my other posts or have a quick google as to which country I’ve competed for in memory competitions before going all #meetoo on me… I’d also like to have @Josh have a look at this rather uncalled for personal attack!

I also said “some people”… that’s not a euphemism for “it is my opinion that”… dude, grammar.

So which side are you arguing here? That’s like having your cake, eating it too, posting it on insta, entering it in a competition, throwing it in someones face, etc… what was the article about then? And why ist is privileged when I point it about but not when the article is about it?

Basically, their’s just sparkling wine too, they just get to call it champagne?!?

I thought we were discussing memory techniques… I’m half tempted to use some “@” here to tag some Indian forum members to tell you about a little thing called the East India Company with respect to Vedic Math… Australia wasn’t the only colony I’ll have you know!

That was my point… because it was built-in when the Greeks and the Romans used it, so let’s compare apples and apples instead of apples and oranges… you can’t say you want to compare systems and then have one system fight with a hand tied behind its back.

I also looked at the original study and it doesn’t seem to be an apples-to-apples comparison. For the memory palace group, they gave the participants a 30-minute lecture and then left them to their own devices to put the method into practice. For the Aboriginal Practices group, an instructor walked them through the entire process of memorizing the butterfly names. It would have been amazing if the Aboriginal Practices group had not performed better after this.

It looks to me like the Aboriginal Practice is rather like “memory palace plus” with additional narrative elements. As such, I would expect it possibly to yield better performance, but also demand more time invested up front. I was interested to see that the two groups were given equal amounts of time until I saw that one group was given much more coaching than the other.

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99th percentile LSAT, tier 1 law school, top grades, prestigious job upon graduation. We are talking about the same thing. None of my classmates used mnemonics - at least none of the ones I studied with. My fancy bar exam review course didn’t mention memory palaces or any sort of mnemonic techniques either. I passed on my first try, but I had a couple of classmates who didn’t.

Oh, and as for “They’ll just take Adderall” - the really smart ones will do both Adderall and this technique and then be really unbeatable.

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