Applying Memory Palace to Learning (Update)

Hi all, it has now been 1-2 years since I lasted posted in this forum. Just would like to give an update about the progress of me trying to use memory palaces as the sole way of learning/memorizing.

Just a bit of background about myself first. It is now about 1.5 year since I graduated medical school and currently working in hospital. I initially hold a degree in mathematics (with major focus in pure maths) and later changed career and started medicine. My strength has always been logical reasoning, I have never incorrectly answered a maths/physics question during my senior high school years and have straight high distinctions in all 3rd and 4th year university maths courses. However, I have TERRIBLE memory, really really terrible memory, I would say my memory is on par with a gold fish.
During my final years of studying medicine, I have been struggling badly, failed multiple times, as by the time I am in my 3rd/4th year in medicine, my knowledge is not much better than a 1st year student (I have literally forgotten everything that I have learnt). If it is not because of coming across memory palace, I wouldn’t have graduated, and would have dropped out of medicine. Since my memory is really poor, the only way for me to study is to COMPLETELY rely on memory palace. That is, I learn everything (that i deem important) in medical school using memory palace.

The purpose of this post is to answer some of the questions and uncertainties that I faced when I was a medical student and hope to help anyone who might be in the same situation as I was.

1) Whether it is possible to rely completely on memory palaces to learn a subject?
ANS: A definite yes, in my case I have applied it to learning medicine, but I don’t see it not applicable to other fields of study.

2) How many memory palaces is required?
ANS: I have about 1000 memory palaces in total.

3) How many loci in each memory palace?
ANS: Just from my experience, I find the optimal length is about 30 - 40 loci per memory palace (reasons below).

4) Choosing big palaces ( > 50 loci) vs small palaces (<= 50 loci)
ANS: Smaller palaces are much more efficient I find, especially during problem solving, you wouldn’t want to walk through a palace with 200 loci for example to find your answer. Not only is smaller palace more efficient in terms of problem solving (i.e. faster retrieval times), it is also beneficial for long term learning. The purpose of memory palace is such that the information is hold in the brain long enough for the information to be converted into long term memory. In other words, I see memory palace as a temporary holder of information in the brain such that the brain has enough time to assimilate and digest the information and form long term memories. And for this process to happen, smaller palaces I find are assimilated/digested much faster than bigger palaces. Here is an analogy to my reasoning as why:


The arrows in the picture shows brain trying to assimilate the information stored in the memory palace into long term memories. We can see that small palaces (as depicted by the smaller sphere) have greater surface area to volume ratio, so therefore are assimilated faster.

5) How to make smaller palaces?
ANS: Information arranging is the key. For example, rather than having a big memory palace for remembering everything about chest pain. It is better to break it down, i.e. having a separate palace for each of the subcategories (see # below) and sub-subcategories (see ^ below).

Chest pain

  • Causes# (Myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, aortic dissection, etc)
  • Immediate management#

Myocardial infarction management^
Pulmonary embolism management^
Aortic dissection management^
etc

6) How to pick good memory palaces?
ANS: Below is what I find to be characteristics of good memory palaces:
i) Should be places that are interesting, not mundane, have unique characteristics that differ it from other places. These palaces generally sticks longer, more efficient to recall, and not easily mixed up.
For example, I find using friend A’s house, then friend B’s house, then friend C’s house is a bad idea. Very soon, your brain will get confused whether this is for example the chair in friend A’s house or friend B’s house.
ii) The place should have enough hooks, ideally 10 - 15 hooks, such that each hook can be used to memorize 1 - 2 things.
iii) This is not a must. But ideally the entire place (with all its hook) should all be in one visual field. See everything at once, rather than having to move through the palace, is much more efficient when it comes to recalling and problem solving.

7) How to have many memory palaces?
ANS: First let me summarize above, a good memory palace is one that is unique, plenty hooks and can be captured all in the same picture. To have enough of these palaces, one has to keep an eye to look for these places in day to day life. For example, I will suddenly pause an anime to take a screen shot of a place that I find suitable, take a screenshot when I am playing video games, take my camera out when I find an appropriate movie scene, take my camera out when I walk past something interesting. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix, but I assure you if you keep an eye to look out for places, you should not run out of palaces.

8) Will memory palaces solve all my learning issues instantly? Will I have be studying less?
ANS: No, it won’t. Making memory palaces take a lot of effort. Much time is spent in picking the right place, organizing your information, attaching information to the loci/hooks. To study the same amount of material, using memory palace will probably take double to triple the time. I personally have dedicated 2 full years in making memory palaces, spending 5+ hours a day. Not that you should do the same, but I have personally skipped all lectures (because I find I will forget anyway) and just attended tutorials and practical sessions (because they are compulsory) and dedicate all my remaining time to forming memory palaces. But I assure you, it pays off at the end, you will be able to revise things triple/quadruple quicker than others and use much less effort^^

Anyway, thank you for reading this very long post. I hope some of you will find it helpful.

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This was encouraging for someone trying to figure out how to approach. But I have a question. How do you organize or maybe select palaces so that when trying to retrieve information you would know which palace the information is stored?

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Just apply a link to join the topic you are trying to remember with the place.

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Thank you!

I have really enjoyed reading your experience, questions and the answers. You almost left me with no question to ask :slight_smile:

It’s amazing to see you have spent 2 years building your palaces with 5 hours each day!
And the fact that you have used memory palaces to graduate, you are a living example of confirming the effectiveness of the method of loci.

You are the perfect example of a person with the qualities of desire, determination and discipline. I admire you for that. Great Job!

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Hi enrol, I’m glad that you have enjoyed reading the post and thank you for your kind words.

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Great post, I had a quick question:

I am also in medicine and I find that applying the memory palace technique takes a lot of time.

I have the palace in my head, I have the loci, and then I type it out as well in note format so when I revise all my loci and palaces are already written down. It takes a long time to type this out the loci and I also type the fact in brackets next to the loci. Is this how you go about it? It does take a lot of time.

Can you detail your process? How long it takes? How many notes you take? What specific notes you make?

can you apply for math? I am a mechanical engineering student.
I only use loci for languages, information of interest, memorizing large amounts. but I cannot use it in calculation, physics, thermodynamics, I cannot conjugate a formula and make it effective at the moment of remembering or using it.
In summary, I have the tools but I don’t know how to apply or start using them in mathematics.
I understand that mathematical reasoning is also needed

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Very interesting account, particularly your idea for sub-palaces and smaller ones. I have been dabbling a bit in Art History and i am trying to memorise the key points and famous works from the Late Gothic to 20th Century all in the same palace! I do try to chunk it different sections, so it kinda becomes a timeline-esq journey. Have you done something similiar? Do you have a main palace for listing all of the smaller ones?

Really inspirational story!

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Thanks for sharing, these are great tips.
Right now I’m about the same place as you were 1,5 years ago.
I’m a 5th year med student studying for residency selection programs. I’ve also dropped out of a 4 year civil engineering course, so i feel I can relate. Never felt I had a good mind for medicine though, because of the vast amount of memorization required. It got to the point where I simply didn’t study because I knew I would soon forget everything. Recently I’ve started getting into memory palaces and I cannot agree more with you. They totally suffice, but require a lot more of work to setup than your normal read-review schemes.
I’ve only being doing memory places for 10 days now, and have about 400 loci in about 50 micropalaces. I’m still testing to see what works best for me, but right now my work flow is basically this:

  1. I sit trough class making normal notes on paper.
  2. At home I enter google earth and think about a place that feels like it has something to do with the topic. For example, the Taj Mahal felt like a good place to store the class about breast feeding - don’t know why. Padua’s university felt like a good place to store things about inguinal hernias, because of it’s infamous anatomical theatre.
  3. Having selected the building/vicinity, I enter street view and select good sub or sub-subpalaces using the 360 view pictures or the ‘see inside’ feature. I look out mainly for special places, like entrances, statues, views with interesting objects and so on. I try to also judge if the view has enough hooks for a given subtopic. Then I take a screenshot and edit it putting numbers on the hooks as to indicate its position on the journey.
  4. Once all the hooks are labed I create anki cards for every screenshot (palace) using image occlusion enhanced. This way I can test myself on every locus.

I think using this method is a lot of work, but it is helping me a lot. I tried to add images on every locus but found that it didn’t ease recall, so I dropped it in favor of number labels. I’m still having trouble recalling locus populated with numbers (i.e. dosages) and I think I might need to look more into the major system or something especific for numbers.

Thanks again for sharing! If I keep this up I might also make a post about my experience in the future. I think testimonials really motivate people, and sometimes that’s all we need!

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It’s very much inspiring for me.
I have a question.
You have mentioned about 1000 memory palce
But when you give refer each memory palace ( that of course has 30- 40 loci accordingly) to every subcategories and their derivatives then how is it possible to cover everything under 1000
Memory palace. Over that you have studied medicine it blown my mind and at same time left a dobt.
If you could elaborate little bit more also about you information/ topics management.
@m1313s

First of all.

Did you have fun?

It seems like you’ve become a sort of “palace collector”…

Also, if it’s true that knowledge stored in mind palaces eventually integrates in the pool of unconscious, automated knowledge, then: have you been to reuse mind palaces?

Finally, I’d like to reassure my understanding of your structuration protocol: Do you mean that you set a mind palace for, say, a topic; within there would be loci for categories within the topic; in turn, each loci-category opens a mind palace for subcategories concerning such category, and so on as required?

In terms of your example, there would be one palace for chest pain, holding one locus for causes#, another for immediate management#. Reaching the causes locus opens a palace, holding into it’s loci myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, and aortic dissection.

If otherwise reached the immediate management locus, it’d open it’s mindpalace; and
within it, say, if reached myocardial infarction management^ it would in turn open it’s own mind palace.

Is it right?

Or are mind palaces independent, reached solely by it’s title?

Best regards!

No, Very good post! I have sene Very hyped opinions about this topic, most from gurus that sell expensive courses, and of course without highlighting the effort part, time or drawbacks. It was a very impartial opinion, with solid ground, as I am a newbie in memory training, I am grateful for your post and I hope to change more information with you.

I have personally skipped all lectures (because I find I will forget anyway) and just attended tutorials and practical sessions (because they are compulsory) and dedicate all my remaining time to forming memory palaces.

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I found this really motivating. I’ve always done a lot a reading and due to my goldfish memory, retained only a small fraction. In the last year I’ve started reading a lot less and devoting that extra time to committing the important details to memory.
As they say there’s no learning without memory.