Ask a memory champion [2]

(Ben Pridmore) #41

I hate to reply “It varies from person to person” to every single question… but it really does in this case. I personally like to try to push through the barrier and keep on going; I genuinely think it helps me, but I can’t be scientific about it. All I can recommend is that you give it a try and see if you think it works for you… :slight_smile:


Hi Ben. I’ve read your advice in some of your interviews. you said that instead looking at the card for 3 to 4 sec. just see it fast and that we should trust our memory.

But when i tried to be fast i have so many blanks or missing images. Have you also experienced that before? And any advice to overcome this problem? or i guess it’s just practice more? thanks Ben

(Ben Pridmore) #43

“Practice more” is the safe but boring solution to just about everything, I’m afraid. But for this specific case, don’t worry about having blanks at first - I think the key is to get in the habit of going fast; you will get a higher percentage of recall if you keep trying it. Then you can slow down a bit and see if that helps, and I’d hope you’ll find yourself with a perfect recall at a faster speed than you were before.

What you’re looking for is the point at which your subconscious mind is perfectly fine with the mental image, but hasn’t yet passed that certainty on to your conscious thoughts. “Don’t think about it too much” is another golden rule I like to live by. :slight_smile:


How to use the method of loci for creating imagines for abstract words, so you can memorize verbatim text


How to use the method of loci for creating imagines for abstract words, so you can memorize verbatim text


How to use the method of loci for creating imagines for abstract words, so you can memorize verbatim text

(Ben Pridmore) #47

Well, it’s not really my area of expertise, but I think it basically comes down to using your imagination - think of a word that sounds a bit like the abstract word, and visualise that. I’m not really convinced that these techniques are particularly useful if you want to memorise a long text verbatim; there’s probably no way to do it without also reading and repeating it back to yourself a few times, as boring and old-fashioned as that approach is…

PS I heard you the first time, no need to repeat yourself :wink:

(Simon Luisi) #48

Hi Ben,

Thanks for doing this again. I have a few questions for you and a comment based on a change I’ve made that follows your method.

  1. I’ve recently viewed one of your online interviews with Ron White and I was surprised (if not intimidated) by the speed at which you speak. Given that telling yourself the story is memorizing it and given your speaking speed, it is not that surprising to me to see that you can memorize quickly. Am I the first person to notice this about you? I suspect that your speaking speed is a natural talent and you don’t even know yourself how you end up with that speed but if you have any hint into your ability, please share. Thanks.

I have recently switched from memorizing decks the wrong way (from the wrong end) to your way and I think your method is superior. It is especially good for a speedy and accurate deck correction. I was afraid that as I turn the deck around, having to see the bottom card without having to memorize it until the end would trouble me but this did not happen. The deck manipulation is a bit trickier at first but I got used to it quickly.

  1. When practicing, do you make it a point to anticipate your training results based on how you are feeling that day?

Thanks again. Reading your replies is highly instructive.

(Ben Pridmore) #49

I can’t say I’ve ever noticed that before, or that anybody’s ever mentioned it to me. It’s not just that the speed of Ron’s video is too fast, is it? Or on the other hand, I’m not a natural speaker, I don’t like talking in a context where people are going to pay attention to the things I say as if they’re intelligent or relevant to anything, I’m probably more nervous and babbling in that kind of video than I normally am.

Okay, now this… this is weird. I’ve been memorising cards that way round for what must be more than a decade now, and I’ve never once noticed the last card before I get to it. I had to go and get a pack of cards when I read your post, and look at the way I hold them, thinking “I can’t really be holding them in a way that means I see the last card, can I?”

But I am, and, well, I guess from now on I’ll be noticing that bottom card a lot more… :slight_smile:

I don’t consciously predict what I’m going to get, but I always do have a feeling about it, deep down, so the results never come as a big surprise. It’s not unheard-of that I find myself memorising a bit faster or slower than I expected I would, but those occasions are the exception rather than the rule.

(Silent Avenger) #50

Hey zoomy, so i have been memorizing for 15-30 minutes every night before bed using the memory league website, and a couple of days ago i scored 30/30 for images, and i have only been able to repeat that feat one time since. i seem to be scoring between 18-25 the vast majority of the time, any tips to over come this plateau i seem to have hit?

(Ben Pridmore) #51

As a general rule, the best way to get over a plateau is to try to forget that there is one. If you can somehow put it out of your mind, it won’t be an obstacle. I always think that knowing your limits is a terrible thing to do…

To be more specific, is it that you only have time to look at 18-25 images in 60 seconds, or that you look at them all but can’t get the order right in recall? If the first, I suggest going faster - if the second, I think the key is to link them together more carefully, so maybe go slower?

My advice isn’t that great here, is it? What technique do you use for images?

(Silent Avenger) #52

i really need to work on my storing of information, if i look at an image for more then a second or 2 i start to lose focus just waste time not adding details. so i started going faster and faster until i had to speed up teleporting from loci to loci, i was doing 4-5 passes through 30 images in a minute. now the pace i have settled on is about 2.5 passes through the 30 cards in 1 minute. afterwards if i were to just close my eyes and try to recall each image at each spot i think it would be pretty bad, but when i start seeing the image i instantly recall it and the surrounding loci images. (i can see an image and instantly think oh thats 18) i can do that for like 1/3 of them. then i recall about 1/3 by recalling the ones next to those, then i recall about half of the remaining by remembering the general area i saw it, then the last few always trip me up. and usually i get a couple backwards along the way.

and for technique i just see the image and go to the loci, i look at the first part of the image that stands out for example snow., and i imagine the image and the word in the loci.

(Simon Luisi) #53

Ben, here is the link to your interview with Ron White.

Do you still think that ordinary folks can increase their speaking rate to your level when nervous? Or that Ron edited the video to increase your speaking rate? I’m especially impressed by the speed at which you mention numbers.

And to all others who have never informed Ben that he is quite a fast and extremely crisp speaker, why haven’t you done so, if I may ask?

But never mind. If you don’t know you have a talent, then you certainly don’t have to explain it or try to speculate where it is coming from. Thanks anyway for responding.

(Ben Pridmore) #54

Silent - with the usual health warning that different things work for different people, can I suggest going more slowly, and making a connection between each image and the one after it? So think of snow on top of the next image (say, an elephant), which is then trampling on the next image, and so on. I can’t promise it’ll work, but that’s the kind of thing I do, and once you’ve practiced it a bit, it’s easy to speed up.

(Ben Pridmore) #55

Simon - that doesn’t really strike me as particularly fast. :slight_smile:

Actually, when I first watched the start of the video I thought Ron was gabbling away nineteen to the dozen, and I was sure to sound slow by comparison, but I can see what you mean about my own speed too. Still, I’m not sure it counts as a talent, but thanks!


Are you still willing to send your book? Not sure how to send a private message :stuck_out_tongue:

(Ben Pridmore) #57

Yes, I still send the ‘book’ to anyone who asks. I see you’ve figured out the private message system now - anybody else wanting a copy, just PM me with your email address and I’ll send it to you.


Hey Ben, I’m pretty much a beginner here even though I became interested in memory years ago. I keep losing interest when I hit plateaus but that’s not really what I’m gonna ask about since you’ve already answered a related question.
I was wondering how you just decided to design your own system for memory. What made you think that a 2-digit system wasn’t good enough? How did you find the motivation to think of that many images? And when you were finding images for your system, would you spend a long time considering each one to have the most memorable possible image for each number, or did you just fill it up as fast as possible and assume the images would become easy to use and recall with practice? How much did you practice per day before tournaments? (this has probably been asked but it’s not on this page). And finally, could you give an estimate of how many journeys you have for memorizing items?

(Ben Pridmore) #59

The reason for expanding my system was to cope with the one-hour marathon disciplines at memory championships. If you’re memorising a thousand-digit number with a simple two-digit-image system, each image will show up on average five times. It’s even worse with cards - if you’re using one card to an image and trying to memorise ten packs of cards, each image will appear ten times. Which is just way too confusing.

Most people got around that with a person-action-object system or similar, which reduces the repetition, but I wanted to stick with the simplicity of just having one image for each combination, and the freedom to associate them together however I wanted. So the only option was to go for a system with a whole lot of images in it.

As for creating the images, mostly it was just the first one I thought of. As I recall, I drew up a blank list of all the combinations, and filled in the first word that came to mind. At first I left a lot of blanks, but then when I had a three-day weekend to spare I forced myself to sit down and go through the whole list, writing down a word for each blank space. I never really thought about scientifically coming up with the most memorable image, or even about making sure no two images are too similar.

My ‘ideal’ training schedule (which I’ve never really stuck to since 2004, but which I still think of as the kind of thing I would do if only I could be bothered) was to do an hour of speed cards/numbers on weekday evenings after work, and then over the weekend do hour numbers, hour cards and 30-minute binary. Back in the olden days, very few people ever trained at the marathons, but I’ve always said it’s essential - it gets your mind accustomed to concentrating on one thing for long periods of time.

I’ve got 62 journeys that I use at the moment - each has 26 locations, for the simple reason that when I first started out, it took 26 locations to memorise a pack of cards. Nowadays I fit three packs on one journey, or the awkward number of 234 digits, or 780 binary (so one page and one line of the next).


Makes sense why you’d need a system like that. I’ve never tried any of the one-hour disciplines myself so I wouldn’t get how that feels (yet).
I’ve always struggled with getting images that match perfectly. I’ve even tried switching old but memorable images just because they didn’t really fit the major system or were only poorly linked to the word I was associating with the number. For example, I had “Law” for 5 in my system which I immediately associated with Hitman 47 disguised as a judge and it worked really well, but I replaced it later for no reason.
Anyway, thanks for a very comprehensive answer! I’ll try out your method next time I’m thinking of images.