Ask a memory champion

(Ben Pridmore) #161

Great results for your first attempts with hour numbers! Using a journey to keep track of your images is a sensible idea, even if I’ve never done it myself, and I wouldn’t think it would slow you down all that much - unless the journey you store your images on is too similar to the one you’re using to memorise numbers, because I can see how that would cause confusion.

Keep up the good work! Meep-meep! :slight_smile:


Hello Ben :slight_smile:

It’s really great to see that you are willing to answer so many questions just to help others.
I have been wondering how exactly consistent mnemonics training can affect the brain, so I hope you will answer these two questions as well:

  1. Do you feel that your memory has improved on all fields, or is the improvement limited to the areas that you use as training technics? (Like remembering cards)

As an example, are you better at recalling unimportant things, like what you had for dinner 7 days ago, than you were before training mnemonics?

  1. Do you feel that your overall mental performance has risen due to mnemonics training?

As an example, do you think/conclude a little faster or understand new concepts more easily now than before training mnemonics?

Thank you very much in advance! :slight_smile:

(Ben Pridmore) #163

As I always like to say, I really don’t see mnemonics as a general tool I use to improve my life. I use very specific memory techniques designed for the sole purpose of winning memory competitions. And it always makes me a bit uneasy when some people talk about mnemonics as the latest cure-all panacea that can solve all the world’s problems…

I haven’t really noticed any significant improvement in my memory or mental performance, but then I haven’t really been looking for them, if you see what I mean. I’ve been training memory techniques extensively for over ten years, I can barely remember how my mind worked when I was younger! It might be that my brain in general is vastly better than it would have been if I hadn’t discovered mnemonics - but how can we tell? :slight_smile:


Hello Ben, I’d like to ask you about recalling process. For training purpose as well as during the competition, how are you doing that?

Memorization is fine for me, but my recall time usually takes much longer than 5 mins, not to say we have to arrange another pack of cards in the correct order during the competition.

(Ben Pridmore) #165

Are you recalling in a different way? It’s important to practice recalling by rearranging another pack of cards, just like in the competition. It’s something that you can get faster at quite quickly with a bit of practice, though it might seem slow at first.

I do remember being worried about only having five minutes to recall, long ago, but really the only advice I can offer is just to keep practicing! :slight_smile:


Thanks Ben :slight_smile:

Do you have any advice or specific training strategy to improve recalling? And to rearrange the deck during competition? Or exactly how are you doing it in detail?

Usually I just recall in my head or voice it out, though it always exceed 5mins. Using another deck gives me a lot of distraction and takes much more time. It’s really bad for competition.

(Ben Pridmore) #167

Don’t think of rearranging the deck as an extra chore that you need to do as part of the recall. Pick out the cards that you can remember straight away, and then look at the remaining ones, think of the images they represent and remember where you saw them on your journey.

Really, my only advice is just to keep practicing! It’ll get easier, I promise!


This question is a little vague, so it’s fine if you don’t really know how to respond :). How do you handle adjusting the relative sizes of objects to link them in a more interesting or vivid way, or to fit them in loci? What kinds of problems arise and how do you solve them?

(Ben Pridmore) #169

That’s a very interesting question, and the answer is really that problems just don’t arise for me. I don’t really think about it, but some of my images are very large - 582 is an ocean liner, full size, but it doesn’t have any problems fitting in my bathroom, and depending on the order images appear in, there’ll be someone standing by the side and looking up at someone or something on the deck, and that thing will move over to interact with the next object at the next location, in the kitchen, and they’re suddenly not on the liner any more, without having explicitly climbed down from it. It’s like a dream, really, and if I stopped to think about it, it wouldn’t make sense!

All my images do have a consistent size relative to each other. A few of them are based on toy action figures, and therefore very small, and just occasionally I find myself picturing them as normal sized people instead, but that tends to make me forget who it was in the recall.


You always try to make practice as similar to competition as possible, but even so you would have experimented with different ways of doing things, like different methods of review in speed numbers.
As your scores improved over the years, can you pinpoint what aspects of your memorization you actually noticed improvement on? It’s important because A couple times I’ve come back to digits after a stint, practicing only cards, and the digit scores will be a little (sometimes a lot) better, but it doesn’t feel as if it has gotten easier, or even that I’ve gotten better at anything in particular. For that reason, my practice is basically just repitition without direction, just “waiting” to get better because “getting better is just what happens after you do something a bunch of times.”

It’s inefficient, but it sounds like most people do practice that way.


I’m really interested in your training, and I think that you’re using “link method” together with “method of loci”. Because you create a story that is taking place along some known location, but the STORY is important…

I don’t do such thing. I memorize separated pictures, not linked pictures. I cannot say it doesn’t work, but it’s quite different. I don’t even care whether my journey is rotating from left to the right or right to the left, because those object don’t interact with each other. And I don’t “walk” through the journey, I just skip to the next location. And I also saw your video where you memorized a deck of cards and then the rest was a movie of your images, (really fascinating, by the way!), so this isn’t what’s in my mind at all! My objects interact with a location some times.

For example, one of my journeys:

  • Desk; computer monitor; bed …

And to memorize 7212 4797 9291, I would picture:

  • Coin (72) jumping above some tin (12) placed on my desk;
  • (next picture, no interaction) A rock (47) as it is hitting a book (97) that falls on a computer monitor (interaction with a location)
  • A bone (like a skeleton) (92) which is hitting my bed with a baseball bat (91) (another interaction with location)

What do you think about this? I know that everybody is different, but I just wanna know if you had used something similar before but realized that it wasn’t the best approach.

(Ben Pridmore) #172

That’s basically what my practice is, too. Honestly, I find it difficult to analyse what I’ve done that has brought about significant improvements, so I’m very sorry I can’t give a helpful answer to this.

It also comes under the ‘different things work for different people’ category. If you want to be more scientific about it, experiment with different things a little more - try doing speed numbers with and without reviewing, for example, or try fewer digits and see what happens. Not a good answer, I know, but it’s really the best I can do…

(Ben Pridmore) #173

I originally had two images at each location, only interacting with each other, just like your example, except that they never really interacted with the location very much. When I changed to three images on a location, I somehow found myself more often blanking on one particular location - although maybe it was just because I was memorising a lot more information by then.

So I made a conscious decision to start having the final image on one location interact with the first on the next, so as to reduce the number of gaps in my recall, while only taking a little bit longer to memorise. And it worked! For me, anyway…


I have started doing this too and find it great as a way to move between things. Especially because I have my locations, But I don’t really have the connection/interaction between the location and the PAO. The focus is on the PAO rather than the location. I was also finding myself blanking, but if I was told the first card/Person, I had no issue recalling the Action and Object that were tied to it.

(Ben Pridmore) #175

I don’t really have much connection between my locations and my images either - the idea is to have everything connected in one big string, and the locations are only a sort of backup. It’s unusual, but it works for me…


Hi ben, are you still giving away online copies of your book through email? If so, i would enjoy reading through it. [email protected] is my email. As far as questions, i know you use your “bens system” in all world memory championship events except possibly random lists of words, names and faces, historic dates, and abstract images. Could you share what you use to memorize in those events? Also, i am working on making my own bens system and having a few issue thinking of words for the pronunciations that dont sound like any words i have heard of. Do you have any ideas or suggestions on how to get around that issue? Thanks very much, i am a big fan of you!

(Ben Pridmore) #177

Book sent - it’s still available to anyone who really wants it! :slight_smile:

For historic dates I use the ‘Ben system’ images for the last three digits of all the years beginning with 1 - ie 1999 is the same image I use in number disciplines for 999. For the ones in the 2000s, I use the list of images beginning with ‘h’, so the image for 2999 is a hobo.

For names and faces I haven’t really got a system, which is why I don’t do very well in it. For random words I just make a story out of the words and remember that.

For abstracts I’ve identified the background patterns the shapes are filled in with (there’s something like 144 of them) and assigned one of my Ben system images to each of them. Then I memorise them in a list as if I was memorising numbers - I work down the columns rather than across the rows, so on the recall paper for each image I have five different choices to pick from.

As for the other problem, all I can suggest is to use your imagination. I created my images by sitting down at a computer and not allowing myself to get up until I’d filled in a word for each image, even if what I wrote down didn’t really mean anything!


Ben, do you really have one thousand images beginning with ‘h’?

(Ben Pridmore) #179

No, just 169, and I only need a hundred for historic dates. The dates in the competition are between 1000 and 2099. :slight_smile:


I have a couple more questions if you don’t mind. Do you still use the original 2,704 images you created at the beginning? Or have you switched a couple out that you had issues with? Also, for a couple of pronunciations they make actual words but some of them are hard to image. For example the 10 of spades and 2 of spades make “soon”. Did you just use soon for your image, and if so how do you imagine/ invision soon in your head, or did u make a different word with a pronunciation similar to soon thats easier to invision? Thanks again for your help, its greatly appreciated!