Building a PAO system from scratch: Major System vs Dominic System

I’m new to the world of mnemonics and want to build a PAO system but have had a difficult time getting started. For what it’s worth, my intended use of the system in tandem with a memory palace (at least initially) is for pi memorization. It seems that the Major System gets most of the attention but the Dominic System feels more natural to me and leaves less room for confusion on recall as a beginner. Does anyone here have any feedback on one system versus the other before I start going down one of the paths?

Regardless of the system I end up using, the next step is creating the content of the PAO and that is where I’ve come screeching to a halt. My trouble has been creating sufficiently different and identifiable people and actions for a 0-99 list and have those associations be connected strongly enough to only that one person. I’ve found a few PAO lists online but quickly realized that I can’t rely on other people’s lists because I don’t have the same associations and often times, don’t know the individuals. Therefore, building a system from scratch is the only practical way to go in order for it to be effective.

When attempting to build my own PAO, I naturally want to give an action and object that I would immediately associate together. So let’s say Albert Einsten - writing - chalkboard. This would preclude me from using an author’s name elsewhere in my list because the action of writing would be easily confused unless of course the author has some other very obvious action. How do some of you deal with this type of obstacle? Are there helpful resources that you’ve found online that you could suggest?

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If Dominic feels more natural to you, go that route.

I had a similar dilemma at first. Rather than a translating system like major or dominic, I kept getting drawn to categorial system. 00-09 are Sherlock Holmes characters, 40-49 are marvel characters, 60-69 are original trilogy star wars characters, 70-79 are Disney’s star wars characters. Things like that.

My millennium PAO is build on the same kind of foundation.

In the end, HOW you come up with the images is less important than WHAT images you come up with. They have to be recognizable. The major and dominic systems (and the categorial system as well, among many, many more) are ways to help you create recallable images, it is your job to find a construction aid that you can use for recallable images for you. I believe we have a page that has a list of most of the popular contruction aids/systems, mayby @Josh knows the link to that.

Usually, we know people for more than one thing. Albert Einstein could be combing his hair, he could be getting sucked in a black hole, he could be lecturing students, he could be solving a math problem. A writer could be typing on a typewriter, or even a story-related action. George R.R. Martin could be swinging a sword or feeding a direwolf. J.K. Rowling could be casting a spell with a wand. J.R.R. Tolkien could be forging a ring. After a few attempts, you will see beyond a single action and object.



Not sure it will carry something for you. But… I’m in the same process as you.

My purpose is quite different; I intend to memorize chronological dates, and laws reference (most of the time, in France, these are codified with up to 4-digits numbers).

So I gave a try to a PAO system, adding a fourth item (that would be a place). So far, for my purpose it may work, didn’t have time to try extensively. But some little tryouts let me think it will work.

But, as I’m working on the next step (a real PAO), because just 4 digits is enough for law, but can be tricky in historical information. So I’m gathering lists: lists of characters, of action verbs, of professions, etc… I have 1 Mo of lists in a Table waiting to be sorted out.

For the choice of different items, you may retain (among others) the methods that I consider, frme best to least efficient (according to me):
1- the number is directly related to the character/action/object. You are lucky. I have found only a handfull on the 330 items I must gather :frowning:. But I already experienced that when I tried things before passing to the Major system.
Exemple: 33 makes me think “Adolf Hitler”, because he achieved power on Germany in 1933.
2- you translate it following either the Major Method, Dominic system, or any other way.
Example: Churchill would translate to 64 in the Major, if I’m not mistaken.
Depending on the list, your patience, and some specifics of your language, it can be tricky.
3- you dispatch your items arbitrarily, following some logic. I tried with a themes for each group of tens: 0-9 would be pieces of furniture (object), 10-19 fruits, 20-30 trees, etc. Like Mayarra explained, it could work for you.

I know there are others. But I supposethat if your system is imperfect (and it will be), what will make his usability is your mastery. If you are to the point of learning Pi, I am confident that it’s not really a problem.

I am eager to follow your progress on that particular matter.

The how to memorize numbers page is a good place to start. There’s also a page that lists over 50 mnemonic systems.

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You absolutely can use PAO for memorizing pi, of course. So if that’s really what you want to do, I’m not trying to talk you out of it.

Even so, I’m going to suggest an alternative. :slight_smile:

I’m someone who doesn’t use PAO for anything. For pi, I rely on what I guess you could call a dual Major system. I have noun images for 0-99. But I also have a separate list of people images for 00-99. All are based on Major. I memorize pi in groups of six numbers, with the first pair of each group represented by one of my people images. (That helps me keep the groups separate and distinct.) That person then interacts in some way with the next two images. But because I don’t rely on PAO, those interactions can be absolutely anything I need them to be in order to fit the scene I’m creating; they don’t carry any associations themselves. Does that make sense?

So 141592 is Debbie Reynolds (14) dancing with a life-size doll (15) that is swinging a large dinosaur bone (92). Next comes John Lennon (65), riding a mule (35) that is vaping (89).

When it comes to figuring out the approach that works best for you, you do have options.



Thanks Josh.

Bob - I really like your approach. It is still a PAO system in essence, you just aren’t pegging the action to a specific number. I suppose you are only limited by your creativity to piece the person and 2 objects together. Any tips for making sure that the 2 objects stay in the correct order?


That is definitely a challenge! And it’s one that a traditional PAO approach avoids.

There have been a few times during recall when I’ve switched the second two pairs of numbers. When I do a self-test and discover that, I try to make sure I’ve added some action that involves the 2nd pair of numbers acting on the 3rd pair, even if it’s minor.

For instance, there’s a sequence later on with 148086. So this is Debbie Reynolds again. And I once recalled that she was holding a fish (86) with a fuse (80) in its mouth. But that’s the wrong order. So when revising the image, I imagined DR being slightly burned by a lit fuse (80), which she gets rid of by sticking down the throat of a fish (86). (It also helps that 8086 was the model number of one of the earliest Intel computer chips for the IBM PC, which I recall because…well, I’m a bit of a geek, I guess!)

I’ll also mention that I’m not rigid with my Major images. If “cat” doesn’t work for a particular scene, I’ll change it to “kite” or “coat,” if I need to. This flexibility can lead to more cohesive scenes, I think. For 197169, it made more sense to me that Tim Burton (19) would be flying a kite (71) shaped like a ship (69) than to come up with a more complex scene involving TB, a cat, and a ship—or something that might be less memorable, like TB wearing a coat with ships on it.



I use this technique from Ben Pridmore’s system, always placing images from left-to-right and/or top-to-bottom, sometimes with certain kinds of actions:

“I don’t use the person-action-object ideas of some people, I just have three ‘objects’ at each point on my route. Some of these objects are people, some are things. I ‘see’ them arranged from left to right, or top to bottom, and interacting in various ways according to rules I made up as I went along, depending on which objects come together in what order.”

See also the How to link more than 2 images in the same location? thread.

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That’s exactly how I felt when I started, too! I went with the Dominic System to create my PA (and later added the O for PAO), but for some of my numbers, I just couldn’t find a person with the right initials so I borrowed from the Major System (for example: 92 is PeNny from the tv show the big bang theory). For some, I just went with what came to mind (24 = Jack Bauer). Once you know your system well enough, it doesn’t really matter anymore how you came up with the People/Actions/Objects, you’ll know them instantly without much thinking.

I had that problem and as soon as I noticed that I might confuse something, I just changed one of them completely. More than 20 people and 10 actions are now different from the ones I had initially. It sometimes takes some trial and error in order to get it right in the end.


I was going to suggest something almost identical, @Mayarra.

I learned the Major system, but never really put it into use. I was initially learning to memorize a deck of cards.

I used number associations, combining them with categories. I used Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and (for hearts) people I loved.

For some associations, I used a Major naming system. For others, I used Dominic’s lettering scheme. Example, the 6 of Spades is Sulu. Spades are Star Trek. 6, in Dominic, is an S sound.

When I decided to fully adopt Dominic, I already had 52 PAO associations. So I used them this way. Clubs were 21 - 33. (21 = A of Clubs, 30 = 10 of Clubs, 31 = Jack of Clubs, etc.)

Diamonds were 41-53. Hearts, 61-73. Spades, 81-93.)

For the rest, I mostly used Dominic. But since I knew the Major system, I sometimes borrowed from it. I couldn’t think of a good NN person for 99. So it became Natalie Portman. One part Dominic, one part Major.

Be creative. Group numbers of 10 together using areas you enjoy (Doctor Who, Sherlock, school friends, whatever.) And find easy associations. One of my images in the cards ending in 3 is for someone known for a love triangle. Most of my 10s (10, 20 , 30, etc) are “Perfect 10s.” And so on.


You can use this site for Dominic system name list if you are still confused in it . It contains lot of names
I hope it will help you


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missing .com
You’ve saved me a lot of time.

Is this link in the wiki??

Yes, it’s on the Dominic System page. You can also find some full Dominic System Examples there.

(I fixed the broken links above.)


Thanks! The configure the PAO key in the web is amazing!

I started also with Dominic system , making 00-99 with initials like 15, Albert Einstein. But along the way i got stuck on many initials. I forced myself to research for people to fit the code. In the end, i was able to complete it. But many of the images are people i dont really know and like haha. So now im changing the images. I find the dominic system helpful to me. I made a good progress since i started training. But that part of thinking of people to fit the initials is the diffcult thng for me. The PA, People Action, is still i follow. As you said, dominic system is natural to you, so maybe you can stick to it. There are many systems im reading here in forums even i got tempted to try but so far im still sticking to my system atleast for now.