How to start learning biology effectively?

Hi. Two days ago I found a memory palace technique which helps you to remember basic things. Does this technique working effectively on biology? If i want to learn biology facts, do I need to create grand palace, or is it enough my house plan? Can I only use my house plan for remembering differents facts, and topics?

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Biology is a big subject, so you would probably use many memory palaces/journeys along the way. The technique is especially good for lists of things.

If you haven’t seen it yet, there is a how to learn memory techniques page with a free ebook and some FAQs.

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Yes… But creating a new memory palace for every fact or topic is very hard. And then i add information on stops its hard to remember, I need a lot of time to remember. Does using only house plan for every topic can be effective?

I don’t think Josh was suggesting you have a different memory palace for every fact or topic. But unless you live in Buckingham Palace, a typical home isn’t likely to provide enough locations to store the multitude of facts that “biology” encompasses.

But I don’t think you’re wanting to learn “biology.” I’m guessing your studies are much more focused than that: animal, human, plant…? Maybe even more focused: mammalian biology, bird diseases, veterinary medicine, etc.? So I guess my first piece of advice would be to focus in on just what, exactly, it is you’re wanting to learn.

The value of using different palaces is that it would allow you to clearly categorize the information you’re learning. Maybe one house is devoted to the human skeletal system. Maybe another to details about the human nervous system. And so on.

You’ll want the largest places you can manage, because we’re probably talking about thousands and thousands of facts—no matter what your specific focus may be. So: Ask yourself how many main categories of information you’re wanting to learn; that may be the number of memory palaces you’ll need. For example, I recently memorized the world’s countries (233) and I used my university for the palace. I didn’t need all of the campus, but having so much room within which to work made it possible to focus on major points of interest for my locations. If you need to store 100 pieces of information, and you’re using a single room, you’ll have to be finding locations in every table leg, every shelf, every spot on the wall, every tiny detail in that room. That level of detail can be extremely challenging to recall. The more your images can spread out, the better, I think.

Bob

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Ok. But if you, for example, made a palace of heart and blood circulation, can you add new information to this palace after two weeks, or months? Or do you need to create new one?

Yes, absolutely. After all, you’re going to naturally learn more and more information about these biological systems over time; so what you store in your palace is naturally going to grow. If the information you learn is connected directly with information you’ve already stored, then you would probably want to add that new information in a way that connects it to that material.

This is a much smaller example, but I recently memorized the 83 counties in the state of Michigan, where I live. I used my current home as the memory palace (and still have about half of the house left over). Now, I want to go back and start adding details about those counties: some of the major towns and cities, significant dates and historical sites located there, and so on. You could take a similar approach with the circulation system.

While I personally think the strongest palaces (and I do wish we could come up with a different word these days, since most of don’t live in palaces and aren’t using actual palaces in our imaginations—we’re using homes, businesses, buildings we know, walks through neighborhoods, etc.) are those based on actual real-world places we know well, I could see value in approaching the circulatory system differently—walking from the heart through the arteries and their offshoots like a journey through a tunnel. In that situation, since you wouldn’t have the advantage of different rooms and furnishings on which to link your mental images, you’d need to link each piece of information with the information before and after, like a chain that you’re following. For me, that would mean coming up with a story.

My county palace doesn’t involve any story elements; each county has its own image and they don’t interact in any way with each other. But often I will add some interaction to other palaces I’ve developed. Some of the best examples of this are in the book Remember, Remember by Ed Cooke (who should really get a lot more attention here, I think). He explains how to use a story to tie together all of the rulers of England, as well as all of the presidents of the United States.

I tend to write really long posts, so I’ll stop there. But maybe the best advice I can offer is to be sure to get the PDF Josh recommended earlier (if you haven’t already read it), learn the basic memory techniques, pick a place to use as a memory palace, and then just jump in and try it. Because, really, you won’t know what works for you until you try. (Also, there are lots of great books on memory. And I’d highly recommend the audiobook Quantum Memory Power by Dominic O’Brien; it has a wealth of excellent content—even for experienced memory folks—and O’Brien is a gifted and entertaining teacher.)

Bob

Absolutely!

The 3x world memory champion Alex Mullen uses it for medicine. So I think that will work effectively for biology. I suggest you search for his website and read the FAQs.

But here are the general tips:

  1. Keep a log of palaces. Alex doesn’t choose the individual loci beforehand. But he has a log of several palaces to choose from. Just use one palace, choose loci as you learn and make images along the journey. Do you need to add new information? Pick a new spot or room within the palace.

  2. Use active learning strategies. The memory palace is a great technique. But it’s not sufficient. Use retrieval practice and spaced repetition to improve your learning. For example, Anki is an option. If you don’t use these active strategies, your images will fade away.

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So you mean that several palaces is enouth to remember different topics? For example, if I put information about photosynthesis in my house plan and another well known place, can I reuse the same places to other biology topics?

Yes,you can. You can use the same Memory Palace for two different topics! Though,you may face ‘ghost images’(I have this problem sometimes)! However,to differentiate the topics,you can use ‘hooks’/pegs of some sort,so your brain knows that it is dealing with two different topics!

It can be done, but I don’t personally recommend it. (Although I also don’t have any experience with using the same location for different subjects.) I think that, especially as you’re just getting starting, it may lead to confusion about what images are there.

My suggestion would be that if you’re going to use the same locations to store different subjects, make sure those subjects are as different as they can be so you decrease the chances of, say, confusing your images of the human skeletal system with the vascular system of a cat.

I also wouldn’t start with this approach. I think you’ll have more success with this technique if you have a very strong, well-established palace before trying to add another subject to the same locations.

Bob

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