I can't remember more than 11 digits

I was playing on humanbenchmark.com trying to beat my record of 11 digits on the game of number memory, but I’m trying to make progress without using any memory techinique, just by the use of my working memory. Is this an achievable goal? and if It’s, what can I do to make progress?

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It is, I am currently working on methods that improve working memory in general and have found a few successful ones,

For starters the ‘easiest’ but perhaps most tedious method involves learning larger chunks of digits. For example if you know your bank number off by heart, and it appears along with a further 11 digits, you shouldn’t have any difficulty memorizing the 27 digit string. You can memorize perhaps a lot of working memory level chunk associations and hope that your brain gets used to filling in parts of the patterns, kind of like how some people that play chess for a long time have no problem instantly remembering a board. Though you for sure can simply memorize numbers and reuse them or their parts.

Some more specifics to working memory. I have learned that majority of people are bad at using their existing working memory, myself included, seemingly the precision of attention you put to chunks is not as fine as it can be, a lot of it is simply wasted. With training that focuses on this you can increase your working memory quite a bit. In that sense you are not really increasing it, but using it more effectively.

Other cases like these also exist, for example if you increase the amplitude ‘say volume of verbal replay’ for your digit span, you can actually increase the amount of digits you memorize compared to if you default to a much more quiet tone. It appears simply more memorable, similar to how you can have a lot of detail in a visual scene.

Further-on from that, it appears you can play some basic tricks with your working memory, you can repeat the first 3-4 digits and form a subconscious loop while memorizing the next few digits as normal. Things like these exist plentiful.

Currently I am investigating the attention part a bit more to see how increases can occur. When I have sure capacity increase sort of things, i will likely post an update on this.

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This is going to be tough because sooner or later you will use memory techniques to a greater or lesser extend. This has to do with the space you have in the working memory of your brain. You can push this a bit, but not much, at least without techniques.

For example, if you have a 2, a 4 and a 7, you might create the chunk of 247, or 24/7. Right there you are using a memory technique.

The closest things to not using techniques would be chunking, and maybe include some basic adding of context (like the 24/7 example). you can add some repetition of earlier numbers in order to turn the earlier digits into a larger chunk, which is a very basic form of linking.

So can you get beyond 11? Definitly, but it does depend on what you count as techniques.

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I agree with this too. If chunking is technique one is likely going to be stuck beyond a digit span of 3 or 4, because one is likely to subconsciously chunk too.

Even when I try to memorize a 7 digit string in 0.01 seconds, it is definitely chunked and during this time frame I have no leeway to do this consciously.

It is possible to go quite far with a sort of verbal mnemonic where you explain how the result exists.

For example 28084702491232138

double the first digit twice for the second, to indicate the next operation there is a 0.
start with the last as a placeholder now half that and this time takeaway 1 from the second digit you started with. Another 0. This is a full sequence. The next sequence starts with the initial digit. Double once, double twice+1, now count from1 to 3 then back to 1 ,append the largest digit of the series, now what was the 1st digits index value?

This was a bit of a bad example, but I created it on the spot, could create a different one perhaps better one that doesn’t rely too much on the digits for any string.

And I do recall it decently after this

28084702491232138

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The span of human working memory for digits (in the phonological loop) is famously 5–9 digits, meaning that if someone says a string of e.g. n digits to you, you can repeat them back as long as n is no more than about 8–9 digits.

You can simultaneously store 5–6 digits in the visuo-spatial sketchpad, which means that in total you can get just a little more than 10 digits without any special chunking, patterns, mnemonics, or other techniques. Try memorizing how the first 4 digits look before memorizing the “sound” of the next 8, and you might get to ~12 digits.

To read more about this, especially in the context of mental math, I’ve written more here: Calculating the Size of the Working Memory of the Human Brain – World Mental Calculation

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I remember I used to try to remember the full 10 digits of a phone number with areacode before mnemonics when I was younger, with very few repeating in my head after I heard it.

That was by repeating the sound of like 6 of the numbers in my head AND visualizing the last 4 at the same time. That really seemed to put things to a little bit of extra Oomf

you might be able to use the sense of touch an trace out a couple of the numbers with the fingers. using multiple senses seems to put working memory to fuller use

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if you increase the amplitude say volume of verbal replay’ for your digit span, you can actually increase the amount of digits you memorize compared to if you default to a much more quiet tone.

Wow, this was a very useful tip, I didn’t think about that. I think It will help me!

i will likely post an update on this.

I hope you get successfully :slight_smile: thank you, man.

I’m already using both…

I don’t agree with this. 24/7 is obviously a mnemonic but I don’t think 247 is necessarily a memory technique.

When I see random numbers my brain automatically creates random chunks because of my synesthesia. This can range from a small chunk like 247 to larger chunks like 164062 which is located in the first 100 digits of pi: 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164062 <<

I think that the conversation changes when you deliberately do something.

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Nice to see this was working for you!

The touch idea is neat, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. The working memory has two main parts (visual and verbal), and movement (like tracing out numbers) is using the visual part.

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Well, I just tried it now with these digits of pi here 510582097
I was able to memorize it in two verbal chunks, 510, 582, plus visualize the 097

So that got me to 9 without mnemonics,

Not only did it get me to 9, it didn’t make me feel insecure or racy over performance
I mean, seemed to get me there comfortable without worrying whether I’d remember it

Quite often, if I don’t have a consistent “control” feeling over my performance, I feel as though I will soil myself in fear of not performing how I’d like. So if we can get to 9 and have a consistent way (2chunks of 3digits phonological loop, 1chunk of 3digits visual sketchpad). I think that’s noteworthy and doesn’t put me on edge.

What’s fascinating is I ultimately had to repeat phonological loop to prevent forgetting.
Not only that, but it seemed that in order to “long-termify” the number, I needed to visualize the numbers in the phonological loop.

So while I kept repeating the first 6, I would hold the visual of the last 3 numbers for a solid 5-10 repetitions, and then start visualizing the middle 3 while repeating, kind of visualizing the 3 chunks of 3 until I could visually keep them all there in a semi-permanent vision. A key point is that visualization is strong in stabilizing memory. The phonological loop was mostly a short-term store waiting to be visualized.

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There is a famous study done in the early times of memory research where a man was tested to see how many spoken digits he could remember. At first he could only get a few digits and overtime he gradually increased. Every time he reached a new peak, he was able to improve his score after a few days.

In the end he was able to memorize without any specific memory technique.

He however explained that he had developed over time some improvised technique to find patterns in the digits he was remembering.

Whatever you do, your brain will try to find a way to get better at it. So even if you are not consciously using a memory technique or chunking. Your mind will find a way to adjust and make less effort to get the same results.

If you are serious and dedicated about it, you will be able to improve your score at this specific exercise. The research however shows that it would not improve your overall short term memory and that developing such a skill would not transfer to other exercises or tests which I find ver interesting.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/27851732

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May I comment on that it does not transfer.

I think if I don’t actively apply the mnemonic technique to encode everyday life things, then perhaps it will not “subconsciously” transfer well.

If I do consciously and deliberately apply techniques to real life as frequently as possible, that’s where it’s a deliberate transfer.

Okay, take this example. You drive a car. Your car doesn’t get any faster, BUT, you add an extra pedal that makes it “hop” over buildings and stuff. Now if I have that extra pedal and don’t remember to use it, it does not do anything. If I remember to use it, well then I hop!

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you did not understand me.

That’s exactly what I said. Science shows that when you are training memory techniques for a specific task, it does not transfer to other tasks.

If you do apply it to other areas, then it’s not “transfering”, you are actively applying it and training it with other tasks.

Transfering would be when you are training a skill in one domain or task and that you would see results on a different task without training for that specific task.

To use your analogy, you installed a pedal on your car, but when you use your bike, the pedal is not here. So unless you start working on your bike’s pedal, no hopping for you. :slight_smile: