Hi! I’m new here! I’m so relieved to have found this place. I’ve been looking for a forum about memory techniques for a long time and until now had failed to find one. I’m glad to see that this one is fairly active and full of fellow enthusiasts. There’s a bit of back story here - I hope it doesn’t bore you too much - I think it’s necessary.
I discovered basic memory techniques about three years ago when I was studying for exams. The first book I picked up on the subject was Harry Lorayne’s “Super Memory, super student.” I loved the concept of it, but found it difficult to accept it as an alternative to traditional “memory.” I tried applying it to my studies, but felt mentally overwhelmed. I think this was for two reasons. One was that I tried to remember things verbatim, which was definitely not necessary and a giant waste of time. I punished myself mentally even if I got an and/but wrong. Looking back I see how ridiculous that was - unless it’s a quotation or definition, you don’t need every “and, but and it” in order to know the information. The second reason was that the images started to blur into one for me, I started getting easily confused and again felt like a failure. I ended up forgetting about the systems and reverting to the (admittedly more tedious) traditional systems.
I picked it up again a year later - listened to Lorayne’s audio tapes. Where the book had failed, the audio tapes really helped to drill the peg system into my brain. I finally understood it properly and my understanding of the overall systems improved. During this time I memorized a short poem using the systems - it only took me about half an hour. To my amazement, despite only reviewing it only a couple of times mentally and having not viewed it for over a year, I remembered it perfectly (and still do.) This really proved to me that the systems are very efficient and work! Best of all, these days I don’t even need the images to remember the poem. I just “know” it somehow. For some reason, despite this success, I again abandoned the systems (still not totally sure why…)
So here I am (for what I hope is the final time!) I’m still fascinated by memory systems, but I think part of the reason I’ve abandoned them so many times is because making so many images often felt mentally exhausting AND I found Lorayne’s difficult to apply to a lot of “real-life learning” situations. I’m sure they CAN be applied to the kinds of materials I’m looking to remember, but I’m still a memory novice in many respects and am still learning my way through it all.
I have recently discovered that looking at the material, then mind-mapping the images with associations is a better way of “organizing” what I’m seeing in my head. I also think this could be useful for reviewing my work, so I have a clear idea of the images I chose (rather than loads of haphazard ideas floating around.) The only issue I have with this is that once again I find myself getting a bit confused when trying to link the images to each other (especially on paper) in a way that makes sense and isn’t overly confusing. For numbers it works great - because there aren’t many images required. For example I recently learnt my fourteen times multiplication tables using the peg. They’re not something I require in my studies, but I did it as an experiment to see how well it worked. I learnt the table in less than half an hour and knew it in and out of order. Without the peg, I’m sure it would have taken me days or weeks to learn it (I was always terrible at learning multiplication tables “parrot” fashion when I was young!) Yet the peg makes it almost effortless.
Unfortunately, most of the material I have to learn and remember isn’t number-related. Instead, it’s mostly content from books - particularly text books. I’ve been out of education for a few years and am now trying to “fill the gap” before going to university next year. I’d estimate that I’ve got to remember the core parts of at least 35 books - books - mainly English Language and Literature, History, Philosophy, Classics, a little Science and Maths, but mainly humanities. My problem seems to be two-fold. For one thing I find it very difficult to narrow down the key concepts of the text for memorization - I always have a fear that I will miss something “vital” and find it hard to know where to cut corners. My other problem I have when needing to memorize many ideas/facts etc. from books is that the pictures tend to get overcomplicated and I lose my grasp of what I was trying to remember in the first place.
As an example, here’s something from one of my History textbooks that I’m trying to remember:
Traditional Forms of Power
© Animal Power - Animals have been used by man since prehistoric times to provide power, oxen for ploughing and pack-horses for carrying goods being two examples. Horses were widely used in industry to operate gins, which were used for lifting coal and draining mines. Horse gins, however, were slow and very limited.
For this I would probably narrow it down to:
animals provide - power, oxen for ploughing, pack horses = carrying goods. Horses use = operate gins - lifting coals/draining mines. Horse gins = slow/limited.
And the pictures I would see would be something along the lines of this. Visualize millions of animals with crowns on their heads (animals provide power.) See an Oxen ploughing into the animals and all the crowns fall off and land on a pack of horses, smashing the goods they were carrying. See the goods operating machinery, collapsing under the strain as they lift coals/drain mines. See a giant piece of machinery attached to a mine. A horse head is on the front. See it galloping and then jarring and slowing down (slow/limited.)
This one isn’t bad for me (I just made it up on the spot now) - but I can see myself becoming confused by it eventually. It’s quite a complex set of links/images for fairly limited information. And this is a tiny passage. I’m going to have to learn passages thirty times this long.
I suppose what I’m really looking for is any suggestions on how to refine my techniques and make the whole process less daunting. Should I continue with the link method for memorizing large amounts of information or would I be better looking into other memory techniques? I hear a lot of people talking about loci on here - I have a basic idea of it - but it’s not something I’ve looked into in great detail. Am I on the right track? Do I just need more practice? It gets to the stage sometimes when I’m memorizing information that I almost feel it would be easier just to read the passage and absorb it that way.
Any thoughts would be very much appreciated!