Sorry I haven’t responded for a few days! Crises intervened.
I’m glad it made sense! It’s worth examining how your brain responds under different pressures, and how you can adjust or control those pressures internally (so to speak) as well as find strategies to cope with them. Effectively, you’re trying to train for specific “competition conditions”.
People who achieve extreme memory feats sometimes will do things like wear ear defenders and blindfolds to block out distractions. Luckily, these people have the same kind of brain you do, and you’re not trying to reach those extremes for this! These same people can do similar memorising to what we’re talking about when being interviewed on TV, which is a similar stress level, and preparation type too, to the kind of job interview you were talking about - so it can be done! The key in any ability is, of course, practice - and in this case, having strategies in place as well as practicing in less than ideal conditions after starting in more ideal conditions.
What do I mean by this? Things that are, so to speak, the permanent furniture of your mind, you need to get solidly by thinking about them carefully and in varied detail.
Let’s take the desk. Think: How big is it? Can you lift it? How would it respond to being thrown around? Does it have drawers that might fall out or rattle if it was flipped? what sound does it make when you drag it, and where do you grip it? What does it feel like on the surface, along the edge,underneath, on the supports? What sound does it make when you tap it or kick it? What might it taste like? (It’s amazing how we can recall what things probably taste like, despite not having put furniture in our mouths intentionally since we were crawling about the floor as a baby!) Get the thing clear in your mind while you have more ideal time to study it. (and if you’ve got George Clooney, or whatever, in there to make it more lively as well, get him involved, and his tie flying about, or rebuttoning his jacket after flipping the desk - get to know his actions here a little, so his personality is part of the location, too.)
Then when you’re in the moment of using it, you can think “and the desk flips over!” and you easily imagine the weight, the sound when it bounces and lands, the rattle of your pens and keys in the drawer (and Clooney’s tie) - and this is without the other action you need to add to tie this all together into a memory. Then you have more mental space to think of what you’re adding to the new scene.
Okay, this is two things.
Say there are 8 cards, and 3 have allergies listed. You don’t have an image for allergies - and you’re drawing a blank on an easy image. So you bring up the airplane peg. Like you would a shopping list, you associate the complex image or actions of allergies to the airplane. Big sneeze from the plane, chaotic tornado-like airport scene, say. You can spend a few extra seconds on this, as you’re going to reuse it for the three cards.
On one card, the allergy is cat hair. So a cat flying a tiny airplane, in my head. Put it somewhere in the room for that card, actively doing something at the location. Then, during recall, you know the room for the person, you need the allergies so you look for the airplane you used for that - there’s the cat crashing the plane, screeching as it’s quiffed blonde wig flies off, so you know it’s cat hair. Boom.
The other 2 rooms have an airplane and associated image for that allergy, too.
Part of what you need is ease of quick review - you just need the detail in full recall later from the ‘big clue’ you left yourself. With airplane for allergies, the airplane is easier to bring in, even alter, in other scenarios. “Why is there a peanut plane? Oh yeah!” / “The model airplane is badly built, covered in glue … Ah, gluten!” - whatever works for you.
Then when doing a rapid review (try to make time for it), it’s just “peanut plane”, “glued airplane”, not “peanut allergy”, “gluten allergy” which is harder to picture. What the airplane represents is going to be easier than the random image you might try to invent for all allergies, and if you don’t know what your airplane means (during recall, not throughout the review!), check what your original peg airplane is doing. If it’s sneezing and getting face swellings, for example, you should recall it’s allergies you’re thinking of.
(Obviously, things that come up a lot in usual life, you form better images for so that they reference something more clearly - I use a yellow telephone for phone numbers, for example, so I know the number following is a telephone number without other clues(*) - but in an urgent situation, you want memorable now, and powerfully.)
Now specifically the one-off detail: If only one card says “cat hair allergy” but nothing about anything similar on any other card, that’s a single detail to incorporate in one room. In this case, I’d attach it to the key image at the doorway, just as you come through. You might still use the airplane to make it make sense, but that’s extra detail you may need time for.
But if each card has one unique detail, like “cat hair allergy”, “long term smoker”, “fear of heights”, etc. Then that can be a “type” as a set. So, if this is the only unique detail of each, I’d use a Santa sack, with a bewigged cat, cigar, or big eiffel tower in each room accordingly.
If there’s more than one unique detail - say the first two are the same person - I might steal a peg for each “set”, or (in this situation) I might try and get both together (cigar smoking sickly cat in a Santa sack) if there’s only a maximum of two.
You need the strategy to fit the data, but to remain flexible. You don’t know exactly what data you’re going to meet in this kind of test, but you know it will be a limited set, divided into at least two “dimensions” - first by a card (or person - the key identifier) and second by detail. Some details are simple to image - birthdays with birthday cake, wedding anniversaries with brides, telephone numbers with phones - so those we can partly prepare for (number and date encoding, for example)
(* I use an old-style yellow telephone, because it’s unusual and specific. As a telephone, it tells me what the item is, but also because it’s yellOW, and all numbers in the UK begin with a zerO (0) or “Oh”, I don’t encode that digit in the rare occasions I use it, saving space and time.)
Yes, that’s the idea. Perhaps put the key image for which card it is in the doorway (then you have to pass it) or on the door if that works more naturally for you - something relating to their picture or name is a good example. Then you know facts about that card must be in that room. If you need to recall all the details for a card, they’re together in the room. If you need all the allergies from all the cards, look for the airplane in each room, which takes longer but should still be fairly swift.
Oh, and it’s worth remembering to include a “none” as a simple image you can reuse. I use a hula hoop, pink, stripey, shiny smooth. It’s useful if there are things like cards with no allergies. Putting in an airplane losing its wings as it goes through a shiny striped hula hoop, for example, gives you the airplane for that room, and then you aren’t thinking “where is it?” and worrying you’ve forgotten something. It’s there, and the answer to allergies here is “none”. You might not need to do that, but I thought I’d share the option, in case it helps.
A more advanced strategy, overall, if the cards give information in a specific and fixed order, is the following:
- Ensure you know which item is which in each room of your palace - which is the third in that room, which is the seventh in that room - with ease. This takes a lot of practice, but if you mark out every fifth and/or tenth with some visual clue you’ll recognise quickly, you can navigate through more easily.
- Use (preferably) an ordered peg list (because it separates content more clearly), and at each point place the image of the information type: Name (name tag - I’m assuming you’re using a picture for the room identifier, and the first location for the name itself, but that’s up to you), Eye Colour (eyeball), Allergies (atchoo!), Favourite Movie (old style projector) - whatever they are. This is like your “master definition” list for the task.
- Go through each card, and give each card a room. You don’t need to lock in what type of item is being stored - that’s in the other list - only the data itself. So, in a room, the second item may be “Blue”, because the second item on the card is “Eye Colour:Blue”. You have “Eye Colour” in your peg list, so you don’t need it in this image in the room, but if a blue eyeball is going to be more memorable for “blue” than a blue moon or a blueberry, don’t let it stop you!
- Try to review it all at least once. remember, during review you’re not “interpreting”, you’re just checking the objects are still there - position 2 = blue moon, etc.
- During later recall, you can list out the peg list items, then just go through each room to recall the items in it for each card. Alternately, if the questions are “Who had the blue eyes?” you can find the “eye” on your peg list - there it is, at number 2 - then go to the second item in each room to find the blue one, or multiple blue ones.
The two advantages are that you can go straight to the item to recall it, and that it changes things from “cat+plane” to just “cat” because the position indicates the item type - but this needs much more practice with the locations to be worthwhile, so might be best trained on if you’re going to use the spaces a lot in the future!
Notice that the “unique detail” set mentioned before can also be one of the things on the peg list - again, a Santa sack to symbolise ‘all kinds of things’ - so even those can be incorporated.
Again, sorry for not responding sooner!