What's the best answer you can give to someone who suggests memory techniques are useless?


I don´t think the grocery list kind of examples are good to convince people that never tried the techniques, because you don´t actually NEED memory techniques to buy a list of things, you could write it down. In fact, I think i wouldn´t use memory techniques for that kind of things if they where equally effective but painful instead of funny. When I want to give a quick awnser I just exagerate how useful they are for studing, or give some examples of how it can be very useful for some specific jobs or situations. But I think i could do much better. I like the kind of awnser about how our memories shape our direct perception of the world and make our life experience richer, but I think the connection between that concept and memoricing 1000 digits in an hour using weird techniques is not so easy to see and kind of abstract without saying something more. Since I´m starting to give a course of this stuff, a quick and powerful awnser to that question would be very useful for me. What would be your awnser?


If all the info of your profession is well structurized into memory palace and you are able to retrieve and use this info without effort, you become expert in your profession. You are a living library. And you can easily add more and more info into that mental library, add your own ideas and remove the obsolete ideas.
And your memory is WHAT YOU ARE, this is your world view.


To promote the course where I learned mnemotechniques they made three demonstrations:

  • 20 words spoken one-time by public (recited sequentially and randomly)
  • 40 digits spoken one-time by public (recited sequentially and randomly)
  • first 31 pages of a popular monthly magazine for women which was published a few weeks ago: public asked any detail and the speaker recited the page where the detail is and the answer almost word-for-word

Obviously I was impressed by all three but mostly by the last.because I saw the usefulness in real world.


You are not sure modern people need mnemonics and yet you are giving courses on that?

Here’s why I came to use it in the order of highest to lowest priority:

  1. Though second contains it, it’s worth to separate this one: you look quite favourably among all the other graduates, who barely remember 1% of what was taught to them (keep in mind, that what is being taught is usually 1% of the book material that is considered to be the most important stuff).
  2. You are self-sufficient and have no need in gadgets or books, when it comes to the most important stuff.
  3. Memorising all sorts of stuff beginning with phone numbers and room numbers, ending with passwords and addresses on the fly for quite a long time until the first repetition.
  4. Consequence of the second is people see you as much more educated, erudite and even smarter.
  5. Another consequence of second is people who have a regular need in the categories of information you store would often ask you and you’ll get the respective reputation.
  6. Don’t need to memorise speeches or - god forbid - read them.


I don´t have any doubts about mnemonics being useful and i can perfectly teach the techniques and explain how to use them in real life; I´m just not as good as I want to be at communicating it´s usefulness to the harder people, those that would awnser “but i could do that with my phone” to everything that can be awnsered that way, and “well but it´s useful just for that” to everything that can´t be awnsered that way.

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Use memory techniques to memorize something useful in front of them.

(Josh Cohen) #7

A quick trick I sometimes teach to new people is to have them memorize from this deck of alphabet cards.

You can make a body palace from head to feet with ten locations. Have them memorize two items per location in their body palace. When they’re done, tell them they never have to write down a shopping list again. It’s quick and practical, and most people will be able to recall most of the items on their first try.


The most practical applications are probably related to social interactions and the psychology of making people feel like you care about them. For example, if you always remembered the name of every person you meet, people tend to think you remembered them, that they somehow stuck out in your mind. The other practical application is giving presentations or otherwise memorizing some talking points. Even when you are giving a presentation and you are “the one in control”, things don’t always go as expected. Something happens to distract you and you break your train of thought. Mnemonics can help you recover if you memorized the outline of the material. Some might say you could just print out the outline or refer to your PowerPoint presentation, but you will seem more like you have it together if you don’t need notes. So if you are a presenter or sales person it can be helpful. For a lot of other jobs, it’s just a nice trick and you may not be able to convince people that it’s useful, because it may not be for their work.


I just remembered a great one! This is from Ron White’s memory course from which I learned about the method of Loci. I’ve used it myself, and it plays HUGE.

Using the 10-locus Head to foot palace above, have people memorize items such as ‘eating your own liver’ (locus 5) ‘rolling a little toy soldier and a quarter in your mouth’ (locus 2) and on the way down their body keep quizzing them, “What was number 3? Yes, quarter, soldier in locus 3 (mouth) Awesome, see this isn’t so hard.” Imagine someone pointing a gun straight at your nose. (Locus 2)

Imagine balancing a giant speaker on top of your head (locus 1)

Imagine Judge Judy speeding around and around your waist on a moped (locus 6)

Best to go in order though, as always.

They will be captivated by the utter strangeness of what you are asking them to do. They will think “what on earth does this have to do with random numbers?” You’re actually having them doing hard work - a ten locus memorization on their first try. But deliver it with understanding humor and some enthusiasm, and that enthusiasm will be contagious. They may even be self-conscious, but reassure them. “Hang in there, we’re almost done!”

When you get through the tenth locus, have them repeat the list. Tell them they did well, and explain that if you put images to cards and numbers, you can memorize them just like this.

“You can also memorize useful things like grocery lists or even the Bill of Rights. I bet you learned about the Bill of Rights in school but forgot most of them. Well fear not, because you just memorized them!”

Freedom of speech
Right to bear arms

Catch them by surprise. Now they are the only person they know who knows the Bill of Rights.


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(America's Memory Guru) #10

An answer I use in presentations or workshops is when your halfway through your life your brain has the capacity of 10 to the power of 9, if you are close to the end of your life you have the capacity of 10 to the power of 20. That equates to 10 million books each being 1000 pages long. Now the fact is you are never going to fill the library in your mind but if I can help you get a few more novels on the shelf with mnemonic training wouldn’t you want to be able to do that? Then I do the presentation or teach them the eight hour workshop with a money back guarantee and in 26 years have never been asked to give a refund. I would say that’s proof enough.

Let me say I don’t say this bragging on myself because everyone can do this system we teach. We all have the innate ability to do it! It’s just learning how to turn the switch on. I am actually dyslexic and ADHD but this system has corrected or corrects both of those processes. That’s what we do is help them turn the switch on. It’s how the brain works subconsciously we just have to show each person how to do it consciously. We teach “Learning that Sticks”

Our motto has always been "We remember what we understand, We understand what we pay attention to, We pay attention to what we want, need, or desire. It’s how the brain works not how to work the brain!!!

Harold Mangum President/Psychologist MTI