World Memory Championships’ U.K. Open

The Washington Post reported on the Memory Championships that were recently completed in England.1 Some of the feats reported were memorizing the order of 930 binary digits in five minutes, the order of 364 playing cards in 10 minutes, and the order of a deck of playing cards in less than 25 seconds.

The competition consisted of ten categories of competition, some of which were, in addition to the memorization of play cards, abstract images, random words, and photographs of strangers. Contestants scored points in each of the ten categories and awards were presented for the winners of each category.

The U.K Open is preliminary to the World Memory Championships, which will be held in China this year. The winner of that competition will receive a $92,000.00 cash prize. The rumor is that the Chinese government has been conducting a memory boot camp for its competitors. If so, the competition will likely be especially intense.

The tenor of the Post article was that these memory competitions were fun, but of little practical value. Given today’s PDAs, smart phones, and ubiquitous technology, such skills have little value. I beg to differ.

First let me provide some historical context. Memory skills were trained and highly valued in Ancient Greece and Rome. These skills continued to be valued until paper became more generally available and Gutenberg invented the printing press. As technology advanced, memory techniques became less and less popular. These lost or forgotten skills can be regarded as a casualty of technological advances.

I submit that these skills are still valuable. And the feats do not need to equal or even come close to these competitive mnemonists to be valuable. Both human memory and technology are vulnerable. Sure, human memory is vulnerable, you say, but how is technology vulnerable? First of all, due to hardware or software problems, technology is not always available. Then, there are data entry errors that yield incorrect information when you try to retrieve it. And what about all the logons and passwords you need to remember to even gain access to the technology? And what about credit cards? Should you write the numbers down, someone can always find them, but if you commit them to memory? Remembering names and personal information that goes with the names is invaluable, especially during unanticipated encounters.

But there is an even more fundamental reason that the Healthymemory Blog recommends mnemonic techniques. They provide splendid exercise for your memory to keep it healthy. Not only is your memory exercised, but your creativity and both hemispheres of your brain also receive workouts.

These memory techniques can be found under the Category mnemonic techniques. Remember that a blog is presented in reverse order, so you might want to start at the beginning, bottom, of the category.

1Moyer, J. & Omonira-Oyekanmi, R. (2010). Memorize 364 Playing Cards? In Ten Minutes? Piece of Cake, Style Section Washington Post, C9.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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