Posts Tagged ‘Method of loci’

31 Ways to Get Smarter in 2012

January 8, 2012

“31 Ways to Get Smarter in 2012” was an article in Newsweek, (2012) Jan 9 & 16, pp. 31-34.  This Healthymemory Blog Post summarizes and categorizes them into the Healthymemory categories:

Human Memory: Theory and Data

Mnemonic Techniques

Transactive Memory

Human Memory: Theory and Data

Eat Tumeric. Turmeric is a spice that contains curcumin, which may reduce dementia’

Tak Tae Kwon Do. or any physical activity that raises your heart rate and requires a lot of coordination.

Eat Dark Chocolate. Chocolate is supposed to have memory improving flavonoids as does red wine.

Join a Knitting Circle. Refining motor ability can benefit cognitive skills.

Wipe the Smile Off Your Face. The act of frowning can make you more skeptical and analytic.

Eat Yogurt. Probiotics may benefit your brain as they have in studies on mice.

Refine Your Thinking Understand how your systems of memory work (System 1 fast; System 2 slow), and learn how to use them for maximum benefit. (See the Healthymemory Blog Posts, “The Two System View of Cognition,” “Review of the Washington Post‘s “The Aging Brain,”, and “Disabusing the Myth that Older People Do No Have New Ideas”)

Hydrate. Dehydration forces the brain to work harder and can hinder its planning and decision making ability.

Play an Instrument. This can boost IQ by increasing activity in parts of the brain controlling memory and coordination.

Write By Hand. Brain imaging studies had shown how handwriting engages more sections of the brain than typing. It might also help you remember what you have written.

Drink Coffee. Studies have shown that coffee can bolster short-term memory and assist in warding off depression.

Delay Gratification. This can help you focus your attention and increase the probability of achieving your goalss

Mnemonic Techniques.

Build a Memory Palace. Mnemonic techniques can both boost memory and provide cognitive exercise. The Memory Palace is described in the Healthymemory Blog Post “How the Memory Champs Do It.”

Zone Out. Strictly speaking Zoning Out and Meditation are not mnemonic techniques.
They are include under mnemonic techniques as they are specific processes that can enhance memory.

Transactive Memory

Play Words with Friends. Transactive memory involves using both your fellow humans and technology to maintain and enhance a healthy memory.

Get News from Al Jazerra. Using unused sources of information broadens your view and enhances cognition.

Toss Your Smartphone. This involves getting rid of technology that can disrupt your focus and sap your productivity.

Download the TED APP. On the other hand there is information available in technology that fosters cognitive growth.

Go to a Literary Festival is an example of an transactive memory activity that involves your fellow human beings in your cognitive enhancement.

Learn a Language can involve both humans and technology and can genuinely enhance cognitive health.

Play Violent Videogames. Well, perhaps not violent videogames, but appropriately chosen viedogames can quicken reactions and improve multitasking.

Follow These People on Twitter. Although this is an example of transactive memory, the Healthymemory Blog respectfully disagrees and urges you to avoid Twitter (so never mind the “who” part).

Install Supermemo. This software can help you catalog new data and then remind you to remember it before it slips away.

See a Shakespeare Play. Viewing the work of the bard is an example of transactive memory involving interactions with your fellow humans.

Check Out ITUNES U. Top schools put their lectures online at iTunes U in subjects ranging from philosophy to astrophysics.

Visit MOMA. That is the Museum of Modern Art to enhance your cognitive experience.

Become an Expert. Becoming an expert in a subject involves interactions with both your fellow humans and technology.

Write Reviews Online. Be proactive in your use of technology.

Get Out of Town. This involves interacting with humans but remember to bring along your laptop.

In Summary

This should give you some ideas. Feel free to substitute relevant appropriate activities of your own choosing.

Mnemonic Techniques for Cognitive Exercise

September 18, 2011

The Healthy Memory Blog is concerned with developing and maintaining a healthy memory throughout one’s lifespan. Mnemonic techniques are techniques that have been developed specifically for enhancing memory. So it should not be surprising that one of the blog categories is titled mnemonic techniques. It might be surprising that the category is relatively small and that postings to the mnemonic techniques are not that frequent. Mnemonic techniques are very old; they go back to the ancient Greeks at least, and probably further. At one time they played a key part of education, rhetoric and elocution. With the development of external storage media, what the Healthymemory Blog calls transactive memory, less and less reliance was placed on mnemonic techniques. So when paper became generally available, they became less commonly used. Now that we have electronic storage, some might argue that they have become irrelevant.

I would argue that they are not irrelevant and that it was a mistake to drop them from formal education. Although I could make that argument, I shall not make it in this blog post. Instead, I am going to argue that they provide a good form of cognitive exercise, one that promotes memory health. First of all, they obviously involve the memory circuits in the brain. They also require recoding and creativity. Imagery is typically involved, so both hemispheres of the brain are exercised.

Most of these mnemonic techniques are found in older posts. The reason that postings in this category are infrequent, is that practically all of these techniques have already been presented. That does not mean that simply reading these old posts will be sufficient. You need to do them conscientiously and then continue practicing on your own.

I would recommend by beginning with the Healthymemory Blog Post “The Method of Loci.” This is a classic mnemonic technique used by the ancients and also used in contemporary memory contests. Then I would do “The One Bun Rhyme Mnemonic” post. The next post would be “Paired Associates Learning: Concrete Concrete Pairs” The I would recommend “How to Memorize Abstract Information,” followed by “Paired Associates Learning: Concrete Abstract Pairs,” “Paired Associates Learning: Abstract Concrete Pairs,” and “Paired Associates Learning: Abstract Abstract Pairs.” Then I would recommend “Remembering the Names of People.” Then I would recommend “More on Recoding: Learning Foreign and Strange Vocabulary Words.”

Numbers are abstract and one of the most difficult types of information to remember. Here I recommend “Remembering Numbers,” “More on Remembering Numbers,” “Three Digit Numbers,” and “Remembering Even Larger Numbers.”

If you want to learn about memory competitions and how memory champs become memory champs I would recommend “Moonwalking with Einstein,” and “How the Memory Champs Do It.” Given the importance of preserving memory as we age, I think it would be a good idea to start memory competitions for Baby Boomers and Senior Citizens. I think this is an activity the AARP should seriously consider.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2011. 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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How the Memory Champs Do It

March 30, 2011

In Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything1 Joshua Foer describes the memory techniques that memory champions use and that he emulated in his preparation for participation in the U.S. Memory Championships. A familiarity with mnemonic techniques or with the postings under the Healthymemory Blog category “Mnemonic Techniques” would be helpful in understanding these techniques.

To become a Grand Master of Memory, the following requirements must be met:

Memorize a list of 1,000 random digits in one hour.

Memorize the precise order of ten shuffled decks of cards in one hour.

Memorize the order of one shuffled deck in less than two minutes.

Memory competitions involve additional tasks such as remembering lists of words, the names of pictures of individuals, and poems.

I was surprised by the prominent role that the Method of Loci (see the Healthymemory Blog Post, “Memory of Loci”, it was the first posting in this category so consequently it is at the bottom of the “Mnemonic Techniques” posts) played. They use the strategy of creating what they term “memory palaces.” A memory palace could be your home. You would place items you wanted to be remembered in different locations in your house and form a mental image of the object in specific locations. When it came time to recall, you would simply take a mental walk through your home and see the images of the different items as you examined the part of the house in which you had placed them. Obviously a memory palace need not be a palace or even indoors. You could take a mental walk in a familiar park forming mental images of the items you wanted to remember in different locations throughout the park. These memory experts use an extraordinary number of these memory palaces. I found it interesting that about a week before an important competition, they would mentally clean out these memory palaces from the items they had placed there so they would not be unwanted intrusions in the memory competitions. I did find this reliance on the method of loci surprising. I usually present this method as a matter of historical interest. For myself, I’ve found numeric pegwords more useful for remembering lists of items. This requires having a system for recoding numbers (see the blog posts “Remembering Numbers,” “More On Remembering Numbers,” “Three Digit Numbers,” and “Remembering Even Larger Numbers.” I’ve used numeric pegwords developed using these techniques in lieu of the loci provided by memory palaces. I’ve found this more convenient, and you can recall the precise numerical order of any item without having to take a mental walk through some memory palace. Regarding remembering numbers, Foer credits Johann Winkelmann for developing this technique known as the “Major System” around 1648. My references (see Blog Post “Remembering Numbers” credits Pierre Hergione (1540-1643) a French mathematician and astronomer with eventing the technique. It is possible that they developed their systems independently, but the systems appear to be identical, Perhaps Winkelmann plagiarized the system or was improperly credited with its development.

The Person Action Object (PAO), Einstein Walking on the Moon for example, is another technique, although the fundamental forming of mental images is central to all mnemonic techniques. These images need to be vivid. Bizarre and/or obscene images can be quite effective. I found it curious that the PAO system was used to remember numbers. For example, Frank Sinatra might be used for 34. The number 13 could be David Beckham kicking a soccer ball. And 79 could be Superman. So 791334 could become an image of Superman kicking a soccer ball into Frank Sinatra. So unique arbitrary images are used for these number. A unique PAO image is developed for each number from 0 t0 99 is created. Advanced mnemonists might generate unique PAO images from 0 to 999. Why they do this rather than relying on the Perionne or “Major System” is beyond me. Perhaps they want an independent system to avoid confusion. I don’t know. But compared to these guys, I’m a village idiot.

What is interesting is the time needed to become proficient enough in these techniques to compete in a world championship and have any chance of winning. Foer practiced about four hours a day. He also used earplugs and goggles that restricted his field of view to focus his attention. He employed what is termed deliberate practice where the focus was on remediating errors and increasing speed and proficiency. So when a performance plateau is hit one needs to challenge oneself by practicing failing and putting onesself in the mind of someone more accomplished with the task. One needs to maintain some conscious control to improve and not remain on autopilot. Actually four hours a day is a reasonable amount of time to spend in an activity at which you hope to be expert. It is remarkable that Foer was able to achieve the proficiency that he did in what was a little less than a year.

Although it takes an extraordinary amount of commitment to be able to compete on a national or world level, it does not take that much time to benefit from mnemonic techniques. Usually in a simple experiment where one group of people is given a memory technique and another group is not, the benefit of the memory technique is quite apparent. To achieve some immediate benefit should not take much effort. The greater the proficiency desired, the greater the effort that needs to be extended. The techniques presented in this Healthymemory Blog should be quite helpful. And since they require creativity, imagination, and recoding, and that they force you to attend and to used both hemispheres of your brain, they should provide helpful mental workouts.

1Foer, J. (2011). New York: The Penguin Press

© Douglas Griffith and, 2011. 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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Positive Results for Mnemonic Training of the Aged

October 24, 2010

A meta-analytic study is an analysis of a large number of experiments on a given topic. Meta-analyses not only indicate what works and what does not, but they also provide a quantitative estimate of the benefits. A meta-analytic study of the benefits of mnemonic training of the aged provides some highly promising results.1 This study measured the pre-posttest gains in memory tasks that required the memorization of lists of items for healthy people aged 60 or above. The overall mean age was 69.1 years, but the mean age for some experiments was as high as 73. The summary of all the results indicated that the average elderly person can be expected to perform at the 77th percentile of the performance distribution of his or her age group. This means that the average elderly person can be expected to move from the 50th percentile to the 77th percentile as a result of the memory training. So that is 27 percentile points. That means that if you were in the mean center of your group before memory training, you would move to the upper quarter of the group as a result of the memory training.

A variety of mnemonic techniques were used in the different studies that were meta-analyzed, mnemonic techniques that have been covered in the Healthymemory Blog. They include the method of loci (The Method of Loci); the pegword technique (The One Bun Rhyme Mnemonic). The name mnemonic (Remembering Names); Paired Associates Imagery (Paired-Associates Learning: Concrete Concrete Pairs, Paired-Associates Learning: Concrete Abstract Pairs, Paired Associates Learning: Abstract Concrete Pairs, and Paired Associates Learning: Abstract Abstract Pairs), and Relaxation (The Relaxation Response) You can find these blog posts by entering the blog post title in the search box, or by clicking on the Mnemonic Techniques category and perusing the blogs in that category, You will find additional blogs on remembering numbers, remembering foreign words, remembering historical dates and appointments, to name just a few.

It is the belief of the Healthymemory Blog that using these mnemonic techniques accomplishes more than improving your memory. They also provide mental exercises that help build healthy memories (hence the name for this blog). This be of benefit to everyone, but especially to baby boomers who need to start preparing to counter any adverse effects of aging.

1Verhaeghen, P., Marcoen, A, & Goosens, L. (1992). Improving Memory Performance in the Aged Through Mnemonic Training: A Meta-Analytic Study. Psychology and Aging, 7, 242-251.

© Douglas Griffith and, 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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.