Friday, August 29, 2008

I had a good title for this post but I forgot it.

Some time ago I picked a book up called The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne. I have no idea if it's revolutionary or regurgitated stuff from previous memory experts but I'm a big fan.

At first I challenged people around me to give me a list of random items that I would memorize quickly and have it last. It was a new toy. Now I can actually see how such tricks can help in a practical situation. I took a job waiting tables to pay the rent while going back to school. I had to memorize the items on the menu and the ingredients and drinks and everything quickly. These techniques worked like a charm. They take a little bit of effort initially to get the memorization down, but once you're in the habit it's well worth it. I don't have an especially good natural memory, so I needed something like this.

It involves visualization techniques. If you have a list of items to memorize you picture something ridiculous about it, then it somehow interacts in a ridiculous way with the next item on the list, then the next and so on. The key word there is ridiculous. Otherwise the items won't stay in your head. For instance, here are some sandwiches on our menu: Portobello mushroom sandwich, Turkey Burger, Mushroom Swiss Burger, HickoryBurger. I picture the portobello lying on the floor like a carpet, then a turkey walking over it toward a large mushroom which it starts pecking at. The mushroom has the swiss flag on it, and a piece of hickory wood sticking out the top. A hick picks up the wood, kind of like cletus the slack-jawed yokel, and then more items and more. Once I have the sequence of things down I then have to drill it a couple times, go away, and come back later and drill it again. If there's a fuzzy image at one step, I need to change it a little to make it more clear. It's a very creative process. Once I have the sequence in my head, I can fill it in with details. Like, the turkey patty is ground with carrots and celery and onions, so I picture my turkey with a large serving bowl strapped to its back with those items sticking out.

I'm amazed at how quickly I memorized everything, kept it straight in my head, and how well it stuck. It was way, way more effective and fun than any rote memorization I've ever done. The fun part is what makes me want keep doing it which is most important. There are other techniques for numbers and formulas which I plan to use for my forthcoming math studies. I'm pretty psyched that I learned about this stuff.

Now, if I can only find a way to cure absent-mindedness.

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