Nelson Dellis, 4 times USA memory champion

Nelson Dellis, 4 times USA memory champion

Maybe at some point I'll translate everything on this site, but until then, there are plenty of very good resources online that you can use. Here are my favorites, along with some hopefully helpful personal advices: 

Start with:

- This recent New York Times article is an excellent short introduction to memory palaces and to the science that explain why they work so well: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/24/upshot/an-ancient-and-proven-way-to-improve-memory-go-ahead-and-try-it.html?_r=1

- This is a cheesy but very decent video introduction on the subject. See how someone without any training can, with some help, rapidly learn the list of all the 83 recipients of the Oscar for best picture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1ycE5Ydb3U (ignore the unfounded reference to a "superhuman brain" at the beginning)

- This other New York Times article is an excellent resume of the book Moonwalking With Einstein - The Art and Science of Remembering Everything : http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/02/20/magazine/mind-secrets.html?_r=1& If you enjoyed the article, I recommend the book even if you have no intention to learn to memorise. This isn't an instruction manual, it's not necessarily the best way to rapidly improve, but it's a captivating story and an excellent introduction to a ton of subjects related to the art of memory, to the history of the subject since Antiquity and to learning in general.

Here's how you can remember names and faces: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8weFiPGFObk

Finally for now, what's called the linking method can serve as an alternative or a complement to memory palaces. Basically every element is "linked" is some imaginative way to the previous and and the following elements inside some short story. This story can be built with or without using a memory palace. Practicing the linking method can be a very good creativity exercise. Here's a nice example of how it can work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Cpg3RUsGDY Please note that stories you've built yourself should be much easier to remember than those built by others.

How to start training:

Although there's nothing stopping you from tackling long term memorisation right away, I would start by choosing 2 or 3 palaces only for practice and for short-term memorisation. Any real or imaginary place can work, but it's easier if it's a place you know well. There are many different possible ways to organize your palaces, but 5 "loci" (a specific place where to position your images) per room or area is a good, efficient and popular one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vlpQHJ09do That means that you should divide your palace into a number of rooms or area and choose 5 predetermined locations for each one. Watch the video to understand. If a room is too small or boring, you can just ignore it or consider it to be part of another room or area. If you're using a park or some outside location, it's up to you to choose how you want to divide it in different areas.  Of course you can choose to experiment with other ways, or improvise everytime if you prefer. Don't put your images too close to one another, but it helps if they are close enough that they can interact with each others.  

So let's say you've built your first memory palace and you've divided it into 5 rooms, with 5 loci per room. That would be 25 loci in total, with each of those loci holding one, two or three pieces of information (you can place more than 3, but it will be less efficient and harder to remember). I would use this palace for random things that you want to remember for a short while and for practicing with list of words or anything. I think list of words provide some really good practice for both beginners and experts because it's always a novel challenge that require creativity and improvisation and because unlike numbers and cards, you don't need any predetermined system. Some people place one words per loci, but most place 2, so that mean your small palace can hold a list of 50 words. But you don't have to memorise 50 words right away. In fact I think it's better to start with just short exercices, a list of 20 words for example, or as many words as you can in 1, 2 or 5 minutes. What's nice about short exercises is that it's easier to notice and learn from your mistakes. It's also easier to find the time and motivation to do them. The goal here isn't to remember something permanently, but just to get better at the act of quickly turning random informations into images. Once you've memorised that information once, there's no need to think about it again later. Just let it fade, tomorrow if you want you can use the same palace to remember something else. Go slowly and the beginning, then later try to go as quickly as you can while still being accurate. Pushing your limits, making mistakes and learning from them is how one can improve at most skills, including this one.

Here are some good resources you can use for training. I would start with the completely free http://memorise.org/ . Personnally my new favorite site is memoryleague.com , free if you limit yourself to 3 tries a day, 25$ a year if not. You usually only have only 1 minute to memorise as many words, names, images, numbers or cards as you can, but you can give yourself more time in the options. Another good completely free site would be http://mt.artofmemory.com/training You can also go to http://www.canadianmemorychampionships.ca/resources/ for 4 lists of 400 random words each.

How to remember information for the long term:

The art of memory is powerful, but your images will fade if you don't review them. The most efficient way to proceed is to use what's called spaced repetition: many reviews at the begininning and less frequent reviews with time. I strongly recommend using a spaced repetition software like the free and awesome Anki. You can use the web version here https://ankiweb.net and/or the much more complete offline version here http://ankisrs.net/ . Here are some alternatives if you don't like it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flashcard_software Don't be intimidated by the many possible options and ways you can customize it. At it's core, Anki is just a flashcards program where you write something on one side and see if you can retrieve the answer before checking the answer on the other side. Those cards can be very simple ("Brazil" on one side and the capital "Brasilia" on the other" or more complex, adding pictures and sounds and all your notes about electromagnetism and so on. Depending on how easily you can retrieve the answer, Anki will calculate how long it should wait before asking you again. You could of course not use any software and just rely on your own instincts to choose when and how you should review, but if you're anything like me you probably shouldn't trust your personal self-discipline and judgements.

When memorising for the long term, you don't need to pick a palace in advance, choose 5 loci per room and so on. Just pick any place you can visualize, even if your memory of it is blurry and partly incorrect, and start placing images in whatever ways you want to. For details on how to proceed, follow the lead of current world memory champion Alex Mullen http://mullenmemory.com/ . I recommend watching all the tutorials and reading at least the first 2 parts of the FAQ. 

If you ever fear not having enough memory palaces, go on this site to explore more than 200 magnificient ones: https://matterport.com/gallery/ Also watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYbZiQrXa_0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwBZwacqsQg for some advices on how to find new ones. You don't have to do that, but recently I've started taking pictures with my cell phone and placing those picture in some power point presentation before making up images. It's fun and it helps, but it requires some additional work. Like Alex Mullen, I note most of the informations I want to remember along with an extremely brief description of the mnemonics I use in some word documents that I can review later on if I need it.

How to remember numbers:

I wrote a ton on this subject for this website and unfortunately I can't translate most of it now, but here are the main points. Numbers are memorized mostly the same way one memorize anything else: by converting the information into some unusual images and by storing those images in some well-known place that you can mentally walk through later on. The problem is that numbers can’t easily be converted into images without using some pre-established system. Almost everyone who can easily memorize large numbers use some variations of the following 2 systems: the Major system and the PAO system. I would recommend starting with a 1 digit PAO system. It should take less than half an hour to build one and it should take care of most of your daily needs. If you're not particularly interested in memorising large numbers, that should be more than enough. If you want something more efficient, that will take some more work. I would then recommend either a 2 digits Major system or a 2 digits PAO system. Both systems can be extremely efficient. A 2 digits Major system is a lot faster to get used to. A 2 digits PAO system is very fun, but it will take a good while before using it can become second nature. 

You should probably start with a 1 digit PAO system like this one: 

PAO stands for Person-Action-Object. Each number from 0 to 9 is pre-assigned to a character, doing some action to some object. If you want to remember a 3 digit number like 942, you would use the character for the first digit (9, so Osama Bin Laden) doing the action of the second digit (4, so swimming) using the object of the third digit (2, so some disgusting cat litter box). You would then place Bin Laden swimming through the cat litter box on your kitchen's table or wherever you want in your memory palace. The next Person-Action-Object would appear somewhere nearby and so on. Your small 25 loci 5 rooms memory palace could then comfortably hold 75 digits. Let's say you're more down to earth and practical and you just want to remember that your friend's address is 873 Berri street, you could just imagine Eric Cartman breakdancing with the American flag (character for 8, action for 7 and object for 3) among a bung of berries (for Berri street) in front of your friend's appartment and voilà!

Then if you're motivated, build either a 2 digits Major system or a 2 digits PAO system:

A 2 digits PAO works the same way as 1 digit one, but with 100 caracters, 100 actions and 100 objects to choose and become familiar with. http://memory-sports.com/blog/memory-techniques/pao-system/ It's fun but it's also a lot of work. The Major system is much quicker to get used to and it can be just as efficient. http://memory-sports.com/blog/memory-techniques/the-major-system/ It's a letter code system that works by converting numbers into consonant sounds, then into words by adding vowels. You first assign consonant sounds (not letters) to each digit, then use those letters plus some vowels of your choice to generate visual images that can be memorized in place of the numbers. For example, 5 is an L and 3 is an M, so 53 could be represented by a LiMe. Some people use the major system to create mnemonic images on the spot, but this is much less effective than having a pre-made set of images for every number. It is recommended to have at least one fixed image for every number between 0-9 and 00-99. This isn’t as much work as it sounds like. At least half of your images should be objects or something else, not characters.

Note that with any system you choose, you don't have to follow the rules to the letters if you don't feel like it. The letter code is there to help you become familiar with your system faster, but nothing is forcing you to follow it if you don’t want to. I don’t necessarily recommend that, but in theory you could just choose 100 characters, 100 actions and 100 objects you like and almost randomly assign them to numbers and with enough practice, using it will become second nature anyway. You can also keep the letter code but break or adjust the rules when you feel like it (you could for example decide that NG stands for "aN eaGle", even if that doesn't make much sense). Apart from the different letter code systems, other ways to assign images to a number include using associations (http://mt.artofmemory.com/wiki/Mnemonic_Association_System_for_Numbers), categories you choose (those may be similar to what is explained here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-ferriss/how-to-memorize-a-deck-of_b_2638940.html), what one could call the “I just feel like it” approach (my personal favourite, but not something I would recommend if you're not motivated to put in a ton of work) or some mix of the above. I know others think that this is a bad idea, but I've made a lot of changes to my system until I bacame almost perfectly happy with all its components. Once you’ve chosen your images, try some of the exercises on this page to help you become familiar with them: http://mt.artofmemory.com/wiki/Memorizing_your_mnemonic_images I would also build some journey where you use them all in order and I would quickly review that journey once a while. Having that journey memorized will help if one day you forget what 67 stands for.

 

 

That's it for now, I'll come back later and add some more links and helpful details. In the meantime if you want to learn more about the art of memory, about learning in general, about the brain and about other fun and useful related subjects, you can check out some of the other links included in the "Ressources en ligne", "Comment développer n'importe quelle habileté" and "Bibliographie" parts of this website.