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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Truth About The Loci Method

The Loci method of memorization is one of the most powerful methods used today. The top memory champions of the day use this to memorize unbelievably complex sets of information in very little time. This common usage among memory champions lead to an undeserved excessively positive reputation for it. By all means, it's an amazing method but there are times to use it and there are times when it's best to not use it.

Basic Overview

In case you're not familiar: The loci method is a memorization strategy. It involves picturing a location that you can imagine to walk through and putting strange and memorable objects everywhere. Those strange and memorable objects are used to help you remember the information that you want to remember.

If you were trying to memorize Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Eerie, and Superior (the great lakes) you might imagine something like this.

In the first room of your home (or first step in your location) you see a women and shes on a horse. You see her on (Huron) a horse. Then you can walk into the next room and see a gangster sitting on Terry Bradshaw's (a former football player) shoulders saying, “Yo.” Yes, that does sound ridiculous but it helps. You see the gangster on-terry(saying)-yo. (Ontario)

You'll notice how absurd this can get but that just increases the odds of it being remembered. Some of the greatest memory minds in the world use this strategy but it has many many problems.

Consistent Failures

The vast majority of people that try to use the Loci method fail miserably for a number of different reasons.

First of all, it requires a very intensive preparation period. You cannot just pick up the loci method and run with it expecting results. You need to prepare your map and practice different sets of information repeatedly. If you're not careful and focused using this method, you can get virtually nothing from hours worth of work.

Second, just because the top memory champs get the best results from the loci method, it doesn't mean you will too. Memory champions are not the average person in the population. They're usually naturally gifted and hard trained. Not everyone uses the Loci method effectively. (Usually the people that struggle the most are the ones that have trouble seeing images.) There are other methods that won't let the crazy miraculous memory feats possible but will provide much more memorization for the average person.

One of the most important reasons the loci method leads to failures is in assuming it's always the best method to use for memorization. It's like trying to use a hammer when you need a screwdriver. Not all memorization works best with the loci method. In fact, most memorization doesn't get much of an advantage using it. Studying for school in particular has problems with it. The loci method is designed for unrelated information. Studying is loaded with relatable information. Relating that information is usually just as effective.

When To Use The Loci Method

Image Source
Using the Loci Method comes down to a number of different factors. Of course, as mentioned before. The loci method is designed to connect unrelated information. It doesn't provide much opportunity for logical linking of information. It requires a very conscious effort that can increase the time investment considerably.

You also have to consider the amount of information you have to memorize. If you only need to memorize a few things or a short list, unless you're highly trained, the loci method is overkill. If you can get away with mnemonics or some other quick method then you should. If it's a lot of information then the Loci method may be worth the time.

If you've never used the loci method consistently then you may want to always avoid the loci method. It takes weeks of practice to make it efficient. For most basic memorization needs, it's not really worth it.

Effectively Using The Loci Method

Once you decide to use the loci method there are a few things you need to do to make it work effectively.

1. Focus

The magic of the loci method works through is intensity in your brain. You need to feel like you're really in the room with the information you're trying to remember. If you're mildly picturing it and thinking about what's on TV, you're not going to see any positive results.

2. Connection

The pictures you're using need to connect to the information you're trying to remember. When you're trained well this will be easy. When you're just getting started, you'll need to make the pictures pretty obvious. (Don't use the Terry Bradshaw example above when you're getting started.)

3. Emotional Images

Boring is your worst enemy in the images that you picture. A boring image is an image that you forget. Pick a picture and then aim to make it as emotionally memorable as possible. Most people do this from plain old weirdness but you can also make them memorable through making it disgusting, amazing, or even sexually appealing.

4. Movement

Do not settle for only images though. Once you get the image. Find a way for the image to move around the room. At the very least, picture yourself walking by the image you created. The more you feel like you're actually there, the better you will memorize it.

5. Multiple Senses

One of the easiest ways to strengthen your maps created with the loci method is by including multiple senses in your thought process. Don't just see it. Listen to the image. If you created something really interesting, it should make some kind of noise. Maybe you'll even have to smell it. The more you sense the room, the better off you'll be.

The loci method is not for everyone but it can be one of the most powerful tools for memorization when used right. If you want to use the loci method for memorization then you need to be willing to invest the time in making it come naturally. It's not as simple as following the steps. It's a process that needs to be done repeatedly to see it's true power. Sure, you can see good results from using it one time but it usually just costs a whole lot more time then just using the less flashy memorization methods.

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