Level up with these time-tested memory techniques
Looking to improve your performance in our memory games — and for ways to use your memory more effectively? Try these classic memory hacks.
1. Hang it on a peg!
“Pegging” is a helpful technique described in the mid-1600s by Henry Herdson in his book Ars Memoriae. With it, you can help your recall by associating the information you want to remember with patterns you already know.
One natural way to start is with a sequence of numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.). For each number, come up with a rhyming word; for example, 1 = bun, 2 = shoe, 3 = tree. These number/rhyme associations are the “pegs” on which you’ll hang your memory-sensitive information.
Now, say that you need to remember to do laundry, stop at the post office, and get your car washed. Visualize combining your to-do list with the pegs: a soggy “bun” in the laundry, mailing “shoes” at the post office, and washing your car and watering a “tree” with the extra water. Now you can mentally go through the list, first remembering the peg word, and then the associated situation.
Pro tip: If you can tie to your list to a well-known song or jingle, you’ll have an even easier time remembering it! Rhythm helps structure the associations even more.
2. Build your own “memory palace”
Used by the ancient Greeks, the “memory palace” technique takes “peg”-style associations even further. It’s based on the fact that people have a far better memory for the tangible (physical spaces, images) than for the abstract (numbers, words, ideas).
To create your own memory palace, pick a familiar space and fill it with vivid representations of whatever you want to remember. The odder these images, the better.
Let’s say you need to buy a bag of oranges, then pick up a dog at the pound. First, picture walking into your house. Now picture an enormous orange tree growing through the middle of your couch (that’s your bag of oranges). Then mentally travel to your bathroom, where you see a tiny one-pound dog sitting on a scale. You’ve now created a “memory palace” that will make your to-do list very hard to forget.
3. Break information into bite-sized “chunks”
In 1955, psychologist George Miller discovered that most people can only hold about seven “chunks” of information in their head at once. While the precise number varies depending on the context and the individual, scientists agree that the number is relatively small.
Get the most out of your available memory chunks by grouping information intelligently. Let’s say you’re given the numbers “7 4 7 6.” Instead of storing them as four separate chunks, you can transform them into one memorable date: July 4, 1776, Independence Day in the US. Keep doing this, and you’ll be amazed by how much information you can string together.
Ready to give these techniques a try?
Try pegging items in Tidal Treasures. Build a memory palace to help you keep orders straight in Familiar Faces. Or use chunking to gain a level in Memory Matrix.
Your next memory test: #RememberDecember
Want more memory tips like this? Keep an eye out for a series of Memory Monday posts on our social channels during December. Check us out on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and look out for the hashtag #RememberDecember. Put your new memory tricks to the test!