Memory – Litemind Exploring ways to use our minds efficiently. Mon, 01 Jan 2018 20:43:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Learn (Almost) Anything Sun, 08 Mar 2009 20:55:09 +0000 Have you ever read an informative book, only to later remember just a few main points — if anything at all? The problem might be that you’re using one of the least efficient ways of learning available.

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How to Learn (Almost) Anything

This is a guest post by Glen Allsopp of PluginID.

Have you ever read an informative book, only to later remember just a few main points — if anything at all? The problem might be that you’re using one of the least efficient ways of learning available.

The Cone of Learning

I remember back about 7 years ago when I was taking music lessons at school, there was a poster on the wall that really grabbed my attention. To be fair, it wasn’t difficult for a random object to attract your gaze as our Scottish teacher at the time didn’t have much in the way of keeping you interested. The poster outlined the different ways that we remember things and how different activities increase our chances of remembering something over others.

Cone of Learning
Image Credit

After doing some research, I found that the contents of that poster were based upon the work of Edgar Dale back in 1969. Dale looked at the most effective ways of learning by teaching people similar material in different ways and noted the ability to recall the information after the teaching was finished.

Today, many of you may know this as the Cone of Learning, but beware: although the cone is in fact based upon the results of Dale’s research, the percentage figures were never actually cited by Dale, and added by others after the initial investigation.

Even though the Cone of Learning that became widespread contains erroneous figures, it does represent a guideline for the most effective learning techniques that the human brain is able to acquire and store information from.

Based on the research we can see that:

  • The least effective way to learn something is to listen to a lecture on the topic or read information about it.
  • The most effective way to learn something is to teach others and use it in our own lives.

The Cone of Learning suggests why you are more likely to remember parts of a movie than you are from a book on the same topic. A film uses audio and visual aspects that the brain is more likely to store and hold available for recollection (memory).

Learning Almost Anything

After we discard the erroneous percentage figures, we still must take the cone as just a guideline — one which is subject to change depending on the learning style of the student or the studied subject. Different aspects such as what you want to remember and how often you put it into use will greatly impact how well you remember something. That being said, other things equals, the cone is a great guideline to follow to better imprint something to memory.

On that note, I thought it would be a good idea to look at the best ways to use the Cone of Learning concept, and apply it to an everyday example that we can relate to. The example I’m going to use in the following tips is looking at the best methods you could use to learn what yoga is and remember the necessary positions that are used.

  • Give a Lecture. Although receiving a lecture is one of the worst ways to remember what you are being told, giving a lecture is one of the most effective. You could go into any college or university and offer to give a lecture on the topic of yoga and the many positions that are used.
  • Write an Article. If you have a blog or a website you could spend time putting together an article on what yoga is all about and the movements that are often used in this meditative practice. Additionally, you could also create images to be used on the site to help explain the certain actions involved.
  • Make a Video. Even if you don’t have your own blog or website, there are plenty of video portals such as Youtube and Metacafe that will allow you to upload your own videos for free. This will be effective as you can teach in the lecture format but know that you are instructing to a potentially worldwide audience.
  • Discuss with Your Friends. One of the easiest teaching options that you have available to you are the members of your social circle. Wherever appropriate, bring up a topic you would like to discuss and share your wealth of knowledge on it. The more people you can discuss it with the better your ability will be to remember it in the future.
    Additionally, there are literally hundreds of ways you can discuss it online using the likes of online forums, twitter or even niche social networks.
  • Do it Yourself. It’s no use trying your best to teach others about Yoga if it’s something you aren’t interested in and don’t do yourself. If you teach people the importance of controlling their breathing, then when you are performing Yoga in your own time… make sure you are controlling your breathing. Whatever you would teach others, you need to make sure you are implementing yourself.

There are certainly more ways that you could look into teaching others and applying things into your own life. From holding classes in your house to simply creating an audio file of you speaking, see how you can apply teaching about your subject to learn more about a topic.

Exceptions to the Rule

As with most things in life, this isn’t going to apply to every single person, every single time. For example, from my research into this, it is claimed that autistic people are much more likely to learn from visual images rather than trying to teach someone else or do it themselves. Also, I know many people who have a strong preference for auditory learning over visual, for instance.

Additionally, as stated, the figures in the cone are to be used as a guideline, some people will have a high success rate at learning through teaching others while for some it may not be as successful. Generally, look at the ones which are deemed to be the most effective and try the ones which work best for you.

So, what are you going to do to improve your learning now?

About Glen Allsopp

Glen Allsopp writes in order to inspire, awaken and motivate people into being who they want to be and living the life they want to live. You can learn more about him at his Personal Development blog.

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: How to Learn (Almost) Anything.

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Remember Any Number With the Major Memory System Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:43:25 +0000 Did you ever want to be able to recite pi up to 22,500 decimal digits? Meet the Major memory system, one of the most powerful techniques around for memorizing numbers. If you think you could use a boost to your memory, or just want to jog your brain a little, here’s a great way to do it.

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Major Memory System

Did you ever want to be able to recite pi up to 22,500 decimal digits? As for me, I never felt attracted to that sort of stuff. But remembering phone numbers, passwords, PINs, birthdays and all sorts of everyday numbers — that’s something I resonate with!

Meet the Major memory system, one of the most powerful techniques around for memorizing numbers. If you think you could use a boost to your memory, or just want to jog your brain a little, here’s a great way to do it. (And yes, you’ll also be able to pull off the pi digits stunt if that’s what catches your fancy.)

How the Major Memory System Works

Our brains are notoriously poor at memorizing numbers. The problem lies in the fact that numbers are abstract concepts. Although they are represented visually by symbols, they don’t feel very real or appealing to our brains. As I explored in a previous article, our brains usually work best using lively, vibrant images. Numbers hardly qualify.

And that’s what the Major system is about: converting abstract, dull numbers into vivid, striking images. When we do that, committing these numbers to memory is a snap.
Let me show you how to do it.

The Major Memory System in 3 Steps

1. Learn to Encode Numbers as Images

The heart of the Major system — and the key to convert numbers to images and vice-versa — is a 10-item mnemonic table. The table shows how to transform the digits 0-9 into corresponding sounds; which we’ll eventually use to form words. The mnemonics are easy to learn (it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to fully master them) and, once learned, they can be used for life. Here they are:

Digit Sound Memory Aid
0 s, z, soft c z is the first letter of zero. The others have a similar sound.
1 d, t, th d and t have one downstroke and sound similar (notice the tip of your tongue as you say them).
2 n n has two downstrokes.
3 m m has three downstrokes, also m looks like a 3 lying on its side.
4 r the last letter of four, also 4 and R are almost mirror images of each other.
5 l L is the Roman numeral for 50.
6 j, sh, soft ch, dg, zh, soft g a script j has a lower loop like 6. These letters also have a ‘whistle-like’ sound, and 6 looks like a whistle.
7 k, hard c, hard g, q, qu capital K contains two 7s (on their sides, back to back).
8 v, f think of v as in a V8 motor. f sounds similar (notice how your teeth touch your lips for both).
9 b, p

p is a mirror-image 9. b sounds similar and resembles a 9 rolled around (also notice how your lip movement is the same when pronouncing these letters.)

vowel sounds, w, h, y These sounds can be used anywhere without changing a word’s number value.

As an example, let’s take the (in)famous number 42.

According to the mnemonic table, the digits in the number 42 translate to r and n respectively. Now we need to form a word with r and n. We should fill the gaps between the letters using the ‘neutral’ elements (from the last row of the table: vowel sounds, w, h or y). The word rain comes naturally to me.

42 gets encoded as rain, then.

Decoding from word to number is even more straightforward. ‘Mouse’, for instance, becomes 30 (3 for m and 0 for s; vowel sounds are ignored).

The conversion process may seem a little slow and cumbersome at first, but with just a little bit of practice it becomes second-nature.

There are just a couple more notes to bear in mind:

  • The conversions are strictly phonetic, that is, based on how the words sound — not how they’re spelled. If a word has double letters that account for just one sound, you count only one sound (ex: the r sound in cherry counts as only one number). By the same token, mute letters (such as the b in debt) should be ignored.
  • When coming up with words, choose those that are easy to visualize. Concrete nouns — such as objects or animals — always work better than abstract nouns, adjectives or verbs.

2. Associate Images in Your Mind

Now for the fun part. We already have an image, now we’ll need a way to glue it in our minds.
The way we’re going to do this is by imagining a scene, a scene that combines two images: the encoded number image along with a peg image that will be used to trigger the memory.

As an example, suppose you want to buy a light bulb, and you must remember that it must be a 30-Watt one. The two images to combine would be the image for light bulb and the encoded image for 30. Using our mnemonic table, we find that 30 translates to the letters m and s. Mouse seems a pretty good word for these letters, so we’ll go with it.

Our mission, then, is to create a mental scene combining light bulb and mouse.

The secret for this to work is to make the mental scene memorable: make it crazy, ridiculous, offensive, unusual, animated, nonsensical — in short, make it fun! (For details on how to effectively associate images, check out this article.)

Let’s see: What’s the zaniest way you can combine light bulb with mouse? I don’t know about you, but here’s what I just imagined:

“I’m in my local supermarket, in the electrical accessories aisle. As I catch one light bulb to observe it more closely… Bang! It breaks in my hand, and a giant mouse jumps out of it! The mouse runs away, squeaking frenetically. Everybody in the supermarket stops and stares at me puzzled and in absolute silence…”

Well, imagine that scene vividly in your mind and try not remembering that giant mouse next time you’re in that supermarket aisle… “30-Watt it surely is!”

3. For Large Numbers, Extend the System

“Yes, but everyone can memorize a small number such as 30,” — you say — “what about the big numbers?”

The great thing about the Major system is that you can easily combine it with just about any other memory technique, simple or advanced. That’s what makes the Major System insanely scalable and able to handle gigantic numbers.

For memorizing a small number we created a mental scene combining two images. To memorize a large number, we need to link many of those scenes together, forming a sequence.

There are many ways to do this. Many people like to create a story linking the scenes together, for example.

My favorite method, however, is to use the Memory Palace technique. In short, you use familiar places for storing memories. If you’re not acquainted with it, check it out here).

Let’s try a practical example again: an 8-digit telephone number.

The specifics on how to memorize it are a matter of personal preference, of course. The way I do it is by chunking the number in 4-digit groups, and placing each of those groups in a memory palace location.

I’ll use my in-laws phone number (slightly modified), using their home as my memory palace:

Phone number: 2417-2220

Scene 1: Associate first memory palace feature (front door) with 2417:

Using the Major system: 24 = Nero, 17 = Duck.

“As I arrive at my in-laws’ front door, I see no one but the emperor Nero himself, laughing out loud, as he is about to set the whole apartment on fire! But he has no matches or a torch in his hands: he has a blowtorch — in fact, a rubber duck-shaped blowtorch! And it quacks as it spits fire!”

Scene 2: Associate second memory palace feature (sofa) with 2220:

Using the Major system: 22 = Nun, 20 = Nose.

“As I enter their apartment is the sofa, the first thing I see is a nun chanting and jumping about on the sofa, facing backwards. When I touch her shoulder, she turns around — and it’s actually a witch! She scares the hell out of me — and guess what — she has the biggest nose ever! And yuck — that’s the biggest zit I’ve ever seen” (yes, getting disgusting is also a great way to help your memory!)

This may seem like a lot of work for a phone number, but in fact, this all happens quite fast in our minds. Recovering a number using the process above takes me no more than 4 seconds total — and I haven’t been practicing that much lately. If you practice this regularly, you’ll be able to do it much faster and with less effort.

Bonus: Gain Speed with a Word List

The previous three steps are the basic tools you need to use the Major system. If you want to make it even more powerful and efficient, one way is to use a predefined image list for the numbers you use more often.

If you use a set of predefined images for, say, all numbers from 00 to 99, you’ll greatly improve your speed when forming images, as you won’t need to imagine different words each time you trip on those numbers.

Of course, memorizing more than 100 mnemonics requires a fair amount of time and effort, but once it’s all in your long-term memory, you can use it for life. To be fair, you don’t need to memorize it (in the traditional sense of the word). Let me explain. If you just start using the mnemonics, the images will soon automatically come to you. I don’t know, but there must be something about the phonetics that makes the images manifest themselves rather easily.

Here’s a set of numbers you can use. If you don’t like these words, feel free to substitute others that are more memorable to you:

0. Sow       20. Nose     40. Rose     60. Cheese   80. Fez      00. S.O.S.   
1. Hat       21. Net      41. Road     61. Sheet    81. Fat      01. Seed     
2. Hen       22. Nun      42. Rain     62. Chain    82. Fan      02. Sun      
3. Ham       23. Nemo     43. Room     63. Jam      83. Foam     03. Sam      
4. Row       24. Nero     44. Aurora   64. Cherry   84. Fire     04. Zero     
5. Hill      25. Nail     45. Rail     65. Jello    85. File     05. Seal     
6. Shoe      26. Notch    46. Rash     66. Judge    86. Fish     06. Sash     
7. Cow       27. Neck     47. Rock     67. Chalk    87. Fog      07. Sack     
8. Ivy       28. Knife    48. Roof     68. Chef     88. Fife     08. Sofa     
9. Bee       29. Knob     49. Rope     69. Ship     89. Fib      09. Sepia    
10. Toes     30. Mouse    50. Lace     70. Gas      90. Bus                   
11. Dad      31. Mat      51. Loot     71. Cat      91. Bat                   
12. Dune     32. Moon     52. Lion     72. Can      92. Pen                   
13. Dime     33. Mummy    53. Lime     73. Comb     93. Opium                 
14. Tire     34. Mower    54. Lure     74. Car      94. Bear                  
15. Doll     35. Mule     55. Lily     75. Coal     95. Bell                  
16. Tissue   36. Match    56. Leech    76. Cage     96. Bush                  
17. Duck     37. Mug      57. Log      77. Coke     97. Book                  
18. Dove     38. Movie    58. Lava     78. Cave     98. Beef                  
19. Tape     39. Map      59. Lip      79. Cape     99. Pipe                  

What do you think?

I absolutely love using the Major system. It provides a great brain workout — and a warm feeling of relying just a bit less on technology. Even better than that is the amount of wild private imagery to have fun with! 🙂

What about you? Do you have any experience using the Major memory system or any variation of it? If not, do you have any other ways you use to remember numbers? Share in the comments!

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: Remember Any Number With the Major Memory System.

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Develop Perfect Memory With the Memory Palace Technique Mon, 10 Mar 2008 19:54:52 +0000 The Memory Palace is one of the most powerful memory techniques I know. It’s not only effective, but also fun to use — and not hard to learn at all. The Memory Palace has been used since ancient Rome, and is responsible for some quite incredible memory feats. Eight-time world memory champion Dominic O’Brien, for […]

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Memory Palace

The Memory Palace is one of the most powerful memory techniques I know. It’s not only effective, but also fun to use — and not hard to learn at all.

The Memory Palace has been used since ancient Rome, and is responsible for some quite incredible memory feats. Eight-time world memory champion Dominic O’Brien, for instance, was able to memorize 54 decks of cards in sequence (that’s 2808 cards), viewing each card only once. And there are countless other similar achievements attributed to people using the Memory Palace technique or variations of it. Even in fiction, there are several references to the technique. In Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal, for example, serial killer Hannibal Lecter uses Memory Palaces to store amazingly vivid memories of years of intricate patient records (sadly, it was left off the movie).

Of course, most of us are not in Dominic’s memory championship line of business (or in Hannibal’s line of business for that matter). But still, the Memory Palace technique is amazingly effective in all kinds of endeavors, such as learning a foreign language, memorizing a presentation you’re about to deliver, preparing for exams and many others — even if all you want is to jog your memory.

The Memory Palace

The Memory Palace technique is based on the fact that we’re extremely good at remembering places we know. A ‘Memory Palace’ is a metaphor for any well-known place that you’re able to easily visualize. It can be the inside of your home, or maybe the route you take every day to work. That familiar place will be your guide to store and recall any kind of information. Let’s see how it works.

5 Steps to Use the Memory Palace Technique

1. Choose Your Palace

First and foremost, you’ll need to pick a place that you’re very familiar with. The effectiveness of the technique relies on your ability to mentally see and walk around in that place with ease. You should be able to ‘be there’ at will using your mind’s eye only.

A good first choice could be your own home, for example. Remember that the more vividly you can visualize that place’s details, the more effective your memorization will be.

Also, try to define a specific route in your palace instead of just visualize a static scene. So, instead of simply picturing your home, imagine a specific walkthrough in your home. This makes the technique much more powerful, as you’ll be able to recall items in a specific order, as we’ll see in the next step.

Here are some additional suggestions that work well as Memory Palaces, along with possible routes:

  • Familiar streets in your city. Possible routes could be your drive to work, or any other sequence of streets you’re familiar with.
  • A current or former school. You can imagine the pathway from the classroom to the library (or to the bar on the other side of the street, if that’s the route imprinted on your mind).
  • Place of work. Imagine the path from your cubicle to the coffee machine or to your boss’s office (it shouldn’t be hard to choose).
  • Scenery. Imagine walking on your neighborhood or the track you use when jogging in a local park.

2. List Distinctive Features

Now you need to pay attention to specific features in the place you chose. If you picked a walkthrough in your home, for example, the first noticeable feature would probably be the front door.

Now go on and mentally walk around your Memory Palace. After you go through the door, what’s in the first room?

Analyze the room methodically (you may define a standard procedure, such as always looking from left to right, for example). What is the next feature that catches your attention? It may be the central table in the dining room, or a picture on the wall.

Continue making mental notes of those features as you go. Each one of them will be a “memory slot” that you’ll later use to store a single piece of information.

3. Imprint the Palace on Your Mind

For the technique to work, the most important thing is to have the place or route 100% imprinted on your mind. Do whatever is necessary to really commit it to memory. If you’re a visual kind of person, you probably won’t have trouble with this. Otherwise, here are some tips that help:

  • Physically walk through the route repeating out loud the distinctive features as you see them.
  • Write down the selected features on a piece of paper and mentally walk through them, repeating them out loud.
  • Always look at the features from the same point of view.
  • Be aware that visualization is a just a skill. If you’re still having trouble doing this, you may want to develop your visualization skills first.
  • When you believe you’re done, go over it one more time. It’s really important to “overlearn” your way in your Memory Palace.

Once you’re confident that the route is stamped on your mind, you’re set. Now you have your Palace, which can be used over and over again to memorize just about anything you want.

4. Associate!

Now that you’re the master of your palace, it’s time to put it to good use.

Like most memory enhancement systems, the Memory Palace technique works with the use of visual associations. The process is simple: you take a known image — called the memory peg and combine with the element you want to memorize. For us, each memory peg is a distinctive feature of our Memory Palace.

The memory pegging technique is the same one described in the article Improve Your Memory by Speaking Your Mind’s Language, so if you haven’t read it yet, I highly advise you to do so.

As described in that article, there’s a ‘right way’ of doing visual associations:

Make it crazy, ridiculous, offensive, unusual, extraordinary, animated, nonsensical — after all, these are the things that get remembered, aren’t they? Make the scene so unique that it could never happen in real life. The only rule is: if it’s boring, it’s wrong.

Although we can use the technique to memorize tons of information, let’s start with something very simple: using our ‘Home’ Memory Palace to memorize a groceries list. Let’s suppose the first item in that list is ‘bacon’:

Mentally transport yourself to your Memory Palace. The first feature you see in your mind is your home’s front door. Now, in a ludicrous way, visually combine ‘bacon’ with the sight of your front door. How about giant fried bacon strips flowing out from underneath the door reaching for your legs, just like zombies in those B-movies? Feel the touch of the “bacon hands” on your legs. Feel the smell of darn evil bacon. Is that remarkable enough?

Now open the door and keep walking, following the exact same route you defined before. Look at the next distinctive feature, and associate it with the second item to be memorized. Suppose the next item is ‘eggs’ and the second feature is ‘picture of mother-in-law’. Well, at this point you already know what to do… The process is always the same, so just keep mentally associating images until there are no items left to memorize.

5. Visit Your Palace

At this point, you are done memorizing the items. If you’re new to the technique, though, you’ll probably need to do a little rehearsal, repeating the journey at least once in your mind.

If you start from the same point and follow the same route, the memorized items will come to your mind instantly as you look at the journey’s selected features. Go from the beginning to the end of your route, paying attention to those features and replaying the scenes in your mind. When you get to the end of your route, turn around and walk in the opposite direction until you get to the starting point.

In the end, it’s all a matter of developing your visualization skills. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be and the more effective your memorization will be.

Final Thoughts

What I like about the Memory Palace (and other pegging methods) is that it’s not only extremely effective, but also quite fun to learn and use.

With just a little bit of experience, the lists you memorize using the Memory Palace will stay fresh in your mind for many days, weeks or even more.

Also have in mind that you can create as many palaces as you want, and that they can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish to make them. Each of them is a “memory bank”, ready to be used to help you memorize anything, anytime.

Associating physical locations with mental concepts is the most powerful memory combination I know. Most other memory techniques (supposedly more sophisticated than the Memory Palace) are, at least in part, based on the concept of physical locations being used as memory pegs.

Have you already used Memory Palace or a similar technique? What do you think? Any opinions or testimonials to share?

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How to Always Remember People’s Names Mon, 22 Oct 2007 12:38:59 +0000 Have you ever found yourself in the embarrassing position of forgetting someone’s name, right at the most inappropriate time? This is an awkward and common situation, but by following some basic principles you can easily avoid it from ever happening to you again. 5 Steps to Commit Names to Memory 1. Be Motivated to Meet […]

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Remember People's Names

Have you ever found yourself in the embarrassing position of forgetting someone’s name, right at the most inappropriate time?
This is an awkward and common situation, but by following some basic principles you can easily avoid it from ever happening to you again.

5 Steps to Commit Names to Memory

1. Be Motivated to Meet People

The most important step in remembering people’s names is to acknowledge that people are important and you are genuinely interested in them.

Very often we become too focused on our personal goals, letting relationships slip away. However, we need to be conscious about what people represent in our lives and acknowledge every new relationship as being important to us. Just by adopting this mindset – without resorting to any other technique – your chances of remembering anyone’s name will improve dramatically: No amount of memory tricks can replace genuine interest in people.

2. Pay Sincere Attention to Introductions

  • Focus on the person.
    Not paying attention to the other person is the leading cause of forgetting names. In introductions, most people are only preoccupied with what they’ll say next, anxious to cause a good impression. Relax, focus on the person and just listen: the best impression you can make is by calling the person by name later.
  • Make sure you heard it right.
    This may sound too obvious, but you need to make sure you heard the name correctly. If you didn’t hear it well the first time, you shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask the person to repeat it – actually, this is often perceived as a good thing, as it shows that you care. Moreover, if Mr. Csikszentmihalyi speaks too fast, don´t be ashamed to ask to repeat his name slowly. He will almost certainly not be annoyed; also, the more uncommon a name is, the more surprised the person will be when you say it correctly later on.

3. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

We usually forget a name during the first few minutes after hearing it for the first time. By using the person’s name in the next few minutes after you first hear it, you are taking a great step in committing it to your memory.

  • Use it immediately.
    “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Robinson”. This not only counts as a memory aid, but also gives the person a chance to correct you in case you got the name incorrectly.
  • Repeat silently.
    “Robinson, Robinson, Robinson”. Mental repetition is especially effective when you combine it with other senses – such as doing it while looking in her eyes or shaking hands.
  • Introduce the person to others.
    Every repetition counts, and taking the initiative to introduce people to each other will also help expand your social circle.
  • Repeat the name throughout the conversation.
    “So, Mrs. Robinson, what do you do for a living?”. Throwing the person’s name in the conversation once in a while really works wonders for your memory and keeps the conversation more engaging. Just be careful to sound natural and not overdo it.

4. Associate!

If you’re still not getting results, we’ll need to resort to some memory tricks. We know that memory works best by associating images, so let’s put that concept to good use here. We’ll need two images: one for the person (usually the face) and another for the name. Creating the association is pretty easy:

  1. Make the person’s face as vivid as possible.
    Humans are already equipped with the best face-recognition software available, but every bit we do to improve the image can help. Exaggerate a distinguishing feature in the person’s face to make it remarkable and humorous, turning the face into a caricature. Pick the first feature that grabs your attention: eyebrows, nose, forehead, avoiding characteristics that may easily change, such as hairstyle, clothes or glasses.
  2. Transform the name into an image.
    We are particularly good at remembering faces, but why don’t names usually come naturally to us? That happens because names are too abstract – we need to find a way to convert them into images, so that our brains understand and better deal with them. You can do this in many ways:

    • Use a known person’s figure.
      Picture the person you just met with a known namesake – either a personal friend or a famous figure. Make them interact in ludicrous or unexpected ways.
    • Find a word that rhymes with the name.
      Paying attention to the way the name sounds is also an easy way to find associations. As usual, imagine the picture for the rhyme word and combine it with the person’s image in a strong way. “Jake drowning in a lake” may be tragic, but works.
    • Play with words.
      You shouldn’t be limited to rhymes only: use any word similarities that suit you best. “Margarine melting down Margaret’s blonde hair” is an image that fits all outrageousness requirements. Don’t try to be too elaborated, though – the first association you come up with will usually be the most effective.

For some people, remembering the first letter of a name is enough for remembering it all. If that’s your case, you can define alphabet pegs for the name first letter and use them as linking pictures. This technique is explained in depth in the article ‘Improve Your Memory by Speaking Your Mind’s Language‘. Think ‘Billy the Bear’ or ‘Sandra the Snake’.

5. Review the Name Soon

Reviewing a person’s name and writing it down in the next day or so makes remembering names virtually infallible.

If you’re serious about making and keeping relationships, you probably already have a database with all your contacts. Adding the new contact to your personal contact database is a great opportunity to commit it to your memory. Don’t add only the contact’s name, but also other useful information such as place and date where you first met.

You will have the added benefit of being able to look up the names in your database when you know you’ll meet these people again.

How to Handle Those Sudden Memory Lapses?

What if it’s too late and you already find yourself in the dreadful situation of forgetting someone’s name?

First of all, don’t avoid talking to the person whose name you forgot: the risk of not developing a potential relationship is not worth it.

Another common behavior (of which I was once guilty as charged, I must admit) is calling people with expressions such as ‘man‘, ‘pal’, ‘my friend’. These are fine if you use them once or twice, but they wear out pretty quickly and you’ll risk getting even more embarrassed later.

Try these more elegant solutions instead:

1. Admit It

Being honest and admitting the memory blackout is the simplest and most obvious solution, which you should seriously consider as your preferred choice. Remember that the essential thing is to have the attitude of considering people important. If you do and your memory still fails you, there’s no reason to feel guilty at all. Admit it as soon as possible and get the issue out of the way. Don’t make a big deal of it – everybody forgets names every now and then.

When telling the truth, be gentle and polite: you may be surprised how people actually appreciate some candidness.

2. Introduce Others Skillfully

The most awkward situation for a person who forgot someone’s name is to be forced to introduce that very person to someone else. But if you do it skillfully, you can use that seemingly unpleasant situation in your favor. Try the following line: “I want you to meet someone: this is my friend John”. Then let the conversation flow; it will probably finish with your answer: —“Hi John, nice to meet you. I’m Robert.”

3. Recover Context Information

A great way to increase the chances of remembering someone’s name is by remembering specific information about the person or about the circumstances when you first met. If you can’t remember, you can try letting the person provide you the missing pieces: “What are you up to these days?” or “How’s the business going?” are good lines that don’t raise much suspicion.

Make It Easy for Others

Now that you won’t forget people’s names again, how about fixing the problem from the other side – making it easy for others to remember your name? You not only make yourself more memorable, but you also save other people the embarrassment. Try these tips:

  • Always say your name slowly and in a clear voice.
  • Introduce yourself first:“Hi, I’m Bob; we met at the company cocktail party last month.” This line has the added benefit of also encouraging the other person to say his name.
  • When being introduced, you may want to “teach” others how to remember your name. “By the way, have we met already? I’m Luciano Passuello — you know, just like in ‘Luciano Pavarotti‘: I am no Italian singer, but my mom once said I can make damn good pasta!”

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: How to Always Remember People’s Names.

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How to Become a Human Calendar Mon, 03 Sep 2007 21:30:53 +0000 Mentally finding out the day of the week for any date is a skill you can easily learn. You don’t need to be an autistic genius – all it takes is basic memorization effort and some trivial math. When I first learned this technique many years ago, I did it just for fun. With time, […]

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How to Become a Human Calendar

Mentally finding out the day of the week for any date is a skill you can easily learn. You don’t need to be an autistic genius – all it takes is basic memorization effort and some trivial math.

When I first learned this technique many years ago, I did it just for fun. With time, I learned to enjoy the convenience of not needing a calendar anymore. It’s far more useful than I first thought, and with just a little practice, you’ll be able to find out the days of the week much faster than when reaching for a calendar.

The Method

To find out the days of the week for any date, use the formula:

[day of week] = (yearcode + monthcode + day) mod 7

If you’re not math-inclined, this may look quite scary at first, but don’t worry: using the formula is straightforward. Let’s walk through each one of of its parts.

Month and Year Codes

The month codes are one of the formula’s most troublesome parts, since they don’t follow a clear logic. We’ll have to memorize them, but don’t worry with that just yet, as we will focus on an easy way to do this later. For now, here they are for reference:

  • January: 1
  • February: 4
  • March: 4
  • April: 0
  • May: 2
  • June: 5
  • July: 0
  • August: 3
  • September: 6
  • October: 1
  • November: 4
  • December: 6

We also need the year code, which are also apparently arbitrary. You shouldn’t also worry about memorizing them at this point. For now, here are the ones you’ll most likely use:

  • 2008: 2
  • 2009: 3
  • 2010: 4
  • 2011: 5
  • 2012: 0
  • 2013: 1

Days of the Week

The result is always a number from 0 to 6, and its interpretation couldn’t be any easier:

  • 1: Sunday; 1st day of week
  • 2: Monday; 2nd day of week, and so on.
  • 3: Tuesday
  • 4: Wednesday
  • 5: Thursday
  • 6: Friday
  • 0: Saturday

The Calculation

Let me show you how the formula works with an example: December 25, 2008.

Step 1: Get the codes for month and year. According to the code tables, December is 6 and 2008 is 2.

Step 2: Apply the numbers in the formula:

  1. [day of week] = (yearcode + monthcode + day) mod 7
  2. [day of week] = (2 + 6 + 25) mod 7
  3. [day of week] = 33 mod 7; see below if you don`t know what ‘mod’ is
  4. [day of week] = 5

5 means Thursday. That’s the day of the week for December 25, 2008.

Tips for Faster Calculation

In case you’re unfamiliar with the modulo (mod) operator, all it does is give you the remainder of a division. Take, for example, 17 mod 7. If you divide 17 by 7, you get 2 and a remainder of 3. So, 17 mod 7 = 3.

Now, if you don’t like the idea of performing divisions mentally, there’s hope: you don’t really need to divide by 7 to get the number’s modulo. All you need is to cast out sevens of the number. That is: take the closest multiple of seven below your number and just take the difference between them. For example, in 17 mod 7, the closest multiple of 7 below 17 is 14. Casting 14 out of 17, there’s a leftover of 3. Therefore, 17 mod 7 = 3.

An additional tip to speed up the calculation: Instead of summing up all the three numbers and calculating the modulo thereafter, as the formula suggests, do it slightly differently: don’t wait until you have a big number to calculate its modulo. You can cast out sevens as you go. Let’s do the same calculation we did above (December 25, 2008), but casting out sevens as we go.

  1. [day of week] = (2 + 6 + 25); let’s cast out sevens for 25 before we go.
  2. [day of week] = (2 + 6 + 4);
  3. [day of week] = (8 + 4); let’s cast out sevens for 8 before we go
  4. [day of week] = (1 + 4);
  5. [day of week] = 5

Although there are extra steps, you will always work with small numbers, speeding up the process.

Adjustment for Leap Years

The only caveat in the formula (and it had to have one, right?) is that there will be an adjustment when dealing with leap years: you need to subtract one from the result, for the months of January and February. The other months are calculated just as any normal year.

Memorizing the Month Codes

The math is pretty easy, but unless you memorize the codes, you won’t be able to perform the entire technique in your head. The good news is that the month codes never change, so you just need to memorize them once and reuse them over and over again. For an easy and fun way of memorizing lists, I strongly suggest the pegging memory system. We’ll use it here, so if you’re unfamiliar with it, please take a look first.

For the peg system to work, our challenge is to come up with images for the months. Here are my suggestions, based on either similarities in word pronunciation or on cultural traditions.

  • January: Jacket
  • February: Freeze
  • March: March
  • April: Bunny
  • May: Flowers
  • June: Dune
  • July: Jungle
  • August: Barbecue
  • September: Scepter
  • October: Doberman
  • November: Turkey
  • December: Santa Claus

If these images don’t make much sense to you, feel free to substitute by your own. Remember that the list doesn’t need to follow any pattern or logic; the only requirement is that each association must come easily and quickly to you.

If you did like the images I suggested, here’s a graphical list to help you visualize and memorize them as pegs:

Months Memory Pegs

(click for larger image)

All right, now that we have the pegs, the next step is to create fun and remarkable scenes combining the month images with our previously learned number images. Just to illustrate, let me give you a personal example on how to do that:

August. Looking at our month code table, we see the code for August is 3. Let’s associate ‘barbecue’ (for August) with ‘heart’ (for number 3): Barbecue and heart? The first thing that comes to mind is a childhood memory of the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I always wondered what the bad guy did with those living throbbing hearts he extracted from people in that dark ritual. No more: what about a great barbecue outside, with pulsating hearts on the grill and everybody getting drunk with kegs of Kali Ma’s blood! Childhood memories work wonders for your memory. 😉

This technique only works if you use your own imagination, so now it’s up to you. Always remember to make it personal and fun.

Bonus: Extend the Technique for Any Year

For practical purposes, I memorize only the code for the current year. When a new year arrives and you need its code, you can find it pretty easily: find out the day for current year’s December 31th and just sum one and you’ll have the day of the week for next year’s January 1st. Now, the only variable left in the formula is the year code. Don’t forget about the adjustment for leap years when using this trick.

If, unlike myself, you want to go really wild and mentally find out the days for any year, you’ll need to grow some extra math and memorization muscles. Here’s the formula for the year code:

yearcode = (centurycode + [last two digits of year] + ([last two digits of year] div 4)) mod 7

‘Div’ is the operator for integer division. Just like ‘mod’ gets the remainder of a division, ‘div’ gets its integer quotient. For example, 17 div 7 = 2 (with a remainder of 3).

The century code follows a recurrent pattern, and can be used for any date in the Gregorian calendar:

  • 1600s: 6
  • 1700s: 4
  • 1800s: 2
  • 1900s: 0
  • 2000s: 6; repeating the pattern
  • 2100s: 4; 6-4-2-0 pattern goes on

With that, you have a complete mental calendaring system. This is a handy tool that, once learned, can be used for your entire lifetime. Try it just once or twice, and you’ll see that it really isn’t as much work as it looks like.

Update: If you want the year codes automatically calculated for you, or simply want to see the math in action, I created a downloadable Excel spreadsheet (44 KB) that does exactly that.

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: How to Become a Human Calendar.

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Improve Your Memory by Speaking Your Mind’s Language Tue, 28 Aug 2007 17:01:10 +0000 By learning the language your mind uses, you’ll be able to tap into your mind’s full potential and develop a remarkable memory. It’s easier than you think – and you’ll actually have fun doing it. Your Mind Thinks in Pictures Along its evolution, the brain has become amazingly effective in dealing with sensory data. It […]

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Improve Your Memory by Speaking Your Mind's Language

By learning the language your mind uses, you’ll be able to tap into your mind’s full potential and develop a remarkable memory. It’s easier than you think – and you’ll actually have fun doing it.

Your Mind Thinks in Pictures

Along its evolution, the brain has become amazingly effective in dealing with sensory data. It is by correctly interpreting the five senses that the mind understands the environment and takes decisions.

Among the human senses, sight has become the most sophisticated and developed of all. For that reason, our brains have become extremely effective in storing and processing images; especially of concrete, real-world objects. Trying to memorize abstract symbols, such as words printed on a page, is very unnatural and inefficient. Words are useful units of communication created by us, but they’re not how our brains are best used to process information.

Imagery is the real language of the mind. Images are your mind’s vocabulary, the building blocks of its language.

If I ask you to think about a horse, what comes to your mind? Is it the letters H-O-R-S-E in sequence? Of course not: it is the picture of a horse – you can even tell me its color. Don’t dreams always come as images? Pictures are how your mind communicates with us, and we should take full advantage of that.

Visual Thinking and Memory

To fully illustrate the astonishing effect that images have on your memory, let’s walk through a basic memorization technique called memory pegging. If you still don’t know it, I guarantee it’s going to be fun. Just like most memorization techniques, it’s based on the concept of thinking in pictures, or visual thinking.

Before getting to the technique, let me give you a simple challenge: memorize a groceries list of ten items. Allow yourself two minutes examining the list, then don’t look at it.

  1. bacon
  2. eggs
  3. wine
  4. batteries
  5. bubble gum
  6. milk
  7. envelopes
  8. spinach
  9. coffee
  10. tomato

Learning Your Mind’s Basic Vocabulary

Just like when learning any new language, we’ll need to get some basic vocabulary to get started. Let’s begin with some very useful words: the numbers from one to ten. By bringing the numbers to our visual language, we’ll be able to use them to memorize our groceries list or any other list we come across.

There are many ways to convert a number to a picture. My favorite one is to use images that resemble the numbers’ shapes. By getting rid of abstract symbols and replacing them with images that are vivid, animated and colorful, we’ll have much better mental pictures for our minds to play with. Here are some suggestions:

  1. candle
  2. swan
  3. heart
  4. sail boat
  5. hook
  6. golf club
  7. cliff
  8. snowman
  9. balloon with string
  10. dinner plate and fork

Here’s a graphical version of the list to help you visualize the similarities:

Number Shape Peg System

(click for larger image)

Feel free to use different images that appeal more to you. Once you’re done creating your list, please take your time to familiarize yourself with it. These images will be our pegs and, once learned, you’ll be able to reuse them over and over again, to memorize just about anything you want.

Connecting Images

Now that we have established an initial vocabulary of images, we can memorize new ones by building associations between them. All we need is to combine both images and form a new one. Now is the time to use your imagination, because there’s only one requirement for your new image: it must be absolutely outrageous!

Make it crazy, ridiculous, offensive, unusual, extraordinary, animated, nonsensical – after all, these are the things that get remembered, aren’t they? Make the scene so unique that it could never happen in real life. The only rule is: if it’s boring, it’s wrong.

Let’s go back to our groceries list example. How do we connect the number ‘1′ (candle) with our first grocery item (bacon)?

We could start by picturing a really big and powerful candle being used to fry bacon in a fast-food restaurant. Make an effort to enrich the scene in your mind: focus on the bacon strips and take a second or two to make them as vivid as possible. If you engage the other senses, even better: smell the bacon and hear it being fried. Add some movement and wackiness: couldn’t the bacon strips be jumping in the frying pan, crying for help? Did I mention you should make it zany?

Let’s try this exercise once more, now connecting the number ‘2′ (swan) and ‘egg’.

A swan laying an egg is too obvious – it won’t work by itself. Let’s imagine the mother swan laying the egg just like a woman giving birth: in a surgery room, with other swans dressed as doctors around her. Put the father swan in the room, proudly taping the whole thing. In the end, everybody is astonished – it’s actually three eggs: triplets!!

Ridiculous? No doubt about that. Effective? You bet.

At this point, you already get the idea. At first, doing this for each item may seem like a lot of work, but really it’s not. This mental play quickly becomes completely automatic – and fun!

When the time to recall the list comes, there’s not much more to do: the recalling process is completely automatic. It goes somewhat like this: You ask yourself what’s the first item: ‘#1?’ and the image of the candle immediately pops in your mind. One split second later, sure enough, there they are: jumping bacon strips!

How Does It Compare to Traditional Memorization?

It’s time to check how well you did in our memory test. Without looking back at the original list, try to write down all the items in order. Award yourself one point for each correct word and one additional point if the word is in its correct position.

How well did you do? Most people score an average of 12 out of the possible 20. If you ask them one week later (without telling them you would), the results drop to a disappointing average of 5.

Using the pegging method, the results are mind-blowing: the usual score is a flawless 20 – even when people are asked one week later. And that is after using the technique just for the first time.

The pegging memorization technique is just a small demonstration of how powerful visual thinking is. In fact, visual thinking is behind many mind-enhancing techniques such as mind mapping and is the core component of most other more advanced memorization techniques.

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: Improve Your Memory by Speaking Your Mind’s Language.

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How to Recall an Entire Book in 5 Minutes or Less Tue, 14 Aug 2007 14:05:02 +0000 Have you ever read a great book, and after only a short period of time could recall almost nothing from it? It's very frustrating, but there’s a way to avoid forgetting what you have read and, if you do, instantly refresh it in your mind.

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How to Recall an Entire Book in 5 Minutes or Less

Have you ever read a great book, and after only a short period of time could recall just one or two ideas from it? It is very frustrating – and it happens all the time. But there’s a way to avoid forgetting what you have read and, if you do, instantly refresh it in your mind.

Reading Goals, Cheated

The key to reading effectively is to be fully engaged in what you are reading. Underlining, questioning, taking notes – these all help – but there’s one single element that is essential if you want to read effectively: you need to know what your goal is. This is standard advice, and is indeed a good one. But if you want your reading to be truly effective and long-lasting, you need more than simply a goal: you need a very specific and tangible one.

Take, for example, a book such as Getting Things Done. The goal “to get more organized” would be good enough – but just as a generic goal, not as a specific one. A generic goal may be enough to motivate you to start reading a book, but won’t be truly effective by itself to keep you fully involved while reading it. We need something more concrete.

The problem is that we only know the specifics of a book after actually reading it. So what should we do as we want to set a specific goal beforehand? We cheat.

I’ve found that one of the most effective goals to set when reading a book is to commit yourself to create a mind map of it.

This will serve as a specific goal that you can use for any book. Yes, having a “general-purpose specific goal” certainly feels like cheating, but you won’t believe how effective it is. It will really help boosting your reading comprehension; and the best part is that you’ll have a book summary you can revisit at anytime. Contrary to regular book summaries, due to the specific properties of mind maps, you’ll be able to review it at lightning speed, quite often at a single glance.

Top 3 Benefits of Mind Mapping a Book

1. Boost Comprehension While Reading

Being sharply focused on creating such a specific deliverable as a mind map will get you 100% engaged in your reading, guaranteed.

Moreover, every time you reach for your mind map to add more information, you’ll be looking and recalling what’s already in there. In fact, this constant reinforcement works so well, it usually takes months before you need referring to the mind map again.

2. Quickly Review the Entire Book Anytime

This is when mind mapping really shines when compared to other note-taking techniques. It is absolutely amazing what happens when you look at a mind map months or even years after you created it. It is like rereading the entire book in just a glance.

When you first read the book using this method, you did it in such an active manner that by just quickly scanning the mind map brings you all the memories from the book – even the ones you didn’t include in your mind map. In fact, the neural connections formed are so strong that even the emotions you felt at the time often resurface. And with such a personalized and handy summary, you really don’t need more than 5 minutes to review it.

3. Distill the Real Substance of the Book

It is not rare for long books resulting in small mind maps. By creating a mind map, the real content of the book becomes evident. Not everything in a book is straight to the point: authors (validly) use repetition, stories and examples to build and elaborate important points. All you need to do is use standard mind mapping features to reflect that importance: use bold, write your topics in bigger letters or different colors. With your personalized mind map, you’ll be able to trim all fat while keeping the relationships and the relative importance of each topic intact.

Tips to Get Started

Keep the Flow

Avoid reading and creating the mind map simultaneously, as that will disrupt your reading flow. Circle, underline and take notes while reading, pre-selecting the important concepts and passages for your summary. This intermediary step not only keeps you in context and engaged in the book, but also makes it much easier to quickly create your mind map once you read the relevant parts of the book. And by doing this, you’ll have yet another content reinforcement in the process.

Sleep on It

Try not to work on your mind map right after reading the book – let your mind chew on what you have read for a while first. Doing it the next day is a good rule of thumb. If you read every day, a good way of doing it is by working on your mind map for yesterday’s topic right before today’s reading session. Also, try not to get your reading too far ahead of your mind mapping – you’ll lose the benefits of repetitive reinforcement and feel overwhelmed if there’s too much content to add in a single sit.

Use Dual Bookmarking

Instead of using just one bookmark, use an extra one to indicate up to where your book has been mapped. I also recommend using colored Post-it flags, so you won’t need to worry about your second bookmark falling while you’re reading.

Try It

Won’t reading books with this method take much longer than usual? Sure it will – but what’s the point in leafing through several books, only retaining a tiny amount of their content – and only for a short period of time?

If you’re just reading casually and you feel this method is overkill, you are probably right – don’t force yourself to use it, by all means. But if you get your hands on a great book – and there are so many out there – please give mind mapping a try. You won’t regret taking these extra steps to make your books really last in your mind.

To check out a mind map created using this technique, please see One Small Step Can Change Your Life or Never Eat Alone.

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: How to Recall an Entire Book in 5 Minutes or Less.

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