I am lucky. In Norway it`s easy to work voluntarily and create projects that benefit people in different ways. Three years ago, I started a voluntary organization where I live, and through it I have planned different activities for people who like to do something new, or simply want to be social in different settings. This spring I have organized three events, and one of them has been a memory course for those who want to remember things better. The lecturer was Oddbjørn By, a memory expert who has won different competitions related to remembering for example numbers. But the technique (“Memo”) can be used to remember everything from events in history, names or events. One of the methods he uses, is “the method of loci”. This is one of the first things psychologists learn when they start studying. It consists of using visual imagery to remember what you want to learn, better. By association you create mental pictures that makes it easier to remember something that would easily be forgotten by rote memorization. Our brain is adapted to learn, but it can be hard if you don`t have any knowledge of the subject at hand, before you start memorizing. Let`s say you want to remember historic events for an exam. If you just sit down and try to remember different dates, it`s easy to mix them together and forget them later. Oddbjørn By use his mental map of different rooms or places, to sort the dates in ways that make it easy to recall after they have been learnt. He might use a house he knows well, to divide the dates in manageable units. The kitchen can be used for events from 1500-1550, and the living room, for 1550-1600. He then puts the events that happened in that period, into those rooms. If he wants to remember when someone won a war, he simply puts the relevant persons into the kitchen. This makes it easy to recollect when something happened, and to remember WHAT happened. When we were on the course, we learnt Italian verbs, the 10 largest countries and norwegian ministers in minutes. By repeating the visual memories one or two times, it`s easy to remember what you wanted to learn.
The method of loci
In this technique the subject memorizes the layout of some building, or the arrangement of shops on a street, or any geographical entity which is composed of a number of discrete loci. When desiring to remember a set of items the subject ‘walks’ through these loci in their imagination and commits an item to each one by forming an image between the item and any distinguishing feature of that locus. Retrieval of items is achieved by ‘walking’ through the loci, allowing the latter to activate the desired items. The efficacy of this technique has been well established (Ross and Lawrence 1968, Crovitz 1969, 1971, Briggs, Hawkins and Crovitz 1970, Lea 1975), as is the minimal interference seen with its use.