The Method of Loci.
The Method of Loci goes all the way back to ancient Rome and Greece. It is also known as the Journey Method, or The Roman Room Method.
The technique consists of learning a series of locations, preferably familiar places, like the rooms of your home, or the streets of your local neighbourhood. The location you choose isn’t as important as is your ability to picture that location vividly.
The key is to know your loci intimately.
For example, let’s take your home as an example. We’ll keep it simple and only use 8 loci:
- Bed 1
- Bed 2
- Bed 3
- Living Room
Building the Journey
Imagine that you want to remember a list of fruit and vegetables. Your list consists of 8 items:
- Brussel Sprouts
How do you link these items to your remembered locations? Easy. You do it like this.
Bed 1. Picture your bedroom. Now fill it with huge apples. See them clearly, green luscious, juicy and the size of basket balls. And every time you touch one it multiplies, filling the room even more. Imagine yourself struggling to wade through all those apples to get to Bed 2.
Bed 2. Picture this room clearly. Now imagine that the wardrobe door bursts open spilling thousands of citrus smelling oranges into the room. See the bright shiny orange skins, smell the citrus, feel the rough skin of the orange in your hand.
Bed 3. Once again, picture the room. Now see huge banana’s hanging from the ceiling. See the bright yellow skins, smell that banana aroma. Reach up and grab one of them. Peel it. Taste it.
Bathroom. Go into your bathroom. When you turn on your shower, instead of water, strawberries start falling out of the shower head. Once again, picture the bright red strawberries, the sweet strawberry smell. Imagine the way they feel falling on your head, the way they squish as you step on them.
Stairs. As you walk down the stairs you notice that each step is made up of thousands of juicy blueberries. Imagine the way the juice squirts as your foot stands on them.
Hall. In the middle of the hall a huge carrot is blocking the way. You can’t move it, so you decide to eat it.
Kitchen. You walk into the kitchen and there are a dozen people wearing broccoli suits, sitting around your kitchen table, chatting and drinking coffee.
Living room. And finally, picture yourself entering your living room only to find that your fireplace is popping Brussel sprouts. They are flying through the air like conkers from a schoolboy’s sling. Imagine them hitting you, forcing you to flee the room.
Now without looking back try and write down the 8 items of groceries. Just retrace your steps from your bedroom to the living room.
Even with a quick run through you will already be able to remember this list. That’s the power of the Method of Loci.
The main thing to remember is to make your loci, places that you know very well and to make the journey consistent. Then attach an image of what you are trying to remember to each location. Make the image vivid. Add colours, sounds, smells, texture. The more information you can squeeze into the image the better.
Make the image move, make the things you are imagining absurd, very small, or very big. The more violent the image or risqué, the easier it will be to remember.
And there’s no limit to the number of loci you can use.
If you’d like to learn more about mnemonic systems, read this book review.