My last post was about using the Mind Palace Technique to drastically improve memory and recollection. But why is improving memory so important to me; and why should you care?

According to a publication by the  Harvard Medical School, “our memories shape who we are. They make up our internal biographies—the stories we tell ourselves about what we’ve done with our lives. They tell us who we’re connected to, who we’ve touched during our lives, and who has touched us. In short, our memories are crucial to the essence of who we are as human beings.

“That means age-related memory loss can represent a loss of self. It also affects the practical side of life, like getting around the neighborhood or remembering how to contact a loved one. It’s not surprising, then, that concerns about declining thinking and memory skills rank among the top fears people have as they age.

Like the Mind Palace technique, memory pegging is based on anchoring what you want to remember to already memorized assets. In Mind Palace you peg a memory object to your already identified house furniture. In Memory Pegging, you can peg your memory object to numbers as is explained in this MindLite article


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

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!

I have enjoyed practicing these memory hacks and applying them to real-life situations.