I was talking with my friend, Folarin, the other day about this month’s HighLifer challenge and then he mentioned ‘Memory Palace’,  and then gave me a rough explanation of its concept. It seemed really interesting so I went back to do my research and found out it’s actually an amazing concept for improving memory.

One very cool evening many years ago, my mother sent me with a basket of sandwiches to deliver to her very close friend. On my way back, with that empty basket, I attempted to cross the road when I saw what looked like a bike. It was actually a car with a missing head light. I assumed it was a bike and crossed the road that dusky evening. I was knocked out flat for a few minutes. I regained my consciousness to find out that I was surrounded by many people from the neighborhood. That day, we had a guest who we called Brother Gabriel. Brother Gabriel was a high ranking police officer.  He went after the car that hit me. A few minutes later, I was admitted to this private hospital that pushed morphine doses through my veins into my blood stream.  It was December 24th, 1998.

Do you know why I remember? Do you know why I can’t remember what happened December 24th, 2010 even though that was more recent? It’s a simple explanation.

There was ACTION and EMOTION involved. Those two are what seals events into your long term memory.  Keep in mind that short term memory is any memory object that is in your mind for less than 30 seconds, and it is limited to 4 to 7 pieces of information at a time.

There are three types of long-term memory:

  • Procedural memory: Here your brain remembers how to control the pedals in your car. Or how to turn amala or how to how to ride a bike properly.
  • Semantic Long-Term Memory: This holds general knowledge. Like who is the president of Nigeria.
  • Episodic Long Term Memory: This is the type of memory that holds events just like how I could remember the date and events surrounding the accident in 1998.

To improve memory, there’s a powerful memory technique called The Memory Palace. It has been used since ancient Rome and is responsible for some seemingly impossible memory feats. Dominic O’ Brien, an eight-time world memory champion was able to memorize 54 decks of cards in sequence. That’s 2808 cards!!!

The technique was also referred to in the TV series, Sherlock. The Memory Palace technique is based on the fact that we’re extremely good at remembering places we know. Who else knows your house better than you do?  The familiar place will be your guide to store and recall any kind of information. So here’s how to use this technique:

  1. Choose your place

    You have to pick and identify a place you are very familiar with. This can easily be your house. So here’s what you’d do. Stand at the doorway of one of the rooms in your house. Identify 5 pieces of furniture. For my living room, I chose my sofa, TV, parrot’s cage, guitar stand and book shelf. Go to the next room and continue numbering. You can locate 15 places in total. So first room has 1,2,3,4,5 items identified and numbered, second room has 6,7,8,9,10 items identified and numbered.

  2. Action

    Your brain remembers things that have action in them. So create things that have action. Attach those objects to the furniture as an anchor. So if you wanted to remember to pick a banana, yogurt, dog food and detergent from the store, using the 5 pieces of furniture, this is what I’d do:
    Sofa(number 1) + banana = I sat on a banana on my sofa. Didn’t feel too right.
    TV(number 2) + yogurt = I spilled yogurt on my TV…. and maybe licked it off.
    Parrots cage(number 3) + Dog food = I fed my parrot dog food mistakenly and he screamed ‘take it out’!!
    See how I merge the two objects and add action to the events?

  3. Emotion

    The name of my very first crush in JS 3 was Hadiza. By SS1 it was Ayokunnu. By SS3, it was Omowumi. I remember those very vividly. But I can’t even remember who I sat beside all through.
    Add emotion and action to whatever you want to remember, and then VIOLA! LONG TERM MEMORY.
    With my first example, that could look like this:  I sat on a banana on my sofa. It didn’t feel too right. It smeared my favorite pants and now I can’t wash it out. 

  4. Review + Spaced Repetition

    By now you want to continuously review what you’ve stored up. This can be every 6 hours(for something you want to recall soon) or every day.

It’s pretty interesting to know that there’s no limit to how much information you can store in your long-term memory. This is not a 5TB hub in your mind. The mind is limitless.