The Memory Palace

A lot of my visitors are coming here looking on the Palace Of Memory system I’ve been devising for my students, and so I’m placing a page here, which will have links to all the scripts and relevant materials in one place.

This is the place to begin, if you’re interested in the Memory Palace technique.

I created this image as a way to help some students see the layout of the room.  Here’s the overall guide to the room….  And here’s a couple of scripts for various parts of that room.

An example of a way to lay out a room so that one can see the arrangement of pieces in an argument or a speech, and walk through those elements in a straightforward way.

This is part of my theory of why “Palace of Memory” techniques work: you’re engaging the part of your brain, the hippocampus, that alerts you to where you are in space.  That enables your brain to more easily retrieve memories, and especially memories formed of both Words and Things (i.e., left-brain/right-brain awarenesses).

I don’t know that Palace of Memory techniques are ‘whole brain’, but I think they are, and that learning material in this kind of context is in fact brain-changing.  It makes you more of an artist, and more of a retainer of information.

These two stories go together for a variety of reasons, mostly that I think they’re connected.  But they show the power of memory to help us string together complex thoughts across time-space gaps, and I think that’s an important skill we want to develop in kids.
Janet’s description of how to teach the four major diseases that the Europeans unleashed on the New World, found in the comments, is absolutely Brilliant, and it shows the power of the system.
This was my first attempt at answering questions about Palace of Memory.  I don’t know that I did a very good job, but it was a beginning.
Put a globe in your first room.  Link it both to time and to space, so you can search it for the boundaries of empires, and the eras of empires, and shift it both forward and backward in time.  This is HUGELY challenging, but it pays rewards in the long run, and makes you much more capable of answering geography questions, because you have an internal GPS system that you can add to with time.

13 Comments (+add yours?)

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  6. AliciaA
    May 13, 2013 @ 02:38:57

    Hi Andrew, I was wondering if you would be willing to read and comment on this: http://www.memorizeshakespeare.com/articles/why-the-palace-method-doesnt-work-for-shakespeare/
    It’s not just Shakespeare I’ve had trouble using the memory palace for but really any poetry. Thoughts? Thanks!

    Reply

    • Andrew
      May 13, 2013 @ 05:50:41

      Hi, Alicia! Hope you’re well, and everything is ok.

      Sure, I can comment. Cicero says in Ad Herennium, his book on Rhetoric, that he thinks that artificial memory is better for lists and the outlines of speeches rather than exact text memorization — it can be done, he says, but it’s not the most useful application of artificial memory. At least, that’s what I get from his system.

      And I think I agree with him. The super memory champs who use Palace of Memory techniques are mostly out to memorize long lists of things, like names or numbers, and regurgitate them.

      So I think Shakespeare and poetry generally you still have to memorize the hard way round, that is, by rote and repetition until it becomes natural speech.

      However, the advantage that i have found, you have with palace of memory is that you can assign the book or poem or whatever, to a specific place in the Palace. It’s then possible to go there, and retrieve the book, and start reciting. Otherwise it’s always a struggle to find the first line.

      So, general information: facts figures dates etc — palace of memory.
      Poetry, specific texts: repetition and rote, but stored in a specific loci in the Palace as a complete unit.

      Reply

      • AliciaA
        May 14, 2013 @ 16:31:32

        True, finding those first few words can often be the hardest part! Thanks, really enjoying this new/old technique.

        Reply

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