Notes on Improving Memory


My reading habit has long been overdue so I am trying to get back in the saddle with at least one book (non-fiction) a month. This time, I stumbled upon a very interesting introductory read on human’s memory capacity: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. The book picked up its steam (and came under my radar) through the recommendation of Bill Gates himself.

Ever wonder how some people can recite lengthy Pi number while most of us can’t go beyond 3.14? Or how a seemingly random grocery/to-do list can be memorized? This book will open your mind into the world of “mental athletes”. The author will walk you through his personal journey of how he, an average journalist, thrived to become U.S. Memory Championship’s winner. This is not a self-help book for those of you looking for a quick hack into instant memory enhancement; it’s a reading-for-pleasure book with useful beginner information into the world of memory.

Notes I collected about the world of memory:

  • Memory will persist if you can make it lively, buoyant, and bizarre; i.e.: having sushi on a woman’s body for lunch is much more memorable than your regular office lunch.
  • Most savants with incredible memory reportedly have a common mental health condition: every word and number has a distinct taste and visualization. That helps trigger their different senses aiding their unconscious memorization.
  • Memory by association: try to relate what you want to remember to something you already remember.
  • Human brain is mostly receptive and responsive to two things: sex and jokes; especially jokes about sex. Want to remember buying a can of milk? Try to think of Megan Fox pouring down milk all over her in a hot tub in the middle of Trader Joe’s. Now try to forget that. Cant? Me neither.
  • Mental athletes remember by remembering more. (More on that below: Major System).
  • Practice makes perfect!

Two simple memory techniques that the author mentioned:
They can be used to remember a long number or a list of random items:

  • Major System: for memorizing number. You have to come up with a list of images associated with all numbers between 00 and 99. The numbers have to follow this rule. Then instead of remembering a meaningless number 524157, you get to remember something more fun like “a LION is playing with a HEART shape object(probably in love) inside a LAKE.” Now in order to recall the number, pick up “LION, HEART, and LAKE” and match them with the pre-defined table in your memory. It may sound idiotic at first to remember a pre-defined list of 100 numbers, but the return is worth it. I am currently playing around with this system.
  • Memory Palace (Loci): for memorizing a list of random items. Pick a familiar place to you (your house, your bedroom etc…). Walk around the house and drop each item from the list in a unique location. Try to associate each item with something bizarre (see above). Now in order to recall the list, you just have to trace back through the building.

This intro won’t do justice, so go ahead and grab the book. It’s an easy and fun read!

Note: I am actually working on an iPhone app to assist people in training through Major System. If you are interested in the release date, its functionality, or having any oppinions on the app, leave your comment below or e-mailing at khoi@ethandev.com

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