Memory Improvement Technique

The ancient Romans and Greeks placed tremendous demands on the memory. Lawyers and politicians were expected to memorize long, complex arguments and deliver them impeccably, while poets delivered epic works orally as a type of theater (in fact Homer was most likely illiterate).

In order to accomplish these tasks, the ancients used a memory improvement technique discovered by the Greek poet Simonides:

Although the method may seem peculiar at first, any person can use it to improve their recollection of anything, from shopping lists to lecture outlines. Once you find a way to “see” the items you must remember, you can use the trick on different strings of information.

The mnemonic device, known as the loci method, involves placing mental pictures of items in specific locations inside a room, in a specific order. A person can then “walk” through the room and see all the objects that must be recalled. Each person must develop his or her own locational system. Teachers in antiquity recommended using public places such as temples or meeting houses as sites for spatial memory training; an individual would stand inside a temple and memorize the position of each column and statue, from the main entrance, along the right wall, across the front, back down the left wall, and so on. Each item from a list would then be assigned to a column, statue or other feature, in a given order. Later, the memorizer would visualize the room to find each item.

The articles goes on to provide some practical examples for putting the technique to use in your own life. There is also an interesting back story about the technique’s original discovery.

A Memory Improvement Technique from the Greeks and Romans [SciAm] (via SharpBrains)