### Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Mnemonics’

## Challenge: Can you memorize 67890 digits?

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128481117450284102701938521105559644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233786783165271201909145648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273724587006606315588…You can tell from the first three or four digits that this whole bunch of numbers represents a simple idea, the ratio of a circle to its diameter, π. Now, if I say that the person who can memorize the most number of the decimals of pi can win a million dollar prize, what strategy do you think is the most effective, and how many decimals do you think are enough to win the prize?

One strategy that may come to your mind is creating little chunks of decimals of pi and memorize chunk by chunk. For example, the first 20 digits can be chunked into ‘31415,’ ‘92653,’ ‘58979,’ and‘32384.’ The last one or two digits of the previous chunk may cue you about the first one or two digits of the latter group. However, after you memorize a considerable number of decimals, you will find it difficult to continue because the digits cues start to repeat and you will experience too much retroactive interference, which describes the phenomenon that things memorized later may negatively affect your ability to recall something memorized earlier. A similar thing happens when you are trying to remember two people’s phone number. After you memorize the second phone number, the first one will appear to be a bit vague in your memory. You can choose to enlarge the group size from 5 digits to 10 digits to reduce the cue repetition, thus the retroactive interference can be reduced as you are using more digits as cues. However, you may still find it hard to continue after you reach a certain part when all the digits and cues entangle and you cannot recall them in a correct sequence, which is the key of memorizing pi. Due to the difficulties you find, you may come up with a reasonable estimation and wisely give up because it is kind of a waste of time. Read more…

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## The Method of Loci and Learning Through Headphones: A Powerful and Overlooked Learning Method.

Let’s say you are given a standard short-term memory test. A list of words is presented to you; maybe 10 or 12 items, and you have to remember as many of them as you can at a later recall test. With the standard 5 to 9 item capacity of short-term memory, you can likely recall most of them. If you have time to use long-term memory, you can come up with a way to remember them all. There are plenty of useful mnemonics that can give you a hand, so let’s up the ante and make it 25 items. That’s a little bit tougher but, after a day with it, you can commit it to memory. People have to memorize things all the time, and we’ve found ways that are better than just repeated exposure. Memory is very dependent on cues and semantic connections, so creating those for certain bits of information is very helpful and not too hard. Let’s try one.

Toothpaste – Spider – Traffic – Mountain – Laser – Tuna – Calendar – Jacket – Pig – Cactus – Racquet – Leash

It’s not expected that you can remember all of these items based on short-term memory alone, so let’s use a quick mnemonic technique. Imagine a place that you are very familiar with, like your house, and picture the items on the list in various places in your house as you read them. You can do this very quickly if it’s a familiar place, and it helps to construct a specific path. For example, maybe you walk up to your house and there’s a tube of toothpaste sitting on the front doorstep. Maybe a spider crawls onto it as you’re looking at it, or maybe you see it as you reach for the door. You open the door and there’s someone else there who is trying to leave, causing traffic. There’s a painting of a mountain on the wall, or if you’re not too concerned about the constraints of reality you can just place an actual mountain in your living room. Later when you try to recall the words, you can just mentally walk through your house and find the objects there just where you put them. This is called the Method of Loci. Using this technique, you can create cues out of locations and remember this list after possibly just one presentation. Read more…

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