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Method Of Loci: Definition, Example & Quiz

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Taught by

Andrea McKay

Andrea teaches high school AP Psychology and Online Economics and has a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

The Method of Loci has been used since ancient times to memorize important information. Discover the Method of Loci and learn how you can become a memory expert in this lesson.

Definition

Imagine you must give an important speech in front of your college communications class for your final exam. No matter how many times you rehearse the speech, you know you will not be able to memorize every part of it. You don't want to accidentally leave out any necessary details, but you want to impress your audience by not relying on notecards for help. What can you do?

Ancient Greek and Roman orators are often attributed for using the Method of Loci to memorize speeches. The Method of Loci is an effective mnemonic device, or a trick to aid in memory storage and retrieval. The effectiveness of this method relies on visualizing mental images to associate with the material that needs to be remembered. The more vivid the visual, the more effective the method.

Visualization is the Key

To use the Method of Loci, you simply need to visualize a location through which you can take an imaginary walk. If you are memorizing a speech, it is helpful for the location to have a beginning, middle, and an end, perhaps similar to a route you have memorized on your way to work. You will 'store' parts of what you need to memorize throughout each space of the location you have chosen.

If you are using your work route as an example for a walk-through, you might mentally store the introduction of your speech in the mailbox near your front door, symbolizing the beginning of your speech. Continue throughout your imaginary walk, and in each new location, mentally store another element from your speech until you have completed your mental walk and reached the end of your speech.

The Method of Loci can help with memorizing lists, scripts, and important speeches. It is important to stress that mental imagery leads to the effectiveness of the Method of Loci. Creating a vivid mental picture helps the mnemonic become clear and solid in your mind. Rehearsing the association between the location and the material that needs to memorized also adds to the mnemonic's effectiveness.

Memory Experts Use the Method of Loci

Memory experts sometimes refer to the Method of Loci as the Memory Palace. Instead of taking a mental walk through a specific route, they visualize items to be memorized in different imaginary rooms in their palace.

World record holders in memory competitions often indicate that an intellectually average person can learn and use these techniques. Individuals with ordinary memories are capable of winning world records just by learning and applying mnemonic devices such as the Method of Loci.

Become an Expert!

Are you ready to attempt the Method of Loci and become a memorization expert? Imagine you need to memorize a grocery list, and you decide to use the Method of Loci. Here is your list:

  1. Eggs
  2. Bread
  3. Milk
  4. Shredded cheddar cheese
  5. Yogurt
  6. Carrots
  7. Limes
  8. Taco shells

Use a mental image of walking through your home to help you memorize the list. Be sure to make the imagery vivid. In fact, the more bizarre the image, the more likely you are to remember the association. Take the time to fully see the image in your mind.

Here's an example:

You step in your front door and are bombarded with eggs. Eggs are flying at you from all directions. You move into your den only to find you have to push yourself through a giant loaf of bread that takes up the entire room. You have to cut your way through the loaf to make it to the kitchen of your house. Once in the kitchen, you see milk is pouring out of the sink without stopping. You quickly move into the living room and you find the couch has been covered in shredded cheddar cheese. The cheese is piled up in heaps across the couch. You walk into the bathroom and find the tub is overflowing with yogurt. Moving into the spare bedroom, you notice a giant carrot tucked into the bed. In the master bedroom, you open your dresser drawer and limes spill everywhere. Finally, you make it to the master bedroom and step all over crunchy taco shells on the floor.

Once you have visualized each item on the list in the specific location in your house, you should be able to recall each item by simply walking through the space mentally. Test yourself. Do you remember all ten items on the list by visualizing a walk through your home? If you do, you are on the right track to becoming a memory expert using the Method of Loci.

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