We use our capacity for memory on a near-constant basis. But how about competing with it?
That’s the premise of the United States Memory Championship. The Memory Championship is an annual contest where people all over the country compete with each other by memorizing and reciting different sources of information, anything from poems to random sets of numbers.
The competition is fierce, but it didn’t scare away Joshua Foer.
Foer is a science journalist and youngest of the three Foer brothers (famous for their impact in literature). He was covering the Memory Championship as a freelance journalist when started to wonder why he shouldn’t compete, himself.
The contestants were just like him. He had a brain that could be trained in memory, just like theirs.
And thus, he was inspired to take on the task himself, the magical task of memory and ability.
The Mind Palace
But what tricks was he taught?
The most notable trick in the “Art of Memory” is the Mind Palace. It’s a premise invented by Ancient Greeks which allow one to store and record their memories (kind of like how Sherlock Holmes does it here).
Foer explains it like this:
It involves, essentially creating an imagined building in your mind’s eye and filling that building with imagery. The weirder and more bizarre, the better. And when you walk back through that building, you can see those images that you left behind earlier.
The idea is to use a visual construct (i.e. a house) to “frame” your memories, giving you a tracing point to track the memory as you go forward.
While this concept is a bit odd, the psychological principles are sound. To learn more about it, see here.
Also, if you’d like to dig further, check out Foer’s best-selling book Moonwalking with Einstein.
*Photo Credit: Trey Ratcliff (Creative Commons)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christopher is a freelance writer and college student from Minnesota. Every week, he writes at Liter8 about modern-day topics of interest, both philosophical, scientific, and relevant. He also posts on twitter as @liter8media.