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Can You Really Trust Memory Palaces You’ve Made Up Entirely With Your Mind?
Of course you do.
That innocent young woman. Skipping through the Land of Oz. Meeting new friends. Tackling Wicked Witch. Reigning forever as the most beautiful Queen with Ruby Slippers who ever lived …
Oh no wait … that’s not the way it went.
And that’s exactly the point. When we use our imagination, we can change anything. We can invent things too.
Including Memory Palaces.
So if you want to know how to enhance your memory using a very special kind of Memory Palace, download the MP3 and keep reading this post all the way to the end.
3 Kinds Of Virtual Memory Palaces And The Little Known Factors That Affect Your Success
Let’s kick this discussion off with a question I recently received:
Could you give me an example of how to create an artificial memory palace?
Thanks for this question!
There are many, many ways to create artificial Memory Palaces.
What Do We Mean When We Call A Memory Palace “Virtual”?
First off, by “artificial” we are talking about either Memory Palaces built from scratch or based on fantasy locations.
To begin with the latter, you could use the layout of Homer Simpson’s house or the house of any sitcom. Fantasy layouts like these are great because we can quickly become familiar with the living room, kitchen, dining area and the bedrooms of each character. We can then simply study the layout of these rooms with great intensity the next time we are watching the show and create a journey throughout the house.
Some people have used video games too.
I have also explored this option. When I use this kind of Memory Palace, I prefer simple platform games like Donkey Kong. But Idriz Zogaj has shared more elaborate options that you can use.
I find this simpler kind of video best, and here’s why:
A platform games lets you see the entire journey and all of its stations at a single glance. You can also set rules much easier, such as that there will always be three stations per ramp, etc.
Plus, there are at least 5 ways you can navigate any kind of Memory Palace, and the platform game enables all of them.
Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
However, if you’re keen on first-person shooter games or games that use vast expanses of space and can remember these journeys, I encourage you by all means to experiment with them.
You might also want to check out this interview. At just ten years old when we spoke, Alicia Crosby talked about using Minecraft for building Memory Palaces. Here’s a video showing how that might work for you:
Is Hollywood The Ultimate Untapped Resource For Foolproof Memory Palaces?
Movies sometimes have good potential for creating stations, but not always. I’ve talked about how to enhance your memory using movies before on this podcast called How to Increase Memory By Watching Movies and TV Series.
On the main, movie and TV scenes are usually too broad. Not only that, but characters constantly cross their own paths. Plus, you have to hold large parts of the narrative in your mind as part of the journey.
That said, you can experiment with a “then this happens and then this happens” structure to build a journey. For example:
Dorothy meets the Scarecrow, then …
Dorothy meets the Tin Man, then …
Dorothy meets the Lion, then …
Dorothy meets the big green head of Oz, then …
Dorothy battles the witch, then …
Dorothy meets the real Wizard of Oz, then …
Dorothy goes home.
These meeting points all serve as pseudo-stations. They might work well because the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, Oz, the Witch and even Dorothy herself can easily be combined with other associative-imagery elements. Plus, Dorothy meets them at specific locations in the movie that are easy to visualize.
I’ve done a bit of experimentation with this method and for short lists of information, it works gangbusters. I find that it also gives your explicit memory a real workout too.
However, I wouldn’t expect to amass huge amounts of information using movies unless you are very, very familiar with the journey the characters take throughout the story.
Again, characters often cross their own paths, or, as in the Wizard of Oz, completely double back.
Is It Worth It To Build A Mega-Memory Palace From Scratch?
Moving from Memory Palaces based on pre-made fantasy locations, you can build virtual Memory Palaces from nothing. In fact, the classic Memory Palace method, which I do not endorse, involves creating a single Memory Palace with multiple doors that lead into multiple rooms or buildings.
Using this approach, you build a Memory Palace and a long corridor with many doors.
When you go through the first door, you find yourself in your childhood home. When you go through the second, you find yourself in your first school. The next door opens onto your high school, then your workplace, your sports club, etc.
Robert Fludd apparently made a similar Memory Palace based on The Globe Theatre, something discussed at length by historian and memory expert Frances Yates in The Art of Memory. Eventually, I will talk about Fludd’s work in this playlist series on YouTube:
The Alphabetical School Of Memory Palaces 101
As readers of my books and participants in my video courses know, I prefer structuring my Memory Palaces around the alphabet. The alphabet is somewhat like a conceptual corridor in the Memory Palace of my skull, and it’s both pre-built and built by the user using the Magnetic Memory Method principles.
Because we know the alphabet so well from a young age, we don’t have to think about what comes next. We can easily know what comes before and after each and every letter of the alphabet. Therefore, if we want to leap to words that we’ve memorized that start with the letter K …
Boom! We’re There …
… and zooming along to the station where the letter K resides.
In other words, if you’re going to build virtual or imaginary Memory Palaces, I encourage you to think in advance of how you’re going to bind them together.
In the first example, I was already suggesting a chronological rather than an alphabetical spine, and that can work well depending on how long you’ve lived and how many buildings you’re familiar with. With the alphabet, you can reuse it again and again by differentiating each alphabet from the other (A1, A2, A3, etc.)
But when it comes to having an invented room behind one of those doors, be it linked by Grand Memory Palace Central or an alphabetized list, it’s really up to the user to experiment.
The Little Memory Palace Engine That Could
My greatest success with Virtual Memory Palaces has been what I call “The Locomotive Method.” I use the technique exclusively for memorizing poetry.
The Locomotive Method involves creating a train car that is linked to another train car. You add as many train cars as you need. The stations in each car are fixed. They are:
Entrance to car
Front right corner
Front left corner
Entrance to car, etc.
This works very good for poetry on a perfectly conceptual level because you don’t need a real journey for poetry in the way that you need for other kinds of information. The poetry is the journey. All you need to do is keep practicing the method of loci and your skills will develop rapidly.
This approach also works for song lyrics. For actors, however, I think a traditional journey through a Memory Palace based on a real location is best for remembering plays and movie scripts if you are an actor.
Plus, an actor can always use the stage or studio where the acting takes place. If that doesn’t present the perfect combination of real and invented space for figuring out how to enhance your memory with virtual Memory Palaces, I don’t know what would.
If even with all of this info tugging your train you’re still stuck in the Kansas of forgetfulness and want a Magnetic Wizard to show you the ropes, feel to join the Magnetic Memory Method Masterclass.
Until next time, keep those Ruby Slippers and then teach someone else what you’ve learned about Memory Palaces. Teaching a skill is one of the best ways to learn it and helping people improve their memory is one of the best ways we can make the world a better place. The more we remember, the more we can remember. And the more we learn, the more we can learn.
The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci (Inspiring!)
Hi Anthony – super cool!
Did I tell you about these GTA ones? http://www.memrise.com/course/200582/vice-city-memory-palace/
I find that extremely clever too, because players of that game will know the “city” very well…
Thanks for stopping by, Chris.
No, you didn’t, but that’s really brilliant. I’ll have to “remember” this resource. How brilliant – when I think of using video games, I often think of first person shooters where the field of vision is limited and the locations not nearly as structured as city grids.
Thanks for sharing the link. Much appreciated!
I am of the view that all mind palaces are by definition virtual, as they are “mental constructs.” If you want the place to be Oz, some imagined Roman room, a video game, an automobile, or your own back yard or sidewalk in front of your flat, go for it. As long as the place is “sticky”: meaning you can easily and happily place vivid, memorable imagery there.
I am trying to remember stuff for an upcoming appointment, for instance, To remember the place, I am to go to I “stick” the location with an address (encoded into Major method) and a memorable figure in this case Lautrec rolling around in a wildflower garden of daisies with a huge phone ringing with the old style bell: for the phone number. It’s the first station so I have a figure mnemonic for 1 flying a flag. This is all in my front driveway from when I was a kid. (It’s a completely real place; but it’s cast in total virtual reality.)
Station 2 is the front porch of my childhood home. Since it is the second station, the mnemonic is a loud swan squawking the man’s name whom I am about to meet and pecking him mercilessly on the ankles and legs, beating his wings. The man has a big grin plastered on his face, trying to be cool, but he is in obvious distress. I find it comical, but I remember his face and name because of the absurdity of the loud aggressive bird squawking his name.
And so forth.
That’s the thing with mind palaces or memory journeys – make them memorable, funny, absurd, totally implausible, and utterly ridiculous.
I also like adding mnemonic devices (figure cues or rhymes or Major method imagery to enhance the station and anchor the memory,) so I can go instantly to a place and know what to find there and what it means for me.
So, as you advise, please don’t be shy to let your mind explode with imagery. When you give yourself a break and don’t get too caught up in the “shoulds and shouldn’ts” of mind palaces, you’ll have a wonderful time remembering whatever you wish.
That’s essentially the bottom line: Always have a wonderful time, remembering whatever you wish!
Best regards and thanks again!
I love that you point out the importance of having a great time, Alex. I think this is one of the most important success factors amongst those who enter the art of memory as a way of life and wind up creating enriched lives that wouldn’t be possible in any other way.
By the same token, a Memory Palace – or Mind Palace – can work as effectively as a microwave. You don’t need to have any fun at all to warm a nourishing meal that you enjoy eating. You just have to open the door, enter the cold food, click a few buttons and retrieve.
In this way, I’m always trying to figure out how to bring the two together. I try to balance for people the pure operational glory of mnemonics that work regardless of mood or mindset and deliberately helping those that need the fun find it. Adult coloring books and true brain games seem to have done that.
But above all, sharing experiences, explanations and insights like the ones you’ve just posted help the most. Thank you for being involved in the Magnetic Memory Method community and demonstrating just how fun, easy and utterly operational the simple set of techniques that belong to the world of mnemonics can be for those who dive in and find the fun in the power of their natural imagination. I appreciate your contributions more than I can express! 🙂