How to Build A Memory Palace: A Scientifically Proven Approach

Memory Palace image to convey their power for the Magnetic Memory Method blog and podcastIn the modern world of omnipresent information access, memorization using a Memory Palace is almost a thing of the past.

And this shift has occurred very quickly.

Little more than a decade ago, it wasn’t uncommon that a person had to memorize a sizable list of phone numbers belonging to partners, siblings, parents and close friends.

Now Many Of Us Forget Our Own Cell Phone Numbers!


Despite this fact, there are situations in the modern day that still require memorization.

Perhaps phone numbers and historical facts are better left to Google. But in reality, not everything can and should be searched via a computer.

A notable example which is becoming conversant is “language” – which requires that you memorize a huge amount of vocabulary and grammar.  Until now, there isn’t a technology effective enough to replace human ability to learn and master a language.

In the past, having to memorize information was not optional because information wasn’t easily accessible. Up until the 19th century, paper was expensive, especially for quantities required to make a book.  To add to it was that not many people could read and write so the ability and need to memorize and recall information was critical.

Yours Free: A Private Course With Cheat Sheets For Becoming A Memory Master, Starting From Scratch.

>>> Click Here For This Special Free Offer.


Why The Greeks Adored Memory Palace Science


That’s why a powerful memorization method was adored by the ancient Greeks. This technique is used today by memory experts to commit huge amounts of information to mind.

The only problem is this:

An abundance of terminology has emerged that all means essentially the same thing. For example, you’ll here some memory experts call the Memory Palace technique the Mind Palace. This term appears to come from the world of Sherlock Holmes, and it’s not really accurate.

After all, this detective is a fictional character, and we’re here to optimize our memory based on what is really scientifically possible, not fantastically described. Personally, I also dislike the idea of associating these techniques with crime, and Sherlock Holmes is a drug addict. Finally, the whole notion that the information is in our ‘mind’ is obvious, but also a deviation from the fact that this technique uses what is already in our memory to help us remember more.

You might also hear the Memory Palace technique called the Journey Method, the Roman Room or a related term like the Pegword Method. All of these have one thing in common: They are using space itself as a mnemonic.

The fact that all of these techniques draw upon your spatial memory explains why “Memory Palace” is in fact the better term: No matter what you call the technique, it’s a lot easier to use if you are basing it on space that is already remembered and easily recalled. This feature was noted by Thales of Miletus who lived during the pre-Socratic Era. He pointed out that “space is ultimate because it contains all things.”

And thanks to Thales and a long line of people who have used these techniques, we have an abundance of Ancient Greek facts and instructions that have been handed down, anyone can learn to use a Memory Palace at any time.

One such contemporary memory expert, used it to memorize Pi to over 100,000 digits. Our own MMM student Marno Hermann has used a Memory Palace to memorize 1200 digits of Pi.

This memorization technique is called the Method of Loci, or more commonly the “Memory Palace”. It is a memorization method that not only has held the test of time, but has been shown to be effective through modern-day studies.

You may even have heard of the Memory Palace technique without realizing it because it has been featured in multiple books and media.


The Silence Of The Memory Palace
In Fiction And Movies


For example, the technique was employed by the fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter in the novel series Hannibal written by an American author Thomas Harris.

In several passages of the novel, Lecter was described as mentally walking through an elaborate Memory Palace to remember facts. That’s the basics of the Memory Palace technique.

Although relatively unknown, this method can be a game-changing technique for people who want to improve their ability to retain large amounts of information.

You might be a student trying to master information for an exam, or an aspiring polyglot trying to learn Italian. You might be aging and finding it more difficult to recall routine information.

Whatever memorization challenge you face, the Memory Palace technique is a proficient way to finally help you achieve your goals.


How the Memory Palace Technique Evolved


The origin of the Memory Palace technique was traced to ancient Greece. As mentioned earlier, in the olden days, people had higher incentives to create effective methods of retaining information. Writing and writing materials were difficult to access.

The Memory Palace technique was introduced to the ancient Romans and the world via Greek rhetorical treatises.

The Roman Cicero described the Memory Palace technique in his writings on rhetoric, called De Oratore.

In De Oratore, Circero claims that his Memory Palace method originated from the Greek poet Simonides. Simonides was commissioned to recite a poem praising a group of nobles at a banquet. After the recitation, Simonides left the hall and shortly after the edifice collapsed and killed all the people in the banquet.

The bodies were so badly mangled that not even close relatives could identify the corpses of their own people. However, Simonides was able to identify each of the corpses by name based on their location. Based on this experience, Simonides devised the Memory Palace technique (Bower 1970).

Whether this story is reality or myth, it illustrates the basic idea behind the Memory Palace technique. Luckily, you don’t have to attend a tragic banquet to master the technique and start using it to improve your information retention.

For a true story that will rivet you from beginning to end, check out The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci.


How to Create a Memory Palace


The basic idea behind the Memory Palace Technique is to associate pieces of information with a location that you are very familiar with. A prime example would be of your home.

If you’d like some free Memory Palace worksheets and a concise memory improvement video course, do this now:

Magnetic Memory Method Free Memory Improvement Course


If you close your eyes right now, you can probably picture your home with a high degree of detail. You know where the furniture is found, what colors the walls are, and even where small objects are placed.

The Memory Palace technique has to do with associating information with specific areas of that familiar location.

As you walk through that location, you place pieces of information that you wish to memorize in specific areas. When you want to recall the information, you go through that mental route, and the information will be easily accessible.

The technique is made more effective when you add surprising or out-of-the normal features to the information.

For example, assuming you would like to memorize this sequence of words:

  • hero
  • drill
  • spacecraft
  • music

You could imagine yourself at your front door, with a hero standing next to you. Here you’ve made an association between your door and a hero.

You can increase your ability to memorize and retain this by making the memory more distinctive or unusual. For example, you could imagine the hero opening the door for you, or banging on it before you enter.

You then walk down your hall, and before your feet is a drill. To increase the power of this imagery, imagine that it is turned on and you have to leap to avoid being hurt.

You then turn the corner and see a spacecraft flying out of the window leaving behind itself a trail of glitter.

Finally, you sat down on the couch, and as your bottom touches the cushion, your favorite song starts playing. You might even imagine the word “music” written on the cushion before you sit.

Anthony Metivier Memory Palace of Berlin Apartment

Quick Memory Palace Drawing by Anthony Metivier (Berlin apartment)

To get started creating a Memory Palace, do this now:

  1. Draw a floor plan of a familiar location.
  2. Create a journey that does not lead you into a dead end.
  3. Make sure that your journey is linear so that you don’t create confusion by crossing your own path.
  4. Don’t over clutter your first Memory Palace.
  5. Number each station and create a top-down list to help you mind remember the journey better. Optional: Use a Magnetic 00-99 P.O.A. to assign an image to each Magnetic Station
  6. Use the Memory Palace as quickly as possible with information that will improve your life.
  7. Use the Memory Palace to invoke the Primacy Effect and Recency effect for each Magnetic Station by using the Serial-Positioning Effect.
  8. Create more Memory Palaces and repeat the process, always taking care to memorize information that makes your life better professionally and personally.

The Definitive Guide To Reusing A Memory Palace

A lot of people ask me about using their Memory Palace a second or third time.

It is possible, but it can be a bit finicky. To explain, please check out this thorough guide on the topic:

As you can see, not even the most skilled memory experts reuse Memory Palaces. If you set yourself up correctly, it’s not really necessary.

That said, doubling up does make for great brain exercise, and that’s usually the way I treat the practice. I think it might have helped me experience a breakthrough with aphantasia, actually.

But what this question has taught me the most over the years is that many students of memory improvement put the cart before the horse. They worry about advanced skills before they’ve mastered the fundamentals – advanced skills that the pros have already determined might be great, but aren’t really worth using.

Likewise, people sometimes worry about what will happen if the furniture in their Memory Palace moves around.

I understand why they are concerned, but it’s the kind of question that just doesn’t arise when you have the fundamentals mastered. Please make sure that you devote yourself to the loci method thoroughly and completely. It will serve you well for the rest of your life.

Yours Free: A Private Course With Cheat Sheets For Becoming A Memory Master, Starting From Scratch.

>>> Click Here For This Special Free Offer.

The Memory Palace Technique Is Not Necessarily Visual


As you can see, the technique seems to require a vivid visual imagination. A lot of people get this wrong, confusing iconic memory with the fantasy of photographic memory.

However, when done correctly using all of the Magnetic Modes, you can memorize a very large amount of information relatively quickly without necessarily seeing the Memory Palace in your mind.

Here’s an infographic to teach you all about the different ways that your brain perceives information:

Magnetic Modes Infographic for Memory Palace blog post on the Magnetic Memory Method Blog

Keeping the full range of your Magnetic Modes in mind, you can use any home or location with which you are familiar.

You can even use small areas, such as the inside of a broom closet. You can even use your own body, attaching information to different limbs.

Just keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to see the Memory Palace. You can feel it, hear it, taste it, smell it and even just think about it.

If any of this seems odd, continue reading to be convinced of how seriously well the Memory Palace technique works. You might want to see just how well the Memory Palace can work in combination with Mind Mapping too.


The Science behind the Memory Palace Technique


Many studies have been conducted to analyze the effectiveness of the Memory Palace technique. It’s all based on the scientific fact that your brain and spatial memory perceive space as a kind of image.

Check out this lecture with memory expert Stephen Kosslyn for more information about how that works:

Cool, right?

The answer is a resounding “yes!”

Yours Free: A Private Course With Cheat Sheets For Becoming A Memory Master, Starting From Scratch.

>>> Click Here For This Special Free Offer.

Incredible Experiments with Memory Palaces and Students

Even better:

In a study conducted by J. Ross and K. A. Lawrence in 1968, the Memory Palace technique was tested on a group of 40 students.

The students were asked to memorize a list of 40 items. They were given only a few minutes to do so, yet were able to recall an average of 38 out of 40 items upon immediate recall.

The next day, the average recall rate dropped to 34 out of 40 items – still very impressive!

Nature Magazine did an investigation of so-called superior memorizers (SM) in a 2002 paper (Maguire et al). They studied a group of 10 champions who had competed in the World Memory Championships.

The researchers first wanted to know if these SMs had some special natural advantages that other people do not have, such as a higher IQ.

They first found out that SMs did not have exceptional cognitive abilities. In fact, they did not even show superior performance on visual memory tasks (for example, the recall of faces).

Retrain your brain image of Albert Einstein

The paper further investigated the brain structure of these SMs, and found out that their brains were not significantly different from average brains (Maguire et al 2002).

The scientists also performed functional MRI scans to see if the SMs brains were activated differently when actively memorizing.

Here the SMs brains differed from normal brains – SM’s brains activated particularly when memorizing (Maguire et al 2002).

Significantly, scientists found out that SMs all used mnemonic techniques to aid in their memorization. Nine out of ten of these subjects were specifically using the Memory Palace technique (Maguire et al 2002).

Note: Some of people call it the Mind Palace method, but the basics are the same.

Plus, the different activation patterns observed were associated to the fact that SMs used mnemonic techniques, namely the Memory Palace technique, to memorize information (Maguire et al 2002).


No Need For A Huge IQ To Use A Memory Palace!


It’s not that SMs are smarter or have bigger brains than the rest of us. It’s that they use mnemonics, and specifically the Memory Palace technique to memorize semantic information.

That is the secret behind their impressive abilities. And because these SMs had been practicing the technique for a little over 11 years on average, they were really good (Maguire et al 2002).

This suggests that anyone with average abilities can use this technique to improve his/her memory.

And once you know the drill, it’s really just a matter of spending some time with a few solid Memory Palace training exercises. Like these:

Even if you are not seeking to learn large amounts of information, the Memory Palace technique still has something to offer. There is even evidence that the Memory Palace technique can help maintain a healthy brain during old age.

As MMM student Sunil Khatri has explained, the Memory Palace is also great for language learning, including the difficulties of Japanese.


Benefits of the Memory Palace
Technique for the Aging Brain


As we age, our memories become weaker. In elderly people, this might lead to a frustrating situation where they are struggling to recall routine information.

There has been much study on age-related memory loss, but so far not many effective solutions to this problem.

Happily, the Memory Palace technique holds promise in aiding the enhancement of memory in the aging brain.

One study conducted in Norway in 2010 employed expert instructors, who taught the Memory Palace technique to 23 volunteers. The average age of these volunteers was 61 (Engvig et al 2010).

Portrait of memory expert Gary Small and author of 2 Weeks to a Younger Brain

After training, these volunteers were able to memorize a list of 30 words in sequential order in under 10 minutes – impressive!

A control group, a set of volunteers of the same average age, sex and education was included in the study. They were not trained in the Memory Palace technique, and were instructed to memorize the list as well (Engvig et al 2010).

Afterwards, both groups were released into the world to live normally for eight weeks.

When they returned to the study, researchers challenged both groups to a recall task.

The Results

They first flashed a list of 15 unrelated words, each for only a second. The volunteers were then instructed to recall the words in order.

Researchers then showed them a list of 30 words. Half of these words had been displayed in the initial 15 word list while the other half was completely new.

The volunteers were asked to pick out words that had previously appeared and also identify their correct position in the first list (Engvig et al 2010).

Volunteers trained in the Memory Palace technique outperformed the non-trained volunteers for recognizing the position of the words (Engvig et al 2010).

The study also measured the amount of brain thinning that occurred in the trained versus untrained groups of volunteers. Normal age causes the brain to shrink.

The brain of the individuals showed thickening in areas of the brain which were key for visual abstract memory (Engvig et al 2010).

What should we conclude from these findings? It’s clear that using a Memory Palace makes for great brain exercise.

Yours Free: A Private Course With Cheat Sheets For Becoming A Memory Master, Starting From Scratch.

>>> Click Here For This Special Free Offer.


Why The Memory Palace Technique Is Not Snake Oil


This research and others like it have shown that the Memory Palace technique is not snake oil.

Sadly, most adults in the modern world are not encouraged to use their imagination. It might therefore be slightly challenging for someone newly using the technique to really get into it, especially if they don’t have the kind of Memory Palace example you can get when you take my free memory improvement course.

However, after practice, many find out that this memory technique is not only effective in memorization, but is also very engaging. Certainly more engaging than the traditional rote memorization technique, especially when you use Magnetic Note Taking as part of the process.

With some practice, you’ll be impressing all of your friends and family with how good your memorization has gotten in no time. And if it’s still not clear how and why this incredible tool works so well, here are 5 Memory Palace Examples that make everything clear.


References & Further Resources


Bower, G. H., “Analysis of a Mnemonic Device: Modern psychology uncovers the powerful components of an ancient system for improving memory” American Scientist, Vol. 58, No. 5, pp. 496-510, September–October 1970 Web. 21 Jan. 2016..

Engvig, Andreas, Anders M. Fjell, Lars T. Westlye, Torgeir Moberget, Øyvind Sundseth, Vivi Agnete Larsen, and Kristine B. Walhovd. “Effects of Memory Training on Cortical Thickness in the Elderly.” NeuroImage 52.4 (2010): 1667-676. 1 Oct. 2010. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.

Fan, Shelley. “Can a Mnemonic Slow Memory Loss with Age?” Scientific American Blog Network. 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.

Maguire, Eleanor A., Elizabeth R. Valentine, John M. Wilding, and Narinder Kapur. “Routes to Remembering: The Brains behind Superior Memory.” Nature Neuroscience Nat Neurosci 6.1 (2002): 90-95. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.

Want to Become a Mnemonics Dictionary? 5 Powerful Secrets Revealed!

7 More Mental Exercises From Around the World

24 Responses to " How to Build A Memory Palace: A Scientifically Proven Approach "

  1. Alex says:

    Memory Palace Science: Proof That This Memory Technique Works

    Thanks Anthony,

    Memory truly resides in several realms, and science is certainly one of them. Of course, it is a subject of pure and applied sciences, such as medicine, neuropsychology and the like; but it also resides in social science, life science, formal science, etc. Science is an activity that we use to gain knowledge of our world through gathering evidence, conducting experiments, and arriving at conclusions.

    Those who consider Humanities, which applies the scientific method to the study of human culture, as non-scientific have a misunderstanding of science.

    This is sad, but it is not surprising, for our Western systems of education have been degrading woefully over the years. Levels of illiteracy (cultural, literary, scientific, and so forth) and innumeracy are staggering.

    But Memory is the stuff of all scientific and artistic pursuit. In fact, Cicero considered it the “treasure house of knowledge.”

    His work on Rhetoric (“de Oratore”) covers the classical five fields, which are Invention, Arrangement, Style, Memory and Delivery. For him, and for many of his contemporaries, location-based mnemonics was very well known. Many were versed in the skill, so he is almost apologetic when he covers it. Moreover, Memory was made even more powerful when used in conjunction with the four other fields.

    Mental imagery predates spoken language. In fact, a fascinating article on it appears in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( It relates imagery to mnemonic and other pursuits. I encourage you and others to read it.

    When I recall how I learned my phone numbers as a child, I “see” the telephone (its colour, its location). I remember dialling the numbers with the rotary dial. Everything was experiential and highly memorable.

    I think we developed such a strong sense of visual memory because it literally was a matter of life and death. We needed to know where to find food or how to avoid pitfalls, and all of this was contingent on visual memory.

    I like your example with hero, drill, spacecraft and music. How I would handle it is combining the words together to form one mnemonic image in one location. For example, I see our old 1966 Dodge Polara parked in our driveway. All of a sudden an old flying saucer spacecraft comes whirling out of the sky and lands on it crushing it like a pancake. A classical Greek Hero comes rushing out of my house with a drill in hand to start fixing the mess; but he’s only making it worse. Bonnie Tyler’s “I need a Hero” is blaring out over the scene, adding the music. Funny, crazy, dynamic and all rolled into one location.

    Possibly why people complain about the effectiveness of Memory Palaces is that they’re not using vivid imagery. It has to be totally outlandish if you want to remember. But as you say, “Sadly, most adults in the modern world are not encouraged to use their imagination. It might therefore be slightly challenging for someone newly using the technique to really get into it.”

    However, once people really use the technique, and as true Memory Scientists, explore, practise, experiment and observe; and compare it to other methods, such as rote learning), I am sure more people will embrace the Science and Art of Memory.

    Kinds regards.

  2. Ah, rotary dial … just thinking of all the phones I’ve used or owned in my life brings back so many memories – and all in the form of a profound memory exercise.

    The phones in the homes of friends and relatives … pay phones around the world.

    And then my first cell phone … how the cell phones of my friends looked …

    Just one word in your post unlocks a treasure house of knowledge that, even if it seems trivial to some, is the most valuable in the world.


    Because it makes possible more than just memory exercise. It opens up ideas for even more Memory Palaces.

    The lack of vivid imagery is precisely the complaint so many make. That is solved by understanding how one is visual and then massaging that muscle so that it works. The Memory Palace is both the storehouse and the dojo/gym where all the work is to be done. And it is done at the highest possible level when we act as the scientist of our own memory laboratory.

    And so I hope and work towards you being right that the majority will come to embrace the glorious, ancient technology of the Memory Palace. It’s only going to get more powerful and more useful the older it gets! 🙂

  3. Vladimir says:

    Hi Anthony,

    Thanks for the article.

  4. Betsy says:

    I tell people that anyone can develop a good memory, yet they don’t believe me! Could it be due to mental laziness? I don’t know….

    • Thanks for this, Betsy.

      I’m sure mental laziness is involved in some cases. In others, it could be Digital Amnesia.

      Another reason is that people don’t have accountability, which is one reason why I developed this monthly print newsletter program with a book called The Memory Connection.

      I wasn’t sure if it would be successful or not, but the response so far has been great. I’m confident that this form of continuous training is a new way to help people find their way to memory techniques no matter what might be holding them back.

      Thanks for your post and look forward to your next one soon. We all appreciate hearing from you! 🙂

      • Khawaja says:

        Dear Sir can one memory palace be used for multiple purpose

        • Thanks for your question.

          Yes, you can reuse any Memory Palace, but there are many considerations. Some people do it with ease, but others struggle. A lot depends on the purpose, your level of skill and the distinctive nature of the information.

          For example, you can get what I think of as “borderblur” if the imagery is too similar. You can also experience what some memory competitors call “ghosting.” When it comes to re-using a Memory Palace for knowledge, I prefer to call this the “Ugly Sister Effect.” If you search this site for it, you’ll find a whole episode of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast about why this happens, why I prefer this term and how to deal with the issue.

          At the end of the day, give it a try and see how it works for you. If it’s too much of a pain, make and use more Memory Palaces. I find this approach to be the better one because it exercises more levels of your memory overall.

  5. Sameepa says:

    Hi Anthony,

    Thanks for the article,

    I ‘ve been using this techique since 5 years it really works well, like I can still remember what I read 2 years back.
    I created more than 150 memory palaces with a sketch but now I’m running out of my familiar places
    I completed all the places I’m familiar with.
    I ended up using same place again and again which created a mess
    So I started visiting new places and then coming back to memorize stuff in that place but this is not efficient because I’m not fully familiar with the place
    What I’m I supposed to do?

    Please help me.

    • Hi Sameepa,

      Thanks for your question.

      Yes, re-using Memory Palaces can create a mess. It’s possible to get better at doing so, but I’ve found that the benefits are usually very low. It works well for memorizing cards, but not really for knowledge based projects where you want long term memory of the material.

      In terms of finding new Memory Palaces, ongoing inventory exercises are useful. If you haven’t taken my free course, please start there. It walks you through an inventory exercise using a very powerful tool everyone knows.

      If you still can’t find ideas for developing a full Memory Palace Network (and then another and another), please consider visiting new cafes, museums, bookstores, etc.

      You can also explore options like movies and tv series and search this site for tutorials on that practice.

      At the end of the day, everyone can find more Memory Palace options. It’s just a matter of developing doing so as a habit and having an organizational structure for the task, ideally one that also helps generate the MP networks. That’s what the free course helps you do and you’re free to post more questions if you have them along the way.

  6. Gabriel says:

    Hi Anthony, thank you for all your posts, they all really give great insights!
    I’ve been into mnemonics since 2011 when I was studying mentalism, I read a lot about mnemonics, I mean, a lot! I’ve finished having kind of great knowledge about this but I never really needed to use it for real-life purposes. I used it for memorizing a deck of cards, sometimes I used for memorizing stuff for some exam at school, but now I finally have some incentive, I want to use MP for memorizing foreign vocabulary and for math equation too… The tricky thing for me is, I speak 3 languages (Portuguese, Italian and almost there with English), I have two similar doubts with different contexts.

    So, language first; when I come up with an image for a vocabulary sometimes it is easier to relate with a Portuguese word, other times it is easier with am English word. For example, the French word for “cake”, it’s “gateau”, its pronunciation is almost the same as the word in Portuguese for “cat” which is “gato”. The French word for “rabbit” is “lapin”, and my mind rapidly visualized a rabbit lapping himself. Now, it’s ok to do that? To mix languages? Or it’s better to choose a definite “mind language” and always use that language? What about composed words? I mean, when you use more than one image for the same word, like “to find” in French is “retrouver”, the first things that came to my mind were the Italian word “retro” and the Portuguese word “ver”. When I think about the word I remember what I did, but I’m afraid that in the long term if I do not use the word for a long time, I could then make some confusion. What do you think about this?

    For number, like a 00-99 major method, for some number, it is not that easy to come up
    with an image, but since I’m Brazilian but I’ve lived in Switzerland for almost 10 years, so
    for many years school and essays were in Italian. My mother language is Portuguese, but
    Italian kind of also is my mother language. So, I was creating a number system but some of
    the words were in Italian, some in Portuguese, and some even in English. I still didn’t
    finish for all the numbers, but do you think this could confuse my mind? Or with
    practice, this would not matter?

    Anyway, thank you for all the youtube videos and articles, I really make good use of them.

    Kinds regards

    • Thanks for this, Gabriel.

      You have a wonderful asset by speaking multiple languages. Use it freely. There are no “Memory Palace” police who govern these matters.

      Instead, let the results be final arbiter.

      Personally, I take every possible advantage of the other languages and snippets from languages I know. I might even draw upon a Conglang or sound poetry if it’s useful.

      As for confusion that might arise over the long term, that is only possible when you’re not using the Memory Palace technique correctly.

      You need to integrate:

      1. Proper Memory Palace creation

      2. Effective encoding with Magnetic Imagery (sounds like you’re doing great with that

      3. Recall Rehearsal that maximizes the power of the primacy effect, recency effect and serial-positioning effect

      Many people think the Memory Palaces they create are for permanent storage, but this is not what the technique helps establish. The technique is for setting up Recall Rehearsal so that we can move short term recall into long term memory.

      When it comes to the 00-99, “easy” is a state of mind, a mental judgment. Tying one’s shoes wasn’t easy in the beginning either. Some people just learn it. Others develop a mental attitude of frustration and make it take longer than necessary. I would start by eliminating anything that even remotely smacks of a judgment on the process.

      I know that can sound brutal. But here’s the important thing: We know that others use it and very successfully. What does our opinions of how “hard” or “easy” it is matter when it’s just a fact that it can be learned? It only matters if our mental attitude helps or hinders us. Only focus on the mental attitudes that help.

      In terms of the 00-99 confusing you in your mind, that sounds like you’re worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet. Why even build such a possible, imaginary future?

      I suggest you simply focus on mastering the skill with no regard for the future. You can’t control the future anyway, but you can prepare for it. Confusion might well be part of it, and it wouldn’t be much of a life if it weren’t.

      But when you practice the great memory tradition without judgments or deciding what counts as confusion in advance, you can just settle back and enjoy the process.

      So many people want to “optimize” every part of it in advance and avoid mistakes. Trying to do so is the ultimate mistake because it is not possible. We can only optimize it by encountering mistakes as we go. There is no refinement in advance and the desire to avoid confusion is understandable, but false. We will all encounter it even if we’re not using memory techniques.

      Embrace it!

  7. Adrian Austin says:

    Hi Anthony,

    I am still confused. Do I pick a station then build a mind map to what I want to learn because if you use every station your run out of stations to use. Surely each word does not get put on a station. I would run out of stations and would need hundreds of them.

    • Thanks for your question.

      I’m not sure why you are bringing the mind map technique into this discussion. You can combine mind mapping with the Memory Palace technique, but I would not do this for a goal like memorizing verbatim information.

      Every serious practitioner of this technique does eventually have and use hundreds of stations and this is not an issue when you know the skills.

      However, the longer you think about it before just diving in and starting to memorize, the more your brain plays a “numbers game” with a future that hasn’t arrived yet.

      The reality is that you will never run out of stations, nor will you run out of Memory Palaces. This will happen because you will learn a few different ways to reuse them.

      You will also learn a number of ways to maximize the space within them as you practice.

      And you will continue to develop new strategies to expand your technique. I can do 11-17 words per station, which leads to massive progress when dealing with large texts very quickly.

      Hope this helps and please read How To Stop Overthinking The Memory Palace Technique. I think it will do you wonders.

      Put the numbers game aside and dive in. Expect to learn it as you go and spend some time really seeping into the practice. The ancients did it and so can all of us. It’s fun and easy.

  8. Simona says:

    thank you for the article. And I have a question – is possible use memory palace for learning physics?

    • Thanks for stopping by, Simona.

      Yes, you can use a Memory Palace for remembering concepts and formulas in physics.

      To do so, you’ll want to develop a few more tools:

      * A Major System
      * A system for memorizing symbols used in equations
      * An alphabet list or pegword system, perhaps more than one

  9. Galen Graziano says:

    Hi Dr. Metivier!

    I have a question about memory palaces and obtaining degrees.

    I’ve already noticed how fast information goes into a memory palace. Even though there is a Recall Retention Rehearsal period afterwards, it seems to me that given a large enough network of memory palaces, and enough time and energy afterwards to review it all properly, obtaining a degree should not take 4, 8, or 12 years at all. It could probably be cut in half or in thirds at least.

    But since you’ve already obtained a PhD, I’m wondering your thoughts. I ask because with my work schedule, I simply can’t attend college right now, but I still want to get educated (I just don’t know what I’ll use the information for). My goal is to pick up a book, read through it once and understand all the knowledge in it (especially such textbooks as anatomy/medical/pharmacological books and science/engineering) books.
    I have no idea how many stations I’ll need though. So planning a memory palace with such a large goal is difficult to judge.

    I’m curious what your thoughts are?

    Best wishes,

    Galen Graziano

    • Thanks for this post, Galen. It’s a great topic.

      I think it’s important to approach this from the perspective of your goals.

      If you want to master these topics for personal reasons, you are good to go. No one can answer “how many stations” you’ll need because the journey will unlock things that are currently unknown to you. So the real goal is simply to be able to learn those things on demand – and when it comes to using the Memory Palace technique, you will always have options when you know and practice this method. It too always unlocks more possible locations and tools.

      But if there are reasons you are studying these topics where you will be required to have completed a formal degree, no speed of learning will magically manifest the required slips of paper.

      Where are these interests you’ve mentioned taking you and to what extent will formal education be required?

      If none, then the exact number of Memory Palaces in your Memory Palace Networks is not knowable and one would do well to just get started, ideally with all 26 of the recommended first network.

  10. Antony Onopko says:

    Hi Anthony,

    I appreciate you sharing this knowledge with all of us. So I sometimes wonder if that knowledge is being put to good use with my own version of the magnetic memory palace. I understand that everyone is each to their own. However, I wish to see if this would result in failure or success since you are the memory expert after all. ( Some of these questions may seem rather brainless, but I am extremely cautious of everything before I start. )

    Firstly, when I assign a part of a word its meaning; does that mean I have to make another meaning the next time I encounter that part of the word? Or does it just stay? For example, there is the word *hanshi*. With that being said, I created my own alphabet. Moreover, : han: would mean : freeze:, and * shi * would mean death. Out of these two words I would then create a story. So, for the next time I encounter : shi : do I have to associate a different meaning with it or can it always mean : death :.?

    The reason I am so worried about something that might be so obvious is that I am afraid of not providing enough variation in my stories. Thus, resulting in stories that have many similar elements to them. But at the same time, I am afraid of running away from an organized alphabet system that would have the possibility of leading into chaos.

    Secondly, would it be alright if one reused objects? One station might be a couch, but in a different part of the memory palace I might want to re-use that couch again.

    Next, is it acceptable to use video games/ cartoons in one:s memory palace. Or is it recommended to use stuff closer to reality? If they are both fine, which one is better?
    Also, for example there is the word morashi. Would it be better if I combined ra and shi or should I make an entirely new association- with rashi meaning : rash :.?

    Lastly, should I really try to associate with taste and touch. I can see the potential for making objects larger than life, vibrant, and using sounds/music, but I can:t see how taste and touch would work. Maybe it does, and I simply just have to go for it? Like, simply get better at memorizing the smells and touch? Would it do me good if I just relied on vision and sound, rather than touch and taste if I prefer to do so? Moreover, are the emotions, touch, taste, smell, etc, used to make vocabulary easier to remember or to also help with differentiation? As in, these vocab are sad, but those are happy. These are salty, but those are sweet.

    P.S, could you explain the applications of the primacy effect, recency effect, and the serial positioning effect? As far as I know, they mean that Humans can recall information in the beginning and the last of a list easier than the middle? Does this mean, I just have to study the middle part of my memory palace more?

    Antony Onopko

    • Thanks for these great questions, Antony.

      Let’s go through everything in reverse order:

      The Memory Palace technique already gives you Primacy, Recency and Serial Positioning Effect when you use the Magnetic Memory Method Recall Rehearsal patterns. This is because the technique ensures that each piece of information receives “equal doses” of what is called in memory science “active recall” or “decoding.”

      Without implementing these patterns, the forgetting curve is going to have a much easier time eroding many memories we establish, especially in areas like language learning.

      So the point here is not to focus on the general fact that we recall beginnings and endings easier than middles. It is to use the serial positioning effect in a way that renders the point moot because we are making everything “Magnetic.” Some space repetition softwares do an okay job of this kind of patterning, however, they are weak in many ways because they rarely help people engage in elaborative encoding or proper active recall based on elaborative encoding.

      Yes, taste, touch, smell, concepts – all of these Magnetic Modes will help a great deal because they create more connections – literally neuronal connections in the chemical bath of the brain.

      It’s easy to apply all the Magnetic Modes to any word, but it can take a bit of practice if you’re not used to doing it. We use the simple KAVE COGS formula to make sure that we do.

      Your examples look fine, and there are opportunities to reuse images. I wouldn’t necessarily do it in the manner that you’re suggesting, but a lot depends on the correct use of Recall Rehearsal during review. You can get away with quite a few things if you perform it diligently enough.

      But as a best practice, it’s important to arrange the information in ways that reduce cognitive load, and wherever possible use what we call Bridging Figures. They are not always possible to deploy, but they can be especially powerful with Asian languages.

      The desire to “reuse” Memory Palaces or Memory Palace elements is normal, but exposes something of a misunderstanding of what this technique is and what its power can be. Yes, they can be reused, but it’s so far from necessary, creates issues that can be avoided, and doesn’t develop your spatial memory abilities nearly as much as working with new Memory Palaces. I personally save reuse for raw practice, such as with random vocab, numbers or playing cards.

      Some people like to use games or other virtual Memory Palace sources. I personally do not, so recommend seeking out advice from those who do.

      I actually think at some level the topic is irrelevant because all space appears in the mind. It’s a question of how durable and useful the space being referred to is for the individual and some training will be required. My bias against using games is that I simply do not want to spend any more time on fantasy and technologically derived locations than necessary.

      But if were to, those “locations” are still appearing in the same consciousness as any other space, which suggests that all space is inherently “virtual.” This is partly a philosophical issue, so you may want to look into the problems of soft and hard solipsism for more insight on this aspect and how it impacts memory improvement efforts.

      As for variation and “stories,” you do not need to create stories, which sounds like a lot of hard work. If you’re working alphabetically, at most you will have vignettes, but even that is usually more than is needed. If you really devote yourself to this practice, variation will be inevitable because you’re drawing upon the source of all representation each and every time. Variation is guaranteed and you can substantially reduce the needed amount of elements, especially when you lock in all of the Magnetic Modes.

      Finally, there is no failure in memory training except in one regard: The failure to treat all of this as an experiment and to learn from the data running the experiments produces for the individual practitioner. If anyone fails at this, it is by their definition and by their choice.

      Does this set of responses help you out?

  11. Antony Onopko says:

    Hi Anthony,

    I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions. I now have a much better understanding of this technique and all of my questions have been answered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy