How good is your memory?

Do you have a technique, or just ‘try’ to remember things?

Try this. Write a list of words, maybe 20-30, unrelated and mixed, so for example,

  • Cow
  • Hammer
  • Butter
  • Book
  • Glass

Write down about 30, or even get a friend to write you a random list. Now, study the list for 2 minutes or so; set a timer. When it’s up, turn the paper over, or cover it, and see how many you can remember. 10? 15? Less?

Chances are, you didn’t get them all, let alone in the right order, or quickly. This is because the majority of people don’t actively practice remembering things, they just try to do it when needed.

Introduction to Memory

Before we go and explain how to improve, a quick word about memory, and how it works.

For short term tasks such as memorizing a list of words, your brain by default will use Short term memory, (STM) which on average can only hold about 5-7 items for about 30 seconds, with no rehearsal.

This means that usually, you’ll forget or distort anything more than that, without a memory technique or rehearsal (Repeating, and constantly reminding yourself of something). If you want to improve your memory vastly and be able to memorize things  almost instantly, try this little memory technique.

It’s known as the Linking Method, and relies on your visual memory, which tends to record things and recall things much better and for longer period of time. This is because an image, specially a vivid one, is easy to ‘stick’ in your mind, some are impossible to forget!

The ‘Linking Method’ for Memory improvement

Let’s explain how to use the linking method.

The linking method derren brown

It as the name suggests involves linking each word or thing to be remembered visually to the next. That’s the basics of it. You create a link or connection between the words visually in your head, but the link must be physical or extremely vivid for it to work, for example;

Let’s say you’re trying to link ‘mouse’ and ‘glass’. A good link to make would be to imagine a mouse trapped in a wine glass, trying to climb out. This would probably be good enough for a short list, but not if you have more than ten items..

A better link, would be to picture the mouse in the wine glass, frantically scrabbling at the sides of the glass desperately trying to get out, try to hear the scratching of its claws on the glass, and see the glass shaking and wobbling as the mouse moves around. The key is to make the link vivid, and make the interaction physical and very obvious.

So let’s give an example of a memory chain, linking several words together. Say these are your words:

Monkey, Sausage, Cake, Feather, Dog.

So to link them together;

Monkey > Sausage. Imagine the monkey grabbing a sausage from a butcher’s meat display inside the shop, the monkey aggressively snatches the sausage, the raw uncooked meat splurges out of the ends of the sausage and all over the monkeys furry hands.

Sausage > Cake. Imagine holding a sausage and inserting it into the top of a birthday cake. A really big birthday cake, with thick white foamy icing, the sausage dives into the cake and the end sticks out of the cakes icing like a tower.

Cake > Feather. Imagine as you bite into the cake, hundreds of tiny bird feathers explode out from the side of the sponge, filling the air around you and drifting to the floor.

Feather >Dog. Imagine as the feathers hit the floor, a big, loud dog comes running into the room, curious about the feathers, he barks and runs around in circles, feathers falling all around him. As he looks up, the tiny feathers get stuck to his drooling mouth.

And so on!

The beauty of this memory boosting system is that the chain of links can be as long as you like, and you’ll find that you can remember them and go through the chain with almost no effort. The one key to this, is to make the link visual, vivid, and physical if possible. Really concentrate for that 8 seconds to cement the linked image in to your mind.

I first heard about the linking method when Derren brown was talking about ways to improve memory in his book – Tricks of the Mind. It’s a great book and he talks about lots of mind tricks, hacks and tips! Well worth a read.