What is the Method of Loci?
“The method of loci (MOL) is a mnemonic device that relies on spatial relationships between “loci” (e.g., locations on a familiar route or rooms in a familiar building) to arrange and recollect memorial content.” In Latin, Loci means location or place. Now you may ask what is a mnemonic device or what are mnemonics. Well, mnemonics are basic strategies for encoding information with the sole purpose of making it more memorable.
In simpler terms, the method of Loci works by linking something you need to remember, to a location or place that is familiar to you.
We often think that we are bad at memorising and remembering things. We can’t remember faces, we can’t remember names, phone numbers etc. and we tend to forget what we have studied. This is true for people of different age groups. We envy people who have excellent memory power and imagine they are born geniuses or have some sort of magical skills.
Let’s take the example of Sherlock Holmes, the brilliant detective who packs a lot of information into his head, remembers things easily and is always ready to draw out those details as he makes his deductions and solves the most difficult mysteries. How does he do that? In the popular BBC Masterpiece “Sherlock”, the creators gifted Sherlock a talent which was a mnemonic device straight out of ancient Greece, that helped him solve the most mysterious of mysteries. That device is called The Mind Palace or the Method of Loci.
Other names used are
- Memory Journey
- Memory Palace
- Journey Method
- Memory Spaces
- or Mind Palace technique.
How to use the Method of Loci?
It might sound like a lot of work but once you grasp the method and follow these steps below, it will be easy to do.
1. The very first step is to decide on the mind’s location. That is to think of a place you are very familiar with and that you can recreate easily in your mind. For example, it can be your street or a walk from the bus stand to your house or anything else.
2. Then you have to walk around that familiar area (all in your mind, of course).
3. All you need along that area are a few set points that you can remember without having to think deliberately about it because you already know that there’s always a zebra crossing, a mailbox, a specific shop, a tree or whatever, just the things that you are very familiar with.
4. Let’s say the first thing you have to remember is to take your silk dress to the dry cleaners and you have to do that the next day so you have to make a bizarre image of that thing.
5. Imagine a glowing beautiful white dress, the glow is so much that you can barely look at it.
6. Now you attach the image of the glowing white dress to the image of the mailbox. Imagine if someone has dressed up the mailbox in that dress.
7. Making this bizarre image in your mind is very important and useful. As this helps you to link the two images.
8. Now you can forget about it and you don’t need to think about it until the next day or when you need it.
9. All you do the next day, or whenever you have to remember it, is just mentally walk down that route again. That is when you think of the mailbox your mind will automatically recall the bizarre image of the glowing white dress, which will then help you remember that you have to take the dress to the dry cleaners.
10. And in a similar pattern, you can go on attaching bizarre, silly images that you don’t forget to the locations or spots you are familiar with.
11. Just remember one thing the bigger your area of locations the better. The image above helps depict the steps we’ve just discussed.
How is the method of Loci useful for learning?
The Method of Loci is used for memory enhancement; hence you can remember things by using it and also enhance your power of memorization. It is not specific to any age bar, be it an adult or a child anyone can use it. Plus, it is fun and creative and it’s unlikely you will get bored using it.
For this method, a real location is not necessary. This is the era of video games, and we all know that some video games have maps, so if someone wants to build his/her memory palace using the map of video games, he/she can easily do it. Not only locations or maps but any other images can also be used in this method. You just have to remember this – you need to match permanent or familiar items with the temporary information you want to remember.
This method is very useful for students. Students have to memorise a lot of things, so if a student uses it for learning effectively, it becomes much easier for him/her to remember things without ever getting stressed by the number of things they have to remember. Along with memorization, it also helps us to comprehend things properly. For example, if a school student is unable to understand a particular text from their book, he can use this method to comprehend as well as memorize the important things they need from the text.
While it may seem like an extraordinary feat to create a functional mind palace, it is quite achievable with a bit of practice. The next time you have a lot of things to memorise, or you can’t remember the name of the person you just met or you have a lot of things to do the next morning but you keep forgetting what to do when you’re awake; use this Method of Loci and who knows, you might just be the next real-life Sherlock Holmes.