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Memory Improvement

Vrtra TheoryVrtra Theory Registered User regular
edited July 2007 in Help / Advice Forum
I'm interested in improving my memory, primarily: remembering people's names for several weeks after I meet them, and remembering conversational details for a few days after any given conversation.

My short term memory is great; I can typically be introduced to a dozen or so new people at a party and get them all right the next morning (if I was paying attention). However, I won't remember any of their names three days later.

Has anyone bought into any of the many memory improvement programs out there and actually seen results? Or should I save my money and just practice writing down/repeating the things I want to memorize and attempt to work out some system on my own?

Vrtra Theory on


  • happysharkhappyshark Registered User
    edited July 2007
    ginseng. I swear.

    Edit: no it really does work

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  • chromdomchromdom That's not actually my head Oh yeah, I movedRegistered User regular
    edited July 2007
    I am kinda interested in what Thomas Harris called the Memory Palace in the Hannibal Lecter books. I have no idea if they're real or what, and no idea in hell how to find out how to build one, but they sound pretty cool to me.

    chromdom on
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  • BlochWaveBlochWave Registered User regular
    edited July 2007
    My short term memory is great; I can typically be introduced to a dozen or so new people at a party and get them all right the next morning

    Thing is that's not your short term memory, your short term memory is like 5 minutes. If you can remember them the next day, that's fine, if you aren't thinking about them and actively recalling their names though, I don't think there's anything uncommon about not remembering them three days later.

    Nevertheless, try reading. Like novels and stuff, things that you can't read in one sitting. I went through a couple of years of college consistently busy and not really reading recreationally like I had, then started reading a few things, like ASoIaF and some good 'ol classic Russian lit, and I noticed my ability to retain things from lectures and readings improved. It makes sense I think, reading is a good exercise in memory, you're recalling things from previous pages and previous days of reading while combining it with new information and all that

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  • mrcheesypantsmrcheesypants Registered User regular
    edited July 2007
    chromdom wrote: »
    I am kinda interested in what Thomas Harris called the Memory Palace in the Hannibal Lecter books. I have no idea if they're real or what, and no idea in hell how to find out how to build one, but they sound pretty cool to me.

    It's called the method of loci

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  • Double_FacesDouble_Faces Registered User
    edited July 2007
    Am I right in seeing that the method being described is one that uses the theory that by assigning movements or places to a thought or speech, you will remember it when you take that path again?

    If it is, that would explain why it is ten times easier for an actor to memorize his lines once he knows his "blocking" (His place on stage during a certain line).

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  • hank94jphank94jp Registered User
    edited July 2007
    I don't believe that the Method of Loci would be much help in remembering peoples' names. The Method of Loci revolves around using some sort of very familiar setting that you can picture very vividly in your mind. You would "place" things that you want to remember in certain spots and, when you want to recall that information, you would go through that location in your head and once you reach the spot where that information is stored it should be easier to remember. Lots of the people that do memory competitions use the method, but the main reason that the method works so well is because they will have to memorize a series of numbers, letters, playing cards, etc. When you have a series of things you need to remember the method works well because there is a prescribed path you take in your "memory palace" that is the same route every time, allowing you to keep everything organized. You take one series of things you need to memorize and assign each one to a certain place in a series of places that you already have memorized. Comprende?

    I guess the main thing is that the method most likely wouldn't work well because you would need to remember a name spontaneously based on a face, which screws up the main reason why the method works so well. The only time the method would work well for names is if you were in something like an AA meeting and everyone is sitting in an assigned spot...then you would have a series of names that will be the same every time, which is key.

    Holy crap I wrote alot.

    Basically I don't think the method of loci would work.

    But as for the original question...I suggest pairing the persons name with some feature of them you can rhyme with their name. You could also connect their name with someone famous. I also know that some old president (FDR...or maybe JFK?) remembered the names of all the people he met by imagining writing their name on their forehead. I don't know how well these work but you could give em a shot.

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  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited July 2007
    the loci thing is more of an overall system and describes a pretty standard way that people memorize things -- by associating one thing with another, physical thing. The "memory palace" idea simply involves having a familiar place set up and then "filing" things you want to memorize there. But it takes a lot of practice, and like hank said probably wouldn't work well for things you weren't sure you needed to remember (remembering every name/face combination you encounter is generally useless).

    However, memory by association is a common element of recollection. For instance, I watched the most recent Bond movie, Casino Royale, this last friday. One of the opening action sequences has a dude doing Parkour. Of course I recognize what it was based on threads here, so I tell my wife "hey that's that, uh..." Of course, I can't remember what it was since I didn't really try to remember it. So I try to recall *why* I know what it was -- it was because of the penny arcade forums. I visualize blue and thread titles, I see the P. I think "p... is that a p or a ph?" I think "it looked french so that'd be a p and extra vowels for no reason..."

    About 15 minutes after the movie I blurt it out. I'd worked out what it was subconsciously after the movie, despite not actually remembering the word. But that's only because the example, threads on a forum, are pretty static -- you can check a forum over a couple days and see similar things, so things enter your subconscious easier.

    Do you have a friend or a girlfriend that you do these party things with? My wife used to regularly attend events with new students, since she's in grad school, and she'd know the people and I'd have no idea who they were. So the day after the party, when I had some recollection of the faces and names, I'd just run through them with my wife. "So, that person who was talking about the thing, who was that? And the person she was talking to with the blue shirt?"

    This recollection method is just standard, though, and gets better with practice. It's why people notice haircuts -- because hairstyle is a common method for recognition. Nose shape, face shape, etc.

    A more generalized way to think about memory is via grouping. Memory palaces work by grouping similar things together -- for instance, if you're using a memory room to remember a book, you'd place it in a bookshelf. Or if you were reading it but took a break, you might place it by a chair instead. Same with things around the house -- you'd probably put electronics near a computer room, food things in a kitchen, and so on. Where you group things and sort things is how you remember where they were. This extends to people, music, movies, and so on. It's also one of the common reasons that people who seem to have an encyclopedic knowledge of certain subjects will inevitably use genres, groups, and categories to pre-sort what they're absorbing, and then allow that to point them in the right direction. My silly Parkour example above is one -- I thought of the letter it started with and the fact that it came up on the pa forums. That limits the options right off the bat.

    As an example with faces -- group noses, skin tone, eyebrows, lips, whatever. Come up with your *own* categories for this. Pull up some pictures of faces on the internet and just kind of come up with a mental categorization of different facial types. Everyone looks a little different but don't try to recognize everything *perfectly* -- think of generalizations. Heck, think of the old game "Memory." It's exaggerated characteristics but the same idea.

    The "Path" approaches work well for memorizing specific things, such as a speech, a sequence, or something complicated that has many parts. However, it's not the best for random items that a) happen quickly and b) won't need to be recalled until a random future time. It's still a good memory exercise, and classic at that -- socrates was doing it way back when with his long oratories (he disliked the idea of writing things down, and never did so -- plato had to write his stuff down or else it'd all be lost).

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  • SarcastroSarcastro Registered User regular
    edited July 2007
    Here's the boring-but-it-works approach.

    Step 1: Write it down.
    Step 2: Seriously.

    We do this in social networking all the time, business cards make it easy. Get a hockey card alblum, and everytime you get a card, put it in the book. In the spot next to it, write down where you met them and whatever points you can remember about them.

    You can make party books in the same way. Title that page with a Name (Party holder) and date, and then write down names and slip them into the appropriate slots. Group people hanging out together together to keep associations intact. When you review your names the next day, take a moment to picture that person. If you can't get it, picture the people who were associated with them, and recall the conversation, and how you met the person you can't remember. You should be able to get to the introduction and recall and attach a face to the name.

    Depending on how good your natural memory is, you'll want to do this a day later, three days later (you mentioned thats where you fail out a bit) and one week later. Review all names every six weeks - the memory loss point for most people. This will make you the guy who has every name on hand.

    You'll also notice that you keep meeting some of those people over and over - people you may not have even realized float in the same circles. You're not the only person who forgets names, in fact most people forget after just a few weeks, and end up meeting and remeeting the same people over and over. By knowing who they are, you can invoke your own personal Groundhog Day, and keep the conversations flowing with pretty much zero ice and awkwardness.

    I've memorized entire departments, consisting of around a thousand people each in this way, and I always know the first and last name of the person I'm talking to, and what their current role is within the company. My list of associations allows my to discuss what other people are doing, and to catch up with interoffice changes by having only a select number of conversations each week. Highly effective strategy, but it does take some effort.

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  • cfgausscfgauss Registered User
    edited July 2007
    Sarcastro wrote: »
    Here's the boring-but-it-works approach.

    Step 1: Write it down.
    Step 2: Seriously.

    You'll be the hit of the fucking party:
    Hot blond with big boobs

    "Hey, what're you writing?"
    "What? Nothing, just something to remember..."

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  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited July 2007
    The other trick, the really short and easy trick, is to know when you recognize someone and just don't say their name. In most conversation you don't say the person's name you're talking to, just 'Hey,' or launch directly into conversation once you make eye contact. And don't try to get people's attention if they're not paying attention to you (since you need names in that case).

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