I am learning how to memorize things!

Our instructor Geoff today taught us memorization techniques which really work and have a huge and obvious effect. The two techniques are called “pegs” and “memory palace”.

I’d heard of memory palace before. I hadn’t heard of pegs. They’re both fairly ancient techniques, so nothing groundbreaking here, but they are highly effective and easy to learn.

Today, we first did a pre-test to measure memorization before trying to learn any techniques. Geoff read us a list of twenty random objects and we had to try to recall the objects in the order given. I did remember eight objects correctly – the first four, the last two, and a couple in the middle which stood out.

After the pretest, we started working on memorization techniques. I chose pegs.

The idea with pegs is that you use normal flash-card style memorization techniques to bind numbers to objects. For me, one is “hat” and two is “hen” and three is “ham”. These objects can be reused many times, so you only have to memorize the list once. When you’re actually faced with a list of things to memorize, you just “hang” each of the memorizees on their associated pegs. So if Geoff reads “1. Zipper,” you add a zipper to your hat. Later you just think of the number 1, which leads you to think of a hat, which leads you to remember the zipper on the hat.

The peg objects can be anything you want, but I followed the Major System, which assigns major consonants to each digit. So 1 is ‘d’ or ‘t’, 2 is ‘n’, 3 is ‘m’. You can look up the list on Wikipedia, but the idea is that you come up with a word you’ll remember whose only major consonants are the digits of the number you’re trying to remember. (Vowels and ‘w’,’h’,’y’ are not major consonants for this purpose). This appears to be a very scalable system and I expect to derive good use from it.

Anyway, I was able to correctly memorize nine things (instead of 8) in the post-test, but I was able to recall twelve things two hours later, and I can tell I would have done much better if I had been better at remembering my pegs. I’m going to spend time each day practicing my pegs until they’re second nature. I would expect to get 19 or 20 out of 20 once I am quickly able to come up with the peg image for a given number.