Saturday, November 15, 2014

Loci, A Memorization Technique

We know the layout of our homes or apartments.  We might also know the layout of homes, businesses and streets where we work, where we used to live or where friends live or work. Why not use these places to peg new information?
Pegging using location is called Loci, an ancient memory technique. Roman senators used Loci to memorize long well-organized speeches that might go on for hours. They mentally planned their speeches and pegged different parts of it to places within their homes or streets or communities.
For instance, if I want to use Loci instead of a fun alphabet, I know the order of items in my laundry room.  1. doorway  2. litter pan  3. window   4. dryer  5. wall cabinets  6. mops   7.  furnace  8. washing machine 9. hot water heater  10.  sink.
Note that I assigned each item a number.  From now on each of our pegging lists should have numbers.  The only time we won’t use numbers with our lists is when using a fun alphabet and even there numbers can be helpful.
Numbers help us keep order, and they keep us from missing any items on our list. The same items should be used over and over in a Loci list.  There are other items in my laundry room, but adding or subtract items can be confusing.
I have a pegging list of items on Woodward Avenue near my home. Since I first created and memorized that list some things have changed. The Fantastic Sam’s beauty salon is gone, but it is still an its on my loci pegging list.  The sculptor, Marshal Frederick’s study was already gone and replaced by an office building. Still I used Marshall Frederick’s studio.  A historical marker sits there, and I like to pick the most interesting places.  Just like the fun alphabet, create your own Loci list.
It is probably best to start with a room in your own home.
If you move or change furniture a lot, try to stick with one arrangement for your pegging list. A laundry room night work better than a living room because things don’t change much.
Now back to my laundry room pegging list. 
Say I wanted to memorize a list of the planets in order from the sun. I use my imagination, and my laundry room  and I peg. 
The first planet is Mercury, so I imagine a Mercury automobile sitting in the doorway.  (That is a ridiculous image, but because it is silly, I will be more likely to remember it.) What is a Mercury car doing inside my house, blocking entrance to my laundry room.  What color is the car? What year? 
I imagine this in as much detail as I can.
I might also imagine Mercury, the Greek messenger of the gods, that we see so often in the florist’s commercials.  What you imagine to help you remember is up to you.  I picked a silver 2014 Mercury Grand Marquis.  Beautiful.
Next in my laundry room I have a litter pan. The second planet is Venus. I might picture Venus from the famous Botticelli painting “The Birth of Venus.”  There she is standing in my cat’s litter pan.
Next I look out my window and see Earth, the third planet from the sun. I see the actress Eartha Kitt sitting there. What is she wearing?  A  green robe. She holds a globe. She waves and smiles. I might also see giant  earth worms, hear them singing the song, “Earth Angel” while an earthquake shakes my back yard. There are always different images I can create.
Number four  is Mars. Mars candy bars are in my dryer.  The chocolate is going to melt. I will have a mess to clean up unless I eat all those candy bars.  I start taking the wrappers off. I taste the creamy chocolate of a Mars bar.  Maybe the television detective Veronica Mars is helping me.  We eat those Mars bars together. I see us clearly standing by my dryer.
Next comes the wall cabinets and Jupiter.  I might have a map of Jupiter, Florida or a picture of the Roman God Jupiter on the cabinet doors. I might have copies of “Joup” magazine inside.  I might have bottles of juice and piles of tar paper. Any of these items will help me remember the fifth planet from the sun is Jupiter.
Below  my wall cabinet I have a pail full of mops. The sixth planet to remember is Saturn.  Is that another automobile sitting there beside the dryer with mops hanging out of all the windows?  The car is even being driven by a mop. It’s a good thing GM named so many cars after planets.  It helps with my pegging.  My imaginary Saturn is red.
Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun, is next?  I have a funny little roadrunner  running around in circles  on my furnace screaming, “You ran us.” 
Neptune is  the eighth planet reminds me of Nipper, the RCA Victor dog who hears his master’s voice. Neptune would make a great name for a dog.  He is swimming in my washing machine.  In there with him might be some Neptune High School cheer leader outfits. I like that image, but remember Veronica Mars went to Neptune High School.  I picture Veronica Mars standing by my washer wearing a neptune High School cheer leader costume.
Pluto is easier.  The dog Pluto from all those Walt Disney movies is on top of my hot water heater.  Another dog? Why not? We had two cars. The dog characters, Nipper and Pluto,  are very different.
Try Loci on some lists of your own. Draw the room. List  and memorize the items and then use the room to memorize something else like the capitals of U.S. states.  You will need several different rooms for that
But as learning is important and we learn better if we use more than one powerful memory technique, let me share another way to learn the planets in order from the sun.
Memorize this sentence.  
My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas.
Note the first letter of each word. M as in Mercury;  V as in Venus; E as in Earth; etc.

There are lots of ways to make learning easier. We are just getting started.

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