Method of Loci In A Nutshell

The Method of Loci is a mnemonic strategy for memorizing information. The Method of Loci gets its name from the word “loci”, which is the plural of locus – meaning location or place. It is a form of memorization where an individual places information they want to remember along with points of an imaginary journey. By retracing the same route through the journey, the individual can recall the information in a specific order. For this reason, many consider this memory tool a location-based mnemonic. 

Using the Method of Loci for memorization

The method itself is as old as it is effective. Historical records show it was used as early as the 6th Century BCE, but its origins probably extend much further back into prehistory.

For those wishing to improve their memory skills, follow these simple steps:

  1. Start by choosing a place you know well. Most choose the simplicity and familiarity of their home. More adventurous individuals may choose their route to work.
  2. Visualize a series of locations that follow a logical order. For example, consider your route as you arrive home from work, open the door, and head upstairs to the bedroom. Items such as pieces of furniture or repeated actions can serve as points of the route or journey.
  3. At each point, physically place the item you want to remember. Someone wanting to memorize the 50 U.S. states may place the word Alabama at the point they unlock the front door. Then, Alaska may be placed at the point where they enter and remove their shoes.
  4. Over time, practice visualizing the route by running through each point of the journey in your mind and remembering its corresponding item.

Method of Loci best practices

The key to the success of this technique lies in choosing the journey. It must be extremely familiar to the individual and not prone to variation. If a student takes three or four routes to university depending on traffic, then this is not a suitable journey to use in memory training.

Memory retention can also be helped by making the associations more memorable, ridiculous, or silly. One way to achieve this is by creating very short stories for each point in the journey. 

Consider the example of a businessperson trying to memorize the last twenty American presidents. They might associate the talkative barista making their morning coffee with George H. W. Bush. They might then associate the familiar chime of the office elevator with Ronald Reagan.

Key takeaways

  • The Method of Loci is an ancient form of memorizing information through mnemonics.
  • The Method of Loci involves the placing of information at imaginary points of a journey. The journey itself must be familiar to the individual to the extent that they can visualize each step in their mind.
  • The Method of Loci is more effective when the associations between each point in the journey are more memorable. Short stories that have some degree of ridiculousness are helpful in this regard.

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