Not everything that you need to remember is easily pictured. Sometimes you need to know how to memorize abstract concepts, formulae, and other things—which are not objects. When you think about it, most things you need to remember do not lend themselves to picturing. The solution is to use your imagination to create a picture of the concept.
Let’s start with names. Imagine you had to memorize a list of words. The list is the names of the last 10 presidents. We will use the car from the last exercise to put them in order.
The first one is Lyndon Johnson. Imagine growing out of the front of your car a toilet with the sun sitting on it. John—toilet; son—the sun. A hand comes in front that gives the sun some money lending—Lyndon.
Now go the hood above the engine. The hood has a lot of nicks on it—Nixon—but the nicks look like money—Rich.
Ford is the next president. Since you are using your car to place things that remind you of the names, it is not a good idea to think that your car is a Ford model. That would not be bizarre enough. Instead, think of a stream that the mouse, Jerry, of Tom and Jerry is fording on your windshield. ‘Jerry’ for Gerald, and ‘fording the stream’ for Ford.
Next, you need to use your dashboard for Jimmy Carter. Imagine inside your dashboard is a gym (Jimmy). A cart (Carter) goes through with new equipment for the gym.
Then you go to your seat; imagine half of your seat is a ray gun. If you are not familiar with ray guns, they are a science fiction weapon that shoots a substance that causes destruction. Imagine you are sitting on a giant ray gun that people are running away from (‘run’—Ron; ‘ray gun’—Reagan).
While all this drama is occurring on the left side of your seat that you are sitting on, the right side of your seat is a bush that the monkey, Curious George, is walking on (George Walker)—and ‘bush’ for Bush. Yet you need to distinguish him from his son, who is the other George Bush. Imagine a lady comes and buts in front of George in the bush (‘her but’ for Herbert). From this, you can remember George (from ‘Curious George’) Herbert (her butting ahead of George) Bush (the bush).
The next president is Bill Clinton. Imagine you pour a bunch of dollar bills (Bill) on the person sitting next to you on the passenger side. The person has a lint brush (lint)—Clinton; it sort of rhymes. The dollar bills all stick to the lint brush.
After Clinton, we have George Walker Bush. Let’s take the back seat of your car. Again, imagine it is a bush, but this time, George Washington is walking in it without the lady butting. It is helpful to use a different picture for George to further distinguish the two George Bushes. The president is George (Washington) Walker (walking) Bush (the seat is a bush).
Barrack Obama is the next president. Use the trunk of your car. Imagine your trunk is a military barracks (Barrack). Then there are bombs hidden in the barracks, which is the trunk of your car (bombs—Obama).
Although everyone knows that Donald Trump is the current United States president, it is useful to include him on the list so you will remember that he comes after Obama. See the wheels of your car and imagine Donald Duck (for Donald) playing cards and winning a hand (trumping the card his opponent has).
You now have used your car to remember the names of the last 10 presidents. And you have used your imagination to create pictures that have to do with the names.
There are more ways to place memory triggers besides your car. In the last article, I recommended rooms in your house. For example, you can use outside your house, the driveway, the front deck or porch, the entryway, the living room, the kitchen, dining room, bathroom, steps, each bedroom, the hallway, and the extra bathrooms. Then you can go out the back door and use your back porch, back deck, outdoor grille, lawn—the list can be endless.
If you have an extremely long list of items, you can use different parts of the rooms in your house. For example, when you get to the kitchen, you can use each cabinet, each burner on the stove, the oven, even different appliances. In the living room and outdoor deck, you can use each piece of furniture. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.
When Socrates made his speeches in the Parthenon, he placed items in each room. The ancient Parthenon had hundreds of rooms, and he may or may not have needed to place an item in every room. He knew the building well enough that he imagined walking through it and placing an item that triggered a memory for part of his speeches. He never used notes. It is a great way to memorize a speech.
Now, put this article down and name the last 10 presidents. Don’t continue reading; just try it.
How did you do? If you remembered them all by using your car, then congratulations. You are well on your way to developing the great memory that you have. If you missed some, then go back to the exercise and create a stronger association. All you need to do is imagine the association longer,
something different the next time you see them.
Try this on a few people. Have fun with this. In the next article, you will learn how to remember the order of things on a list. This way to memorize things is called pegging.
An extra tool you can use to place items in your body. Let’s go over the presidents again, only using body parts.
First, use your head and place the sun sitting on the toilet, with the money-lending hand reaching out—Lyndon Johnson. Now imagine nicks on your neck shaped like money—Richard Nixon. Jerry the mouse is fording a stream that runs through your torso (area below the neck and above the chest)—Gerald Ford.
Now your left arm is the gym. It is easy to imagine a cart going through a gym on your left arm—Jimmy Carter.
Be careful of the next one. Imagine a ray gun in the palm of your left hand. Someone runs away from the dangerous ray gun. The memory danger here is that you think of your left hand shooting a ray gun. Although ray guns are fictional, a gun in your hand is normal and believable. Picture the ray gun for Reagan and the person running away from it in the palm of your left hand (‘run’—Ron).
Now we go to your right arm. Make your right arm the bush with Curious George walking in it, and the lady walking over and butting ahead of George. George (Curious George) Herbert Walker (lady walking and does her but) Bush (the bush).
For Clinton, using the right hand, be careful not to just think of holding dollar bills in your right hand. It is too normal and unimaginative. Also, don’t think of holding a lint brush in your hand. Imagine the lint brush (‘lint’—Clinton) catching the bills all in the palm of your hand as a mini picture.
Now go to your abdominal area. Your abdominal area has a bush growing out of it. Again, it is useful because you are not going to mistake your abdominal area with your right arm. Use George Washington for this. To distinguish between the George presidents, instead of Curious George, imagine him walking in the bush on your abdomen. George Walker Bush.
Your left leg can be the military barracks (for Barrack), and they store bombs (for Obama). Your right leg had Donald Duck winning a card game by trumping the opponent’s card—‘Donald Duck’ for Donald, and ‘trumping the card’ for Trump.
You can see that there are infinite possibilities for storing information. If we had a long list, you could have used each eye, each nostril, your chin, each ear, and even all the fingers and toes to store bits of information. The possibilities are endless.
In this article, you learned to store information. You also learned to use your imagination to create associations of words. One good way to use the associations is to remember people’s names.
Even people who have good memory sometimes say that they have trouble remembering names. The problem is not that they forgot the name; it is that they did not use a memory technique to remember it in the first place. When someone introduces him/herself, most people do not catch their name. They are busy thinking about the impression; they’re thinking about what they will say. Hence they do not catch the name.
To remember a name, pick something about the person’s appearance and connect it to their name. For example, you just met a woman named Sue Shields. She has a big nose (don’t tell her you are using her big nose to remember her name). Imagine a zoo (rhymes with Sue), but instead of animals in the cages, there are shields in each cage (for Shields).
When you pick a personal feature, it is important to pick something permanent about them. If you pick the clothes they have on, they might wear a different outfit the next time you see them.
In the next article, you will learn to memorize numbers. Your ability to remember numbers will include how to memorize phone numbers, a mathematical equation, and everything which involves numbers.