Memory training expert, two-time USA Memory Champion Ron White, shares how to memorize a deck of cards using Character-Action-Object.
In the last 3-5 years I have found the biggest breakthroughs in my field of memory training has been the “Character, Action, Object” technique. Although it has been around longer than 5 years, I am only going back to when I first heard about it, and I can’t recommend it highly enough if you want to improve your memory in recalling cards or numbers.
After coming in 4th place in the 2008 USA Memory Championship I was more determined than ever to win the next tournament, and did a bunch of research on how to get better and faster. Looking back, my score for memorizing cards at the 2008 tournament was something like 20 cards in 5 minutes. Really pathetic!
In my research I found Joshua Foer’s article in Slate Magazine, where he introduced me to the concept of Character-Action-Object, a system that enables you to memorize cards three at a time. This was HUGE!
In order for you to understand the concept of Character-Action-Object you must first understand the “method of loci” or “memory palace” on how to memorize information. You can find out more about these concepts by following this link: method of loci or memory palace.
After you have gotten this concept down you can begin working on the Character-Action-Object approach to memorizing cards and numbers. With this technique you assign a character to every card — living, dead, cartoon or fictional, it doesn’t matter, it’s what you can associate with that is important. To learn more about assigning characters, check out this video:
Now let’s just say you choose to assign Neil Armstrong to the 5 of Hearts, Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz to the 9 of Spades, and the actor Lee Marvin (Dirty Dozen) to the King of Diamonds (these are my choices, but you can use your own) for the purpose of showing you this example.
Each of these people assigned to their card will then be assigned a verb, or action.
Since Neil Armstrong is famous for walking on the moon the action is walking and the object is moon.
Mark Spitz received 9 gold medals for swimming in a pool, so the character is Mark Spitz, the action is swimming and the object is a pool.
Lee Marvin’s character in the Dirty Dozen was famous for shooting Nazi’s. The character then is Lee Marvin, the action is shooting, and the object is Nazi’s.
Say this series of cards are played in the following order you would associate them this way:
1. King of Diamonds, 5 of Hearts, 9 of Spades – In this sequence of cards you would take the character from the first card, the action from the second card and the object from the third. So this picture would be Lee Marvin walking on a pool.
2. 5 of Hearts, 9 of Spades and King of Diamonds — Neil Armstrong swimming with Nazis
3. 9 of Spades, King of Diamonds and 5 of Hearts — Mark Spitz shooting at the moon
There it is, using Character-Action-Object to improve your memory when trying to memorize cards. With this memory training method I was able to go from 20 cards in 5 minutes to memorizing the entire 52 card deck in 1 minute 27 seconds, and set a new US record in 2009 for the fastest to memorize a card deck!
Although it is only my opinion, but I can back it up with statistics, Character-Action-Object is a breakthrough in memorizing cards and numbers. With this method, and a lot of practice, you too could become the next USA Memory Champion, or perhaps the World Memory Champion.