Memory Techniques Changes Over Time

The search for the way for man to store, retain and recover memory has been going on since the cavemen days. Even then, cavemen had to remember things, where they could find their food source, what plants were poisonous, etc in order to survive. Cavemen learned through observation, experience, repetition and trial-and-error — exactly the same process by which we learn today.

In 477 BC, the poet Simonides came up with the ‘method of loci’ memory technique. His ability to recall the names of everyone who perished in the collapse of a roof by picturing where they were seated before he left the hall has remained the basis for virtually every memory course in the last 2,000 years. Memory Champions all over the world use this method of memory recall more than any other when training, and participating in memory events.

Basically, the method of loci is to learn information by placing an image in your mind of certain objects at specific locations. When you want to remember the items on your list you can recall them by pulling the image from the location you placed it in.

The method of loci was the “correct” memory technique in ancient Greece. In the first century BC, the scholar Cicero taught people how to remember a speech by using the method of loci to retain each point. He would mentally stroll through the loci of his house and recall points the students were making as they delivered a speech.

Rulers during the Renaissance period invited memory specialists to court to help them remembering important facts in history, geography and names of important people.

A complicated peg schemes were used by members of the courts in the 1500s,. Instead of memorizing items by getting a mental image of a physical place, they used mental “pegs” organized on an imaginary wall. Assigning an item or piece of information for each peg.

Throughout the 1600s and 1700s, memory specialists ignored the method of loci, putting the emphasis more on the learning of ideas through association and visualization. Freud also influenced many students of memory by showing that depression and negative emotions can have a negative effect on memory. His theory was that their “repressed” memories were upsetting which caused memory problems.

In 1885 Herman Ebbinghaus conducted research that proved that although people could learn short lists, long lists were more difficult, and that by trying to remember longer list instead of shorter ones the information learned was quickly lost. Ebbinghaus’ research   has influenced many generations of memory researchers.

With the advance of technology and neuroscience, researchers in the fields of health care, psychiatry, and psychology have continued to search for the best way to understand the brain and how it processes and recalls memory. They have found simple emotions, memorizing lists or picturing things in your mind it not the whole picture. From their studies they have found the amount of synapse (connections) the brain makes to take things from short term to long term memory is more complicated than they had originally thought, and outside forces – like environment, socialization, sleep, health, exercise and diet impact how your brain processes and retains information.

All told, each generation has found a way that works for them, and many have remained through the centuries. The workings of the brain are complicated, and the more we learn about how we process information, learn and store memory, the more questions keep coming up.

The way your brain performs is based on a lot of circumstances. The more neuroscientists are able to find out, and more memory experts will be able to present new methods that will enhance the memory process, including the use of new electronic technology. This new information will do much to help in the development of new ways to help people with brain damage, mental problems and memory loss due to dementia.

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About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at

Source: – Memory Training: The New Approach:

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