Law Student Uses Memory Techniques

by Jonas Bailey
(San Luis Obispo, Ca. 93401)

memory problems story
I was trying to memorize law the old fashion way (flipping through flashcards) and having little luck trying to remember blocks of information. However, the tools shown here really work and have allowed me to remember more in less time.

One of my law professors once said there are many ways to get to Rome. To expand on this quote (and the video on this website) if you only know how to get there by plane then your missing the boat!

Thank you, Jonas Bailey

Doug's Reply.  It is ironic that you characterize rote memorization via flash cards as "the old fashioned way".

For most of the last two thousand years, those interested in improving their memory did not use rote memorization but instead used memory techniques such as the Method of Loci, Major System, Visualization & Association, and other methods described on this site.

It is a strange fact of modern-day education that schools do not teach real memory techniques. From ancient times all the way to the Renaissance, memory techniques were common knowledge, and memory training was considered an essential skill for the educated person to have.

Some of the memorization techniques described on my site are over 2,000 years old. The earliest recorded technique is the "memory palace," also known as the Journey Method or Method of Loci. This method takes advantage of the fact that we are able to easily recall places.

Think about it - you can probably easily visualize every item in your living room or any other room of your house. You can most likely do the same for places you haven't lived in or visited in years.

Using that fact about memory, the Method of Loci allows you to link factual information to these locations. Some who have practiced this method have memorized entire books, word for word, using it.

The first recorded use or "discovery" of the Method of Loci was by Simonides of Ceos about 2,500 B.C. Just after he stepped outside a banquet hall to take a message, the hall collapsed, killing all the attendees and rendering their bodies unrecognizable.

Simonides was able to identify each of the bodies for the relatives by recalling in his mind an image of what each person at the banquet was doing and where they were sitting as he got up to leave the building. He had been looking carefully at everyone, paying close attention, because he had been delivering a speech to the group.

Other memory techniques such as the Major Method (for memorizing long numbers) date back to the Middle Ages and earlier. There are books that are hundreds of years old which describe in detail how to use these methods.

The earliest text is the Rhetorica Ad Herennium, written about 90 B.C. That's the book that tells of the Method of Loci and the story of Simonides. Other examples from ancient times include parts of the Institutio Oratoria (Bk XI) by Quintilian, excerpts from De Oratore (Bk II 350-360) by Cicero, and fragments of Greek texts such as the Dialexis from as far back as 400 B.C.

The widespread use of memory techniques continued from ancient times through the 1700's. In fact, one of the most famous books on memory training, called Phoenix, was published by Peter of Ravenna in the fifteenth century.

It is a shame that these memory techniques are not offered in today's classrooms. We believe our "modern" society to be so advanced, but clearly there are important things from earlier times that we have forgotten.

Thanks very much for your comment.

Best regards,
This is information only. It is not medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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