Journey Method

journey methodOne of the best systems for memorizing a long list of facts is the Journey Method (also know as the Loci Method). Elsewhere I've mentioned how I memorized an alphabetical list of the 50 U.S. States. Below I explain how this was done.

Note: If you are unfamiliar with memory systems, go back and read the Memory Systems page first.

I am no expert in geography. The day before trying the Loci Method, I had no idea which state would even be first on an alphabetical list of the 50 States.

I spent about 20 minutes memorizing the list. Now, weeks later, I can still rattle off any part of the state list, including:

  • The entire list in order, Alabama to Wyoming, with no mistakes.
  • The entire list in reverse order, with no mistakes.
  • If you name any state, I can continue the list from there to the end or backward to the beginning.
  • Name any state, and I can immediately tell you the state that comes right before and after that state in the list.
  • Interrupt me, make me stop in the middle and then resume two hours later, play loud music or have screaming kids in the background - I can still do all the above, with no errors.

How is it possible memorize a 50-item list in 20 minutes so perfectly? You do it using something you can't be made to forget: any route you know well. You mentally tie the sequence of locations on your route to substitute words you create that are visually vivid.

The Loci Method Explained

Think of a route you use every day. It could be the path from your bedroom to your kitchen. It could be the roads you drive from home to work or school. Or maybe the route to the grocery store, bank, your best friend's house, or the next town. You get the idea.

Now, I bet you can easily visualize many of the landmarks you pass on the way to those destinations. For example, on your way to the grocery store there are intersections, places of business, parks, and so on.

Take a moment to really picture in your mind a few of these landmarks. See yourself driving, walking, or bicycling by them.

Is there any way you could somehow get mixed up and not remember the order of these places along the route? No way - not if it is a route you've used many times.

So that's the first step: the route provides the order.

Let's say you have a list of items to memorize, such as the first 10 "Bill of Rights" of the U.S. Constitution. You need to not only remember them, but remember them in correct order.

Using the route you were just thinking of, you can mentally "tag" each of the Bill of Rights to one of the landmarks on your route. (I'll get to how to do that in a moment.)

The second step is remembering the information itself, by creating a substitute word for each item as needed, then creating mental images for those words.

And the third step is associating the information to the landmarks on the route. See the Using Association page for more information about these two steps.

Do you see now why the Loci Method is so powerful? You can't forget the order of the information, because it's something you already know.

As for the rest, you can use the techniques of Substitute Words and Linking to memorize the information and attach it to the routes.

Click the following link to read in detail how I memorized the list of 50 states.

How I Memorized the List of 50 States

Now you can read and understand how I memorized the list of 50 states. Once you get the hang of it, memorizing long lists only takes a few minutes at a time. And it's actually fun!

Published: 04/01/2008
Last Updated: 06/11/2020

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Copyright ©
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction without permission is prohibited