The Loci Method is a very old memory aid that can train our mind in the art of memory. It is based on our brain associating general data with specific locations, physical routes, or specific paths where we place the information so that we can more easily retrieve it later.
At first, this strategy may seem an overly simple one. But sometimes the simplest methods are the most effective. Electromagnetic tests at Radboudumc University Hospital in the Netherlands recently showed that a mnemonic strategy based on the loci method actually works.
The Loci method consists in imagining a route that has various objects, scenarios, and points where concepts and data will be placed that we can later recall from our memory.
Boris Nikolai Konrad was one of the test subjects. The young neuroscientist who is a world memory champion has used the loci method all his life. He is currently working at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich (Germany) and regularly gives lectures to show how entering the world of mental and memory strategies, as enabled by the Loci method, can change our brain.
The Loci method is simple, effective and, above all, makes us more competent in remembering certain dates. It also makes our brain more resilient.
The loci method and spatial memory
As mentioned earlier, the loci method is a very old technique. The development of this strategy is attributed to the poet Simonides von Keos, who almost absent-mindedly applied a memory strategy that was later described in books such as Rhetorica ad Herennium and De Oratore by Cicero.
It is said that Simonides von Keos was invited to give a poetic lecture in Thessaly. During the lecture he was called by a servant who gave him a private message. The poet had stepped outside to read the message when he suddenly heard a violent rumble. The palace in which he was just a moment ago had collapsed.
There have been several victims; it was a huge disaster. The serious injuries made it partly impossible to identify the victims, but Simonides von Keos turned to the doctors to tell them not to move their bodies yet. The poet was able to identify each and every one of them by remembering where they sat while he was reciting.
This effective strategy was later called the “loci method”, as “loci” means “places” in Latin.
The art of locating memories in specific places
Many of us have been practicing this technique for many years without realizing its great potential. For example, when we’re making a shopping list, a great way to remember everything we need is to take a mental tour of the supermarket: aisle by aisle, shelf by shelf. Likewise, each student is able to memorize certain data during a test by recalling the place they were when they were learning that information.
These examples encourage us to discover the useful resources that this technique has to offer. It makes more sense to associate one piece of information with another than to learn it by forcing your brain to do so. We should remember that we are emotional beings and our brains like to use analogies to create precious memories.
Indeed, spatial memory activates the hippocampus, a fascinating structure associated with the creation and recall of a memory. At the same time, the loci method connects our emotional universes. Let us therefore not hesitate to build our own memory palace in which we can store information that we can later skillfully call up.
How can we use the loci method in our everyday life?
The greatest characters in literature – Sherlock Holmes and Hannibal Lecter, for example – used the loci method. They did not call her by her original name, but kept using this reminder as efficiently as possible.
Can we use the loci method in the midst of the humility of our own responsibility? The obvious answer is yes. These are the steps to link our spatial memory to our working or long-term memory:
Steps to Use the Loci Method
- Let’s choose our mental palace. It has to be a familiar scenario: our house, our hut, our beloved library, a street in our city or a park.
- Let’s design our travel route. For example, we leave our room, go through the hallway, look out the window, go into the bathroom, then we go into the living room and see the couch, the table, the shelves … Let’s visualize every single little detail in our head.
- Let us now connect those elements and the information to be stored with one another so that we can remember each of these details. It doesn’t matter if it’s stupid or absurd. In fact, the more absurd the better we will remember it. For example, when we learn laws, we can relate each and every one of them to certain objects.
- As soon as we have linked data to furniture, plants or corners , we walk the route again. Until everything feels familiar and all information is stored in its assigned location.
The Loci method doesn’t require a lot of effort, just visualization, will, imagination and the ability to make connections. With this exercise, wonderful neural processes will be going on in our brain to develop our memories and build pathways full of information. This method can make any learning process flow quickly and effectively.