Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Short course in mnemonics

Yesterday I attended a quick intro course in mnemonics which was held for free at NTNU for three hours. The presenter was Oddbjørn By, norwegian memory master and international Grand Master. He has also published books under the title "Memo" which contain his teaching in the subject.

The course lasted for about three hours containing small tricks from how to remember the ten largest countries in the world to how to prepare for speaches and exams. He finished the lecture by memorizing a full deck of cards within 1,5 minutes.

I found the lecture very interesting since I recently read the book "Mind Performance Hacks" (MPH), which contains many mnemonic tricks. What was striking was that most of the techniques preferred in the book was also the ones preferred by Oddbjørn By:

The techinque that By seems to prefer in most cases is the ancient "Journey" system described by Ron Hale-Evans. While the journeys are described as "little journeys" by Hale-Evans, By uses big journeys containing more than ten places to store most of the things he would like to remember. Hale-Evans describe a expanded journey system by Scott Hagwood where objects could be stored in "nooks and crannies" for up to ten spaces in each room, making space for ten times the storage capacity (100 containers).

The second techinque By seems to use a lot is similar to the Dominic system in MPH.

A quick explanation of the Dominic system invented by World Memory Champion Dominic O'Brien: The Dominic system uses the letters OABCDESGHN for each number from zero to nine. By combining two letters you could store numbers from zero to ninetynine. The associations are made by a combination of a person and an action, for instance 26=BS=Britney Spears singing "Hit me baby one more time". You could remember four numbers by mixing one person with another persons action, for instance 6326=SC BS=Santa Claus singing "Hit me baby one more time". If you make the list of hundred persons and actions and remember them, you are able to store numbers up to 9999. You could make a story out of characters and actions to store larger numbers or you could make a big hotel with 100 floors to be able to remember more than 10 000 things. A very powerful system.

By's system for storing large numbers is similar to the Dominic, but the letters for the numbers are OITERSCLAg. The letters have a shape similarity to the numbers and easier to remember because they form something similar to a german word. By uses the system a bit different by making the letters the start of a word, for instance 34=TE=TEst,3435=TETRis etc.

The third method, which By seem to use to some extent is the number shape system, but he seems to use it only to support other systems.

To sum the evening up: By's intro course was very inspiring, showing that everybody is able to remember vast amounts of information. The techinques By finds most efficient are also the ones described as most efficient by other sources. You could remember things faster and more smoothly than just practising and repeating, freeing your brain for other tasks. My inspiration led me to start learning the countries of the world and their capitals. Yesterday was North America, today might be Europe. You never know when that might come handy...