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"When this memorization technique is practiced to maturity, this process becomes natural. It is difficult to overstate how this technique can improve your memory."
Now that you have been introduced to some basic techniques to help you remember things, it's time to put it all together. Let's make a comparison before we begin. Try remembering the following words in order:
Textbook, shoulder, computer, picture frame, refrigerator, molecule, pen, cloud, telephone, cat
Do your best. It is not an easy task, particularly because there are no obvious associations to make between the words to help recall, let alone ordered recall.
Now, the Roman Room is a technique that could be applied to a list of words like this, or any information once you get well practiced at creating visual depictions of abstract words. The technique goes like this: bring to mind a room that you are very familiar with. This can be anything from your current bedroom, a bathroom, a living room, anything that you are very familiar with and therefore comes to your mind in a detailed depiction.
As you walk into the room, the corner over your left shoulder is number 1. Then, moving clockwise round the room, the next wall is number 2. The next corner is number 3. And so on, so that the corner that is number 5 is opposite of the corner that is number 1, and the wall that is number 2 is opposite the wall that is number 6.
There are 8 numbers so far: there are 4 corners and 4 walls in a typical room. In addition to these 8 distinguished locations, number 9 will be the floor and number 10 will be the ceiling.
It is important that these enumerated locations become automatically identifiable. To practice, take ten pieces of paper, numbered 1 through 10, and draw them at random. When you draw a number, identify that location in your mental room as quickly as possible. So, for example, if you drew the number 4, you should see the wall immediately across from the door (since location 1 is the corner behind your left shoulder, location 2 is the wall to your left, and location 3 is the next corner moving clockwise). When you identify this location, think about all that is in that location usually. This may be where you store some of your books and one of the walls your bed touches, as is the case in my bedroom. This number-drawing exercise is important for two reasons: it important that you are able to quickly identify what corners, walls, ceiling and floor corresponds to which number in the numerical sequence, and revisiting your mental room is helpful for giving your mental representation of your room more life.
Next, with your room clearly drawn out in your mind, we can use the room to help commit information to memory. An excellent method is by incorporating into the room objects that are symbolically representative of the information you want to remember. The list I provided earlier is easy to use because they are all objects: you can place a textbook in the location number 1 (which is behind the door in my room, so I imagine it as a door-stop), lean on location number 2 with your shoulder (because it is the wall on your left-hand side), and so on.
What is important is that you SEA to see. That is, incorporate Senses, Emotions, and Action into your memory. For example, placing the textbook as a door-stop, I imagine seeing and feeling the textbook, feeling my frustration that the door handle has been making holes in my wall, and imagine myself choosing the book and putting it in place.
This level of engagement with memories takes time, but it makes their recall more efficient and reliable because you have created a mental environment that allows for greater integration of memory. So, in the end, you will save time.
Some rooms you can use as temporary storage: remembering a phone number, grocery list, etc. Other rooms you can use for permanent storage: important life lessons you have learned or other useful information that you may want to call on later.
As you become better at using this technique, you can incorporate more and more rooms. By connecting the rooms in a memorable order, such as story, you expand the amount of information you can consolidate using this technique (ex. bedroom, bathroom, living room, mom's bedroom, and so on). Each new room continues the count, using the same over the left shoulder, clockwise routine: 1, 10, 11, 20, 21, 30, etc. So, not only can you remember information, you can remember the information sequentially.
When this technique is practiced to maturity, this process becomes natural. It is difficult to overstate how this technique can improve your memory.
Some of these techniques may work for you, and some may not. Next time you have to regurgitate a textbook for an exam, try these out! Stay tuned for more helpful study tips from .
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Scott Hagwood (2006), Memory Power, New York: Free Press - the ideas are derived from this book and are not the intellectual property of the author.