Question of the Week: What are the key strengths of using palaces as a learning tool? Why palaces and not just images?

It’s worth noting up front that we find our current methods of implementing memory palaces to be relatively simple (see “Doesn’t it take too much time to make all these palaces?” on our Tips page). We don’t think that using palaces in a mnemonic strategy adds up to much extra time or effort. Otherwise, the following might be moot. With that out of the way, I’ve found there to be three main arguments in favor of palaces:

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New Video: Putting the Chinese System into Practice

In this new video, I discuss my memory palace-based mnemonics for learning Chinese vocabulary, as taken from the textbook Integrated Chinese Lesson 1 Part 2. Like in the recent English vocab/Memrise video, I walk through a learning session, focusing on examples and the different tools I use. This one builds on my earlier two blogs describing the system (links below), which I'd recommend reading before watching this. Hope you enjoy!

Part 1: The Gist
Part 2: Tweaks and Examples 

Question of the Week: How clear should my visualizations be?

Here's a question I've gotten a lot recently, in some form or another: How clear should my visualizations be?

Here's my experience, and this goes for both learning applications and memory sports: A key thing to realize is that the visuals themselves aren't always that important, so I don't worry if my images aren't clear. They’re often just fuzzy impressions. The memorability often comes from the story or narrative, simply the idea that image A is interacting with image B (or a particular location) in a semantically interesting way. I blogged about this following my 2015 USAMC experience, and for those interested in digging a bit deeper, that post explains the idea more clearly. When it comes to long-term recall, this idea becomes even plainer. If I haven't recalled something in weeks (or especially months), my image has usually been reduced to its most basic form: an idea in a location. For example, when recalling that toxoplasmosis is one of the clinical uses of the drug combo TMP-SMX, I just have a notion that there is a cat (toxo) on my elementary school's stage (a locus in my TMP-SMX area). No salient sensory impressions, generally--although of course some unique visuals or tactile impressions may stick here or there. I just know there's a cat on that stage, and that's all I need. 

2016 World Memory Championship Recap

It’s that time of year again. Two weeks ago, Cathy and I stuffed our bags and hopped in an airplane for 25+ hours for the annual World Memory Championship. After last year’s event in Chengdu, China, the organizers bumped the venue to Singapore, which I found to be a truly awesome place. Buildings of all colors and architectural styles, greenery everywhere, clean streets, and crazy vistas around every corner. We had a blast just walking around. The one downside: the unrelenting 80o humidity. As usual, we arrived a few days early to acclimate...

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2016 European Open Recap

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to London for the IAM’s first European Open Memory Championship. A lot of firsts for me on this trip: first time I’d been to England, first time I’d competed at a memory event not in the US or China. Originally I’d had a conflict, but things shifted at the last minute, so the preceding weekend Cathy and I found ourselves huddled around the kitchen table booking airline tickets. The event—like the recent UK Memory League Championship—was held at the London headquarters of Peak, a brain-training app which also sponsored the event...

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2016 Memoriad (World Mental Olympics) Recap

Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend a week in Las Vegas for the 2016 Zappos Memoriad, billed as a “World Mental Olympics” that happens every four years. Knowing the Memoriad was this year was one of the things that convinced me to take a gap year from medical school. And since my wife and I are spending a few months with my parents-in-law in California, it was only a 5-hour drive away! My parents and brother even uprooted from New York to be with us the following weekend. It all added up to a bunch of fun, although after a vacation in Norway and now this, I must admit I’m getting a bit travel-weary. I’m hopeless at maintaining my usual working routine while traveling...

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