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Memory Palaces

Recently, my birthday went by, and when my friends wished me, I realised I hadn't wished them on some of their birthdays. I had completely forgotten when they were.

Since then, I've taken a more active interest in the concept of memory and have read a few articles and listened to a couple of podcasts on how memory experts manage to remember a lot of things - like remembering the exact sequence of a shuffled deck of cards after having looked at it for a just a few seconds, or remembering the exact positions of pieces on a chessboard after having looked at it for a few seconds. 

The common technique that I came across that worked for a lot of people was that of memory palaces. 

The technique is quite simple. Rather than remember a sequence of words, numbers, facts, etc, you simply associate individual elements of that sequence to physical locations that you know very well - like the different rooms of your house, and when you need to recollect these facts, you just do a virtual walk through of your house in your head. 

For example, if you wanted to remember the top ten highest scoring football games in the last fifty years, you associate each of those games with a different room in your house. 

This is a fairly popular technique as well, and one I had come across several times before. But what interested me the most this time around is why this technique works. 

This is a technique that draws upon our spatial memory to remember facts that are not spatial in nature, by associating the two.

From an evolutionary perspective, our spatial memory is very strong. Thirty thousand years ago, our ancestors had a much higher chance of survival if they could remember where exactly they had found water, and how to get there quickly and without encountering any predators, than if they could remember the day on which their tribe settled in a certain area or the day on which they had sired their first son. 

The use of memory palaces is simply drawing upon our strengths. Maybe I should start giving it a shot.

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