Top tips on how to improve your powers of recollection

Most of us find it difficult to remember 10 items on a shopping list but that’s no problem for the competitors taking part in the UK Open Memory Championships this week. They have some of the best memories in the world. Their brains will be put to the test in the contest taking place at London’s Science Museum over the coming days. So, are you born with a good memory or is it something that's attainable for all of us? Memory experts say that all it takes is a bit of practice using very simple methods. Memory master Phil Chambers, chief arbiter at the championships, shares some memory techniques for improving your powers of recollection. 

Techniques: The Link System
To remember a list you take each item and associate it in some way with the next. This forms a chain of associations that can easily be recalled. If the list contains abstract concepts these will need to be symbolised by concrete objects.

For example memorising the first 10 chemical elements in the Periodic Table in order of atomic number: Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium, Boron, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Fluorine, Neon.

Imagine a huge tower-block sized, shiny red fire hydrant (HYDROGEN). As you walk past you look up and see millions of helium - filled (HELIUM) balloons tied to the top of the hydrant. There are so many that they begin to lift the hydrant up off the ground and into the air. As it rises into the evening sky, you follow its route, as it is lit by the intense white light (LITHIUM) shining from thousands of berries (BERYLLIUM) on a nearby tree. At the base of the tree is an ugly wart-faced smelly wild boar (BORON) digging at the roots and throwing up a pile of dirty black coal (CARBON). The dust and soot from the ever increasing pile of coal blocks out the sun and causes a false night (NITROGEN). The airborne dust makes it so hard for you to breathe that you don a diving suit and oxygen tank (OXYGEN). You struggle to waddle forward wearing your flippers, this makes you sweat and breathe heavily. You remove your mask and you realise that you are coming down with a case of the flu (FLUORINE). You begin to cough and splutter and as you sneeze you spray mucus over a massive neon (NEON) sign in the shape of a hand that blinks on and off in front of you.
Techniques: The Body List System

This is a technique which helps you to remember something like a shopping list. The body has a number of parts in set locations that can act as places, or hooks, to hang objects in your imagination.

Just as an example pretend your shopping list has three items – eggs, bread and bananas. This is how you could remember what you need to buy:

On your feet:
Imagine you are balanced on a pile of eggs. You are too heavy for them and they smash squishing yolk between your toes as you smell their rotten stench.
Between your knees:
A loaf of French bread - Smell the aroma of a fresh 2m long loaf that you have to walk in an awkward way to stop from falling.
On your hips:
A bunch of bananas on each hip; huge, dangling, fluorescent yellow.

The list can be extended as you work your way up the body.

Techniques: Number Rhyme
This is a good way of remembering PIN Numbers. Just symbolise the digits with rhyming objects and then use a Link System to recall them:

0 - hero
1 - bun
2 - shoe
3 - tree
4 - door
5- hive
6 -sticks
7 - heaven
8 - gate
9 - wine

For example if your PIN number is 1234 you could imagine a giant bun (ONE) with a head and limbs walking towards a pile of clothes including a pair of shoes (TWO). It puts them on behind a tree (THREE) before heading through the front door (FOUR) of a house.


Memory Games

Simple memory games, some of which are fairly well-known, can help to improve your powers of recall and you can play them with all the family.

I went to the shops, and I bought…

Memory man Phil ChambersThis game helps you to practice imagining objects and linking them together.

Start by saying, "I went to the shops and I bought a...". Each person in turn repeats the sentence and adds an additional item. The items should be specific. Try to be as creative as possible.

For example, the fourth person could say, "I went to the shops and I bought a crusty French loaf, a bottle of shampoo, a smelly sock and a box of matches."

If a learner misses out an item or cannot remember, they are out of the game and the next person continues. The winner is the last person left after all others have been eliminated.

Kim’s Game

Collect a number of articles on a tray, for example: a knife, spoon, pencil, pen, stone, book. Make sure there are no more than 15 items and lay them out in rows.

Cover the tray with a cloth.  Each player sits where they can see the tray and it’s uncovered for one minute. Players should aim to remember what is on the tray. Once the minute is up, replace the cloth over the tray. Then each player should make a list of all the articles they can remember. Once all have finished writing down their lists, they swap papers and the contents of the tray is revealed for marking. The one who remembers the most in the right order wins the game. 

 Memory facts
  • The current World Memory champion is Johannes Mallow from Germany who in one task memorised 443 digits in five minutes and 650 cards in perfect order in 30 minutes.
  • The UK has won the World Memory Championships 14 times – more times than any other country.
  • In 2011 the first Chinese champion, Wang Feng, practised memory techniques eight hours a day solidly for three months.
  • The fastest speed for memorising a deck of 52 cards is 21.10 seconds.
  • Briton Dominic O’ Brien is an eight times Wold Memory champion who holds the world record for correctly memorising the sequence of 54 shuffled decks of cards with only eight errors.
  • You can hold approximately seven items in Short Term Memory for about 30 seconds

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Hey, I'am Babanature. A webdesigner, blogspot developer, UI/UX Designer and entertainment personality. I'am also a business speaker, marketer, Blogger and Javascript Programmer.

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