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Secrets of a Memory Champion

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the never-forget dept.

Science 290

Hugh Pickens writes writes "We've all heard of people who claim to have 'photographic memories.' Now Joshua Foer writes in the NY Times magazine (reg. may be required) that a 'skilled memory' can be acquired and proves it by explaining how he trained his brain to became a world-class memory athlete winning first place in the speed cards competition last year at the USA Memory Championship by memorizing a deck of cards in one minute forty seconds. According to Foer, memory training is a lost art that dates from antiquity. 'Today we have books, photographs, computers and an entire superstructure of external devices to help us store our memories outside our brains, but it wasn't so long ago that culture depended on individual memories,' writes Foer. 'It was considered a form of character-building, a way of developing the cardinal virtue of prudence and, by extension, ethics.' Foer says that the secret to supermemory is a system of training and discipline that works by creating 'memory palaces' on the fly filled with lavish images, painting a scene in the mind so unlike any other it cannot be forgotten. 'Photographic memory is a detestable myth. Doesn't exist. In fact, my memory is quite average,' concludes Ed Cooke who recently invented a code that allows him to convert every number from 0 to 999,999,999 into a unique image that he can then deposit in a memory palace. 'What you have to understand is that even average memories are remarkably powerful if used properly.'"

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Palaces? (1)

fishexe (168879) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297510)

'Photographic memory is a detestable myth. Doesn't exist. In fact, my memory is quite average,' concludes Ed Cooke...

And yet this man has memory palaces. Average, indeed.

Re:Palaces? (-1, Flamebait)

TafBang (1971954) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297628)

Shut your face up. I'm quite knowledgeable of the memory and people with extraordinary memories.... and all of them practice. So quit talking like a faggot and show some respect.

Rage much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297642)

Calm down, he's just saying that the man may be underestimating his own capabilities.

Re:Palaces? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297662)

I shall place a pot in my memory palace, perhaps in the ballroom, the kettle can have the guest bedroom, and the staircase will be painted black.

Re:Palaces? (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297734)

'Photographic memory is a detestable myth. Doesn't exist. In fact, my memory is quite average,' concludes Ed Cooke...

And yet this man has memory palaces. Average, indeed.

I can't comment on this dude having a normal memory or otherwise, but he certainly has a pretty closed mind. There's a big difference between a well trained mind and a true photographic memory. Some people just remember *everything*. It's not something they train themselves to do, or use a technique, it's something physically different about their brain that makes it work that way.

He's like a guy who's red/green colourblind but has trained himself to distinguish the two by brightness or context, who then claims that full-colour vision is a detestable myth and people who claim to have it are lying.

Re:Palaces? (5, Insightful)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297948)

True. Lots of stuff is trainable, but is inborn for some people. Strength, for example. Some people are naturally stronger than others, but you can make up for the difference by working out in the gym. Absolute hearing (recognizing the pitch of a note of music): my dad has always been able to do it and can't remember a time when he couldn't, nor did he understand why others couldn't. But many musicians need to train quite hard at it. To some it comes naturally after years of making music, to others it doesn't.

Sometimes it's nature, sometimes it's nurture, sometimes it's a bit of both.

In any case, it's good to know that memory can be trained too. My memory sucks. My wife has always had excellent memory (not quite photographic) without any kind of training (other than regular study, which is also trains your memory, I guess).

Re:Palaces? (2)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298400)

Heh, I took the opposite approach. "Why bother training myself to remember where I left my keys? I have a wife for that!" ;)

Re:Palaces? (1)

oranGoo (961287) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297742)

'Memory palace' = 'method of loci' is a method, i.e. something that an average person can learn and train her or himself to use efficiently.
It is not particularly new, it is attributed to 5th/6th century (BC) Greek poet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Method_of_loci [wikipedia.org]

It is actually quite simple and can be taught in an hour or less. Training takes more time.

It is based on a simple fact that our brain is more specialized for remembering spatial facts and relations (has probably a bit to do with being able to quickly remember paths: either to successfully chase that squirrel or find the closest path to the most secure location while running away from a malnourished tiger of some sorts)

These methods map this mental power to non spatial concepts through visual association. Not completely unlike using GPU to do some non graphic tasks efficiently. The trick, in both cases, is to be able to recognize which tasks are best suited for it.

Re:Palaces? (1)

damaged_sectors (1690438) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298238)

'Memory palace' = 'method of loci' is a method, i.e. something that an average person can learn and train her or himself to use efficiently. It is not particularly new, it is attributed to 5th/6th century (BC) Greek poet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Method_of_loci [wikipedia.org]

It is actually quite simple and can be taught in an hour or less. Training takes more time.

It is based on a simple fact that our brain is more specialized for remembering spatial facts and relations (has probably a bit to do with being able to quickly remember paths: either to successfully chase that squirrel or find the closest path to the most secure location while running away from a malnourished tiger of some sorts)

These methods map this mental power to non spatial concepts through visual association. Not completely unlike using GPU to do some non graphic tasks efficiently. The trick, in both cases, is to be able to recognize which tasks are best suited for it.

Yep, been around for a long, long, time. Just like the eidetic myth - if it exists no ones managed to prove it. Not that there haven't been people who demonstrated amazing memorization feats - but that a long way from a photographic memory. Plenty claim to have it - but I think you'll find the Great Randi hasn't had to fork out any money yet. I've read of few experiments where they failed to memorize everything - even over quite short periods of time (if you can see and hear it, but not remember all of it, it ain't photographic, usually just confabulation). No one has ever demonstrated the ability to remember languages they've never heard before, for instance.

And the Rainman thing, it's not memory it's math (Doomsday) and loci technique. The loci technique is particularly powerful when combined with (practiced) neurolinquistics.

Apparently one of the most talented is a guy who managed to learn fluent Icelandic in a couple of days - and he stands head and shoulders above the actual achievements of others (from my dodgy memory his book was called Blue Sky Dreaming).

Re:Palaces? (1)

Tomun (144651) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298394)

You're thinking of Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet

Re:Palaces? (5, Informative)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298244)

If you want to read up on the topics of memory systems, here are some terms to Google:

Loci - a memory system to "walk a path" in your mind, placing objects at predictable locations along the path. Then you re-walk it, and can "see" what objects were left there. Links: 1 [wikipedia.org] 2 [increasebrainpower.com]

Major System - a system that translates digits to consonants, so that numbers can be pictured as words: Links: 1 [wikipedia.org] 2 [litemind.com]

Link System - a system to chain together 2 objects, so that a list of arbitrary length can be remembered 2 objects at a time. 1 [wikipedia.org] 2 [mindtools.com]

Dominic System - a system that converts numeric values (typically 2 or 3 digit numbers) to memorable people. Links: 1 [wikipedia.org] 2

Memory Palace - a way of using loci on a massive scale Link [ludism.org]

That should get you started. Follow links on the wikipedia page, and you'll know more than you ever wanted to know.
I've found memory techniques VERY helpful in business, and I amaze people on a day-to-day basis with my memory (which was extremely poor before I began studying the subject). Now I'm the guy who the office always goes to, when they are trying to remember how we handled a past situation, or what's the name of that customer/product/technique, or whatever.
 

What rimes with thirst roast? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297516)

F1RS7 P0S7!!!

looks like (0)

choongiri (840652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297518)

everyone else forgot to post

Re:looks like (1)

Enigma23 (460910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298312)

everyone else forgot to post

Forgot what..?

Re:looks like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35298482)

i don't know but i can't remember my password

It's True (3, Funny)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297558)

I think Ed Cooke's memory is as average as he claims. For example, I betcha he can't remember where my car keys are either.

Re:It's True (3, Funny)

strobexii (601986) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297574)

He probably left them in his other palace.

Re:It's True (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298174)

I think Ed Cooke's memory is as average as he claims. For example, I betcha he can't remember where my car keys are either.

You probably have it narrowed down to about 10 places, while he's got it narrowed down to 999,999,999 places.

Re:It's True (1)

Enigma23 (460910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298318)

I think Ed Cooke's memory is as average as he claims. For example, I betcha he can't remember where my car keys are either.

My short-term memory is way below average - I can't even recall what Century it is in the mornings...

Re:It's True (1)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298358)

I think Ed Cooke's memory is as average as he claims. For example, I betcha he can't remember where my car keys are either.

If u rtfa... he still loses his car keys.

"What began as an exercise in participatory journalism became an obsession. True, what I hoped for before I started hadn’t come to pass: these techniques didn’t improve my underlying memory (the “hardware” of “Rhetorica ad Herennium”). I still lost my car keys. And I was hardly a fount of poetry. Even once I was able to squirrel away more than 30 digits a minute in memory palaces, I seldom memorized the phone numbers of people I actually wanted to call. It was easier to punch them into my cellphone. The techniques worked; I just didn’t always use them. Why bother when there’s paper, a computer or a cellphone to remember for you?"

There wasn't an update as to his ability to recollect
where his car keys were, at the point where he became
champion. =0)

-AI

Old stuff (1)

xnpu (963139) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297564)

Isn't this what many of "start with a peg list" memory gurus have been telling us for a long time now?

Re:Old stuff (3, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297618)

I think that the difference is that all the gurus are telling everybody to do what works for them, where these guys are actually writing up and studying different techniques and finding that different lists work for different people.

I guess a summary list of practical research you can read through would be really interesting if anyone knows a good one.... There was something recently that the only proven memorisation technique is to use some kind of exponential back off. Even a special program to do that. Unfortunately I can't remember where and when it was discussed :-) ..

Shenanigans (3, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297568)

... who recently invented a code that allows him to convert every number from 0 to 999,999,999 into a unique image that he can then deposit in a memory palace.

Hey, I can easily recognize and recall any one of those numbers even without the mental chicanery!

Having grown up with a guy who had a true photographic memory - I call shenanigans. I agree a person can train his memory to work remarkably better; but photographic memories are ... different. I don't know how to describe it, but It's pretty obviously not just a case of a well-trained brain.

Re:Shenanigans (1)

LagMasterSam (1212842) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297678)

I read this article a few days ago and did some research on these techniques. When he talks about being able to convert 0 - 999,999,999 into a unique image, he means that he can remember any arbitrary number in that range by encoding it into some more memorable form. This allows him to instantly memorize any phone number by converting the phone number unto a single image. Later, when he needs to retrieve it, he only has to remember what the image is. Then he can "decode" the image and see what he number is.

Re:Shenanigans (2)

Deltaspectre (796409) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297806)

I bet he always forgets that last digit

Re:Shenanigans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35298000)

what's his technique for remembering these unique images? a photographic memory? :)

Re:Shenanigans (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298194)

Which means he has a good memory of images, and can use that to remember other things like numbers. What if you don't have a good memory of images, and in fact find it harder to remember images than numbers?

Re:Shenanigans (2)

oranGoo (961287) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298296)

Spatial/visual memory is in average person much more powerful then conceptual memory.
All memory is association, but if you compare how efficient you are in remembering, let's say a rather complicated path through a bigger park compared to remembering let's say remembering 8 3-digit numbers, spatial memory easily wins by order of magnitude in an average person (people who have great visual memory or great audio memory might complicate the analysis, so treat those as special cases).
Spatial memory is so good that we expect very much of it, that's why labyrinths are interesting and also that is why when it you get lost or can not find a certain place you forget how good your spatial memory is: most of the time you know exactly where you are, you know how to get to most places you know and most importantly you retain this information without effort for years and years (think about cities you used to live in, airports, houses, etc...).
Using these existing memories is referred to as 'memory palace' (palaces are usually also well structured with many separate spaces) - now, the point is that since all memory is association, you can use existing memory structures (rooms, halls, stairways, etc) to store new information by using your imagination and associating new info with existing one.
Besides the spatial, we are also quite good in remembering how something happened - films, theatre, etc comes to mind. So you take something that we are not so good at and turn it into something we are good at: you use, for example well known room to put the objects that you would like to remember in places that you have a good memory with. Objects can be a coding system for cards, numbers or other less visual information that you would like to store.

Re:Shenanigans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35298382)

Well, the images will be something like "A clown hitting the Queen in the face with a giant goldfish". This is the sort of image that people will remember :)

They are deliberately fantastical so that they stick in the head. It wouldn't work if they were something boring.

Of course, if you don't want your memory filled with images of surreal events, you might want to look at other ways of remembering numbers (like a notebook).

Re:Shenanigans (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297682)

if they can reconstruct an image like it was, then they have a good 'photographic memory', however it's not just a 'photo' in memory that one would use to remember such. of course, if they can do that from memory then they're counted as gifted artists - but there's more to it than just printing it out dot by dot like a computer.

if someone claims to have a true always on photographic memory, you can always bust them by asking them if they remember your credit card number they've seen when you've used the card.

I remember all porn photographically like a ccd (1)

cheekyboy (598084) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298422)

Do you remember any porn stars?

How do they look in your head?

mmmmm

Could you draw it, and be accurate to 95%?

Just as a photo is not a 100% copy, but 99% or less. So is photomemory, yes its photo, but it could be low res, or blurerd or been in bad light.

You can still recall memories like photos. Or does your child hood look like static ?

Re:Shenanigans (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297924)

Having grown up with a guy who had a true photographic memory - I call shenanigans. I agree a person can train his memory to work remarkably better; but photographic memories are ... different. I don't know how to describe it, but It's pretty obviously not just a case of a well-trained brain.

Studies of savants indicate that some people truly have the ability to store an image in the mind essentially "uncompressed". Most of us tend to store a heavily compressed representation of an image in our minds, but some people can either bypass this normal processing, or don't seem to have it (the case with many savants). They can truly recall every little insignificant detail of an image without having to make any perceived special effort.

I've once seen a video where savant artist Stephen Wiltshire was taken for a 10 minute helicopter ride over London, and was able to draw images of the cityscape afterwards, down to individual windows of buildings.
http://www.stephenwiltshire.co.uk/ [stephenwiltshire.co.uk]

So yes. Photographic memories are indeed different.

Re:Shenanigans (1)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298388)

I've once seen a video where savant artist Stephen Wiltshire was taken for a 10 minute helicopter ride over London, and was able to draw images of the cityscape afterwards, down to individual windows of buildings.
http://www.stephenwiltshire.co.uk/ [stephenwiltshire.co.uk]

So yes. Photographic memories are indeed different.

Cool link, thanks for sharing.

He's drawing Tokyo now... pretty neat.
[ http://www.stephenwiltshire.co.uk/Tokyo_Panorama_by_Stephen_Wiltshire.aspx [stephenwiltshire.co.uk] ]

-AI

Re:Shenanigans (2)

Xest (935314) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297976)

I believe I have a photographic memory, although I couldn't be sure, because I haven't had a different memory to be able to tell the difference.

What I can say with absolute certainty is that I can recall certain scenes which I have seen and somewhat visualise an image in my mind of that scene. I can't recall detail- I couldn't look at a book page and recall every word on the page, but I can walk down a street, and think back to that scene and say "Yeah, there was a red Ford Mondeo turning left, I was on the left hand footpath, there was a coop shop to my left, 1ft by 1ft square gray paving slabs, a girl crossing the road with a grey top and a pink pushchair, a blue Renault Clio parked up in front of me".

I don't really have any control over what I remember in this manner or what I can recall- I cannot recall what my dinner looked like for example but I know I had a chips (UK chips), beans and sausages. I can however randomly remember a scene from when I was driving to work yesterday morning- in this scene I was just passing the road sign for the village I was passing through to my left, I was coming up to the brow of a hill with a white van coming towards me on the other side with it's lights on. and a junction to the right in front of the van leading up a steep hill. It was just before the sun was really starting to rise so my car lights were on, the sky was a dark blue, slightly lighter towards the visible horizon. Why did I remember this scene? I've no idea.

I do find I can force myself to recall a random photographic memory, which I hadn't even realised I'd remembered. I do sometimes find I think of one randomly when I'm bored. I do find I can force myself to remember a scene to an extent. The image I described just now for example I remember randomly recalling at work yesterday whilst MSVC was compiling, and I was able to recall it again now at will for this example. I do think those things I passively remember in this photographic way are probably related to stress levels- if I do remember a random image it's likely that a lot was going on in it, or that someone was driving like an idiot and nearly crashing into me- and yes, here's one that'll amuse the Slashdot crowd, the goatse image is engraved in my memory and I can, unfortunately recall it at will along with a couple of other pictures I've had the misfortune to see on the internet that I perhaps wish I could un-see, but as I'm neither squeamish nor do I recall recalling those images randomly at any point it's thankfully not a big deal.

It's certainly not just a case of recalling what was in the scene but being able to visualise it and then pull information from that visualisation in my mind. This is why I presume I have a photographic memory.

Whether someone can train themselves in this way I've no idea, it's just something that's always been naturally possible to me.

Re:Shenanigans (1)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298450)

I believe I have a photographic memory, although I couldn't be sure, because I haven't had a different memory to be able to tell the difference.

What I can say with absolute certainty is that I can recall certain scenes which I have seen and somewhat visualise an image in my mind of that scene. I can't recall detail- I couldn't look at a book page and recall every word on the page, but I can walk down a street, and think back to that scene and say "Yeah, there was a red Ford Mondeo turning left, I was on the left hand footpath, there was a coop shop to my left, 1ft by 1ft square gray paving slabs, a girl crossing the road with a grey top and a pink pushchair, a blue Renault Clio parked up in front of me".

It's certainly not just a case of recalling what was in the scene but being able to visualise it and then pull information from that visualisation in my mind. This is why I presume I have a photographic memory.

Whether someone can train themselves in this way I've no idea, it's just something that's always been naturally possible to me.

Hate to burst your [memory] bubble. But that's as far from photographic
memory as that Mondeo is from being a Ferrari.

That's unfortunately... just average memory. I can recall every car and
type in the bank parking lot when I went this afternoon.

How many people were at the bank... what they were doing, what was
on that insidious TV in there, etc.

What I cannot tell you is... license plate numbers (if it was photographic,
I'd be listing those).

Can't tell you lipstick color of the tellers. I can tell you in detail about the
banker helping me... mainly cause she had atrocious taste in clothes and
jewelry and it made a big stinkin impression on my brain, lol.

Oddly enough (I have a strong 'counting' memory) I can tell you about
every feature of the ceiling in the second bank I went to. That banker
left for about 3 min... and I became intrigued with the anti-bank-robbery-
movie-registers in the ceiling. They are 3" wide by the length of a standard
ceiling acoustic tile. 5 across the area I was sitting, 7, 7, 9, 3 were the
remaining sequences. 3 strobes, 9 motion sensors, etc.

But that was just being bored... nothing overly special (except the counts
fall into my head, I don't have to physically count them)

True photographic memory, as the name implies, carries with it photographic
detail. Detail you can 'push-in' on.

No worries tho mate... I rtfa and you too can have better memory -=)

And post 35298244 is a really good start for research. (lol, on the opposite
side of the spectrum of having 'auto-counts' going on in my head... I for the
life of me cannot remember number sequences anymore. I only had 4 out of
8 of those right, haha, so I'll be researching those links too.)

-AI

fixed it for him (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297580)

'Photographic memory is a detestable myth. IN MY MIND this doesn't exist. In fact, my memory is quite average,'

I fixed Cooke's quote. Interesting how he things he is a psychologist now he has his palaces. I am quite willing to believe that a good memory is trainable.
I probably use a similar trick to memorize many things. But the conclude that therefore there is no such thing as an eidetic memory is ridiculous. The wikipedia article on this topic discusses some of the reasons for his statement (people tend to confuse things).

I have been living in various Asian countries for the last 5 years, and without practicing, picked up quite a lot of Chinese characters. In fact, compared to my wife, who is actively studying them, I can probably recognize more of them. I simply have a good mind for pictures. It is not as good as some people I met, but it is an (probably) inherent ability to remember detailed images.

  I guess that when I could efficiently convert numbers into images, this would help me remember other stuff better. But I am not sure the capacity to remember images itself well could be trained to that extent. I am certainly not converting them into palaces or anything.

Re:fixed it for him (1)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297608)

Interesting you mention this. I haven't traveled to any Asian countries, but I did study Mandarin for a short while and I used that exact concept to help me memorize them. I broke down each character, root, stem, whatever I could and assigned some kind of a picture association with it and then I could remember "broken window next to leaning tree" and then make the associations with the pronunciation and meaning of the character.

Trudeau's "tree list" also has helped me memorize phone numbers and more importantly, IP addys and port numbers and line commands. Stuff really does work with very little effort.

Re:fixed it for him (1)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297652)

I have been living in various Asian countries for the last 5 years, and without practicing, picked up quite a lot of Chinese characters. In fact, compared to my wife, who is actively studying them, I can probably recognize more of them. I simply have a good mind for pictures. It is not as good as some people I met, but it is an (probably) inherent ability to remember detailed images.

This particular instance demonstrates that you've got a capacity for picking up the characters of the language, but does bear some difference; there's a linguistic aspect to it (as opposed to, say, memorizing a deck of cards); there's a bit more at work than just simple rote memorization or symbols, as those symbols have a meaning that is important. If you were presented these symbols outside of the linguistic context (i.e., if you didn't know the language existed), it might well be more difficult--for both you, and your wife--to recall the structure of those symbols.

Re:fixed it for him (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297656)

To add some to this (and I cannot edit): IMHO most of the current antagonism against photographic memory seems to come from the fact that
there is no clear and good definition of the term. Almost any above-average way of remembering pictures is explained in another way. Above I accidentally used "eidetic", instead of photographic, mostly because I personally think it should be classified as a type of photographic memory, but this is controversial.

A useful citation, perhaps. (4, Informative)

Dr_Ish (639005) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297590)

The claims here are basically sound. The Medievals had a problem with both literacy and the cost of writing materials. Should anyone want to know more about 'older' memory systems, I would recommend, Curruthers, M. (1990), *The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture*, Cambridge U.P. This book is not only fascinating, it is also well written.

Sometimes, reinventing, or rediscovering something is useful, I seem to recall. *grin*

Re:A useful citation, perhaps. (2)

spaTh (1991010) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297856)

Another remarkable book on the subject is "The Art of Memory" by Frances A. Yates - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_Memory [wikipedia.org]

Re:A useful citation, perhaps. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297986)

Also check "The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci" [nytimes.com] by Jonathan D. Spence and "The Art of Memory" [wikipedia.org] by Frances A. Yates.

Wow, that's... I mean, that's just dumb. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297594)

Of course photographic memory exists. It's well-studied, and has wildly different characteristics than what these guys are talking about. Eidetic memory doesn't take time to memorize things, it just always remembers them. You don't need a minute to memorize a deck of cards, you just spread them out and then you will always know what they were, even months later. ... Note that it's very rare and apparently not very good for the rest of your cognitive function.

Re:Wow, that's... I mean, that's just dumb. (1)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297932)

I have photographic memory. Too bad it never developed!

Most of the images are out of focus anyway.

No photographic memory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297616)

I'm not sure how he generalizes to the rest of the population, but on elementary school tests I, personally, can remember reading science answers off mental images of the textbook pages.

I only remember that fact NOW because I had a couple teachers grill me as to why my phrasing was identical to the book's... :/

Does anybody remember (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297624)

Kevin Trudeau

After watching his 'Mega memory' infomercial enough times I could remember all the items on the list too.

"Photographic" is a misnomer. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297638)

It is an eidetic memory.

-- Dr. Sheldon Cooper

Re:"Photographic" is a misnomer. (2)

Aeternitas827 (1256210) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297674)

Bazinga.

That's great (4, Interesting)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297658)

I've heard all this before. You can make cute little memory associations that will let you easily remember a really long number, or a sequence of cards, or whatever.

That's great if you want to amaze your friends or count cards in Vegas, but i don't think that's going to be of much practical use in my day to day life. Certainly not compared to the effort required. What i really need is a way to remember how i solved a particular programming problem six months ago. Or what the best algorithm is for a particular task. Things that can't be summed up as a simple number. Some people get asked "do you know how to do X" and they say "Why yes! I dealt with that six months ago, and this is how you solve the problem!" When posed with the same question i usually say "Uh, i dealt with something like that six months ago, let me see if i wrote it down in my notes." If that fails (which it often does, since i can never be sure what i'll need to remember later at the time that it happens) i'll spend fifteen minutes (or more) searching through old code trying to remind myself how exactly i dealt with it.

So some people (namely me) have far worse than average memory (which definitely implies there are others with far better than average memory, despite what he says) but his method certainly isn't going to help me, and i can't think of any kind of simple training that would.

Re:That's great (1)

lannocc (568669) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297748)

I find that memory recall success is all about organization.

Re:That's great (3, Funny)

Enigma23 (460910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298342)

I find that memory recall success is all about organization.

Well, that's me screwed then, given what a smeghole my bedroom is...

Re:That's great (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297758)

Have you ever tried learning Chinese, Japanese or Korean?

Re:That's great (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297808)

This is me exactly, except 6 months is being far too generous. Six days is about my limit, and that's just for the abstract of what transpired, not the details. It's not that I have no recollection of the experiences whatsoever (although that's sometimes the case), but rather that I can't recall them at will, and I usually end up retracing my steps. I may remember that A lead to B, and I'll investigate B, only to rediscover that B was a dead end and I had to explore C.

Re:That's great (1)

GospelHead821 (466923) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298406)

I'm much the same way but I compensate readily by taking good notes. The guy in the article talks about how computers, books, etc. have mitigated the need for natural memory. Certainly, that's the case for me but I don't perceive a "bad memory" as a hindrance. I see it as an opportunity to make the most of the tools at my disposal. I may have to retrace my steps but they're really well-documented steps. At work, in particular, I date- and time-stamp every phone call that I get. If somebody calls back a few days later and says they talked to me "on Tuesday," I just flip back to Tuesday in my notebook and my information is complete. I'd like to think that this means that I'm not wasting brainpower on memorization and can dedicate it instead to analysis and intuition. Anecdotally, my critical and analytical functions are much better than my memory.

Disclaimer: Correlation does not imply causation and I am only one point of data. My analytical function might remain just as strong as it is now if I were to fully develop my memory. Or perhaps it would be even stronger for having moved memory from a high-latency format like my notebook into my brain. Or perhaps having a busy, analytical brain causes poor memory, rather than the other way around. Or perhaps the two functions are completely unrelated. I'm no neurobiologist. I just happen to enjoy the philosophy of "how thinking works."

Re:That's great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297814)

Have you tried applying these techniques to things that can't be summed up by a simple number?

After solving a particular programming problem or learning a new algorithm, why don't you try breaking it down into steps and spend some time committing them to memory. You could turn each step in the algorithm into a detailed image/scene, link them all together into a story and then relate that somehow to the type of problem you solve with it. When you see that type of problem again, recalling the story will walk you through all of the steps you need to solve it.

Of course, doing this can take time and effort at first but the more you do it, the better at it you get. If you have a far worse than average memory then to improve it, you will need to use cute little memory associations, mnemonics, a blog, better organised notes, tattoos, whatever works for you.

Re:That's great (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297938)

or he could simply get on with his life.
science works by carefully writing down the steps to a process that gets you from the question to the answer. you publish what you write, and then you go on to a different problem.
the important aspect is to keep all the writings comprehensible, and check that they work. not to remember them. if someone is interested in previous results, they have to go to the published report, and retrace the steps.
if some particular result is useful, it will be used so many times that the user will memorize it. but it's not worth the effort of memorizing everything on the off chance that you might need it. only astronauts need that kind of comitment.

Re:That's great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297946)

Or what the best algorithm is for a particular task. Things that can't be summed up as a simple number

Real programmers encode their programs with their Goedel numbers, and can then easily transform them into an image of Monica Lewinsky eating a tight pair of jeans.

Re:That's great (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298036)

You can make cute little memory associations that will let you easily remember a really long number, or a sequence of cards, or whatever.

Recently for a job interview I knew there'd be tests that involved memorizing letter/number combinations. I was on the plane ride to the interview when I read off a webpage a method to do those associations. It worked great, but I didn't get the job: I guess other people had more than one hour to learn and practice ! Or maybe memory wasn't everything and job competency was actually required !!! Anyway, as an engineer it's a lot more important for me to remember the order of magnitude of a value than the exact value in day to day life.

Re:That's great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35298308)

I've tried techniques like mnemonics, visualising a story or creating associations. Unfortunately, I have a problem with that: I often can't remember the mnemomics themselves, or what the mnemonics stand for, or the story/associations. It's probably why I can't memorise scripts (even short ones), or the punchline to a joke, or the lyrics to my favourite songs.

I'm very good at overviews of things, and how to find the specifics, which has proved a useful and more important alternative as you mention.

Re:That's great (1)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298492)

I've tried techniques like mnemonics, visualising a story or creating associations. Unfortunately, I have a problem with that: I often can't remember the mnemomics themselves, or what the mnemonics stand for, or the story/associations.

Rtfa, that's what it's about..

Memory Palaces are where you store the mnemonic associations
thus creating a stronger visual inference plus a way to locate them
(loci method)

Read post, 35298244, many good links for research on there.

-AI

The Secrets revealed... (2)

meburke (736645) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298116)

Do not underestimate the power of mnemonics; They can greatly improve your performance in anything you do!

My first memory course was, "You Can Remember" by Dr. Bruno Furst. It came in a slipcover with twelve small lessons and a "dictionary" that converted numbers to mnemonics. It was advertised extensively in Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and Mechanix Illustrated magazines in the 50's and 60's. I used some of those techniques for years, but I did not get really interested in memory systems until my 20's. I found a book called, "How to Develop a Super-Power Memory" by Harry Lorayne. I found it very useful, and it is the first book I ever owned I only had to read once to remember the contents. Since then I've acquired a good number of books on mnemonics, and, although there is much repetition from book to book, I occasionally find a new approach or insight that helps my learning.

If you are a student I reccommend, "Brainbooster" by Finkle, along with a general memory book such as, "How to Develop a Super-Power Memory" (Lorayne), "The Memory Book" (Lorayne and Lucas), "Use Your Perfect Memory" (Buzan), or "Learning How to Learn" (Lucas).

At one time a mnemonist named Dan Mikels memorized the entire LA phone book. My favorite of his practical contributions are, "Speed Spanish (I-III)" available from National Dynamics ( http://www.nationaldynamics.com/ [nationaldynamics.com] ) and his mentorship of the SuperCamp ( http://www.supercamp.com/ [supercamp.com] ). I have had a number of friends who learned highly-passable Spanish (and other languages) in three weeks to a month.

"Dr. Blair's Spanish in No Time" (and other languages) builds extensively on memory techniques.

Jerry Lucas (former NBA player and Phi Beta Kappa member) has written some cool courses for himself and his company, Lucas Learning Systems. His book on Spanish is outstanding, He has a great book on "Becoming a Math Wizard", and even has an extensive program to memorize the New Testament. I'm a little disappointed that he didn't complete his series on grammar (I didn't even know there were 58 rules for capitalization!), and I wish he had written more on other subjects.

Pick up a book like, "50 Economics Ideas Everyone Should Know" or "Science 1001" and use the peg techniques to create mnemonic links to the ideas in such a way you will never forget them. This will give you a foundation for expanding your knowledge in a very practical way.

Re:The Secrets revealed... (1)

damaged_sectors (1690438) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298346)

I have had a number of friends who learned highly-passable Spanish (and other languages) in three weeks to a month.

How does that compare with the intensive immersion courses? Do you friends think in their second language?

On a separate note I learned to memorize faces - you just practice describing someone to yourself, after about a week it becomes a habit, just like mental summarizing during cramming sessions.

Re:That's great (1)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298208)

So some people (namely me) have far worse than average memory (which definitely implies there are others with far better than average memory

Okay Mr. Glass, you now know your purpose in life... to find the man with a memory opposite of yours... to discover this great champion of human memory. To find this man... you must be willing to make great sacrifices.

Re:That's great (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298384)

Sometimes, skills that take effort to master can have value, even if it's not directly obvious before you've mastered them. Take mental arithmetic. It takes kids a lot of effort to learn the rules and (years of) practice with it, but then, besides being able to divide 720 by 15 in their heads like Rain Man, they can also do amazing things like give and take the correct change in a shop, without having to whip out a pocket calculator.

Just the other day I bought an item worth $6 and gave the girl at the counter a $10 bill and a $1 coin.... She literally didn't know what to do with the coin, tried to give it back to me several times, took out a calculator to type in the amount, even the customer behind me got involved until she understood that I wanted a $5 bill back. This is just sad. I don't care about the time wasted, but the girl is basically a cripple in a narrow but important area of her life.

Memory is one of those skills that can make life a breeze the more one is able to rely on it. It has far more practical value than merely doing parlor tricks.

Re:That's great (1)

cfriedt (1189527) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298486)

For the reasons you mentioned specifically, but also for a couple of other reasons stemming from lots and lots of contract work, I actively choose NOT to remember how I did X six months ago. Realistically, if most of us remembered "off the top of our heads" every algorithm devised over the last 6 months, then we probably wouldn't have much left in the way of short term memory for e.g. devising new algorithms, interacting effectively with human beings, you know - important things.

Makes sense (3, Insightful)

IICV (652597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297664)

This makes sense - after all, we've had culture for far* longer than we've had writing, and it stands to reason that effective transmission of information across generational boundaries would be an evolutionarily beneficial trait.

People seem to forget that millions of years of evolution must have left a mark on us; the entirety of recorded history so far is nothing but a strange coda to an evolutionary record that spans an unimaginable depth of time, and for almost all of that deep time the only way to maintain knowledge (a gigantic evolutionary advantage!) was for someone to memorize it.

*by "far" I mean on the order of a hundred thousand years

Re:Makes sense (1)

kieran (20691) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298490)

1. Evolution *is* memory. (Some of) what works and what doesn't gets wired in.

2. Have we really been transmitting information across generational boundaries using language all that much longer (in evolutionary terms) than we've been writing?

Who doesn't? (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297716)

Doesn't exist.

What? The subject?

I read a similar story in a magazine recently (3, Interesting)

toygeek (473120) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297720)

It offered real techniques that simply work. I adapted some of it to help me remember names. For a friend named Carice, I imagined her careening down an icy road with a look of terror on her face. Car + Ice = Carice.

Another, Flo (real name!) I couldn't remember so I picked out that she has to use oxygen. The oxygen "flo's" into her nose.

Simple things like that really do work, it doesn't have to be elaborate.

Oh, another one. I kept mixing up the names of two brothers who looked very much alike, except that one was much taller than the other (about 6'6"). So, I looked at their names: Lewis and Drake. On an alphabet counted upwards from the bottom, Lewis is higher than Drake! Great, so the tall one is Lewis.

I would love to remember more things that aren't easy to remember automagically. Like, why do I remember that a MIG 25 used drone engines with a overhaul time of 100hrs and that mach 3 would kill the engines in short order, but can't remember the process for some stupid Windows thing that I do every other day? Seems like my head is full of useless trivia, but when I think about those things guess what pops into my head? Images.

Images + association = Memory.

Re:I read a similar story in a magazine recently (2)

bronney (638318) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297816)

lol good stuff! :) I might give this a try but for Chinese name, I am running out of bongs!! :D

Re:I read a similar story in a magazine recently (5, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297904)

Those are "techniques"? In that case I've been using "techniques" since I was born. I have a notoriously terrible "memory" but actually I can remember just about anything people ask me to.

I remember my card PINs through their differences between successive digits (up 2, down 1, up 6, etc.). With that and simple PINs that I'm allocated, it's very difficult *NOT* to find an obscure but simple pattern that then sticks in my memory. I'm a mathematician, I can find a pattern in any list of numbers you happen to give me if I try hard enough.

More likely, my hand remembers the pattern to type on a ATM keypad (which is annoying when all you have is a numpad because they are upside-down to each other, and even worse when you have to close your eyes and "tap out" the numbers in order to remember what they actually were)

I'm currently learning Italian. When a word doesn't come from a Latin base, linking it to its English analogue is tricky so it's simpler to make up some association than it is to remember the word. The Italian for "where" is "dove" (which is pronounced a little like "duvet"). Where's the dove? Under the duvet. I can't forget it or get it confused with when, why, how or who. When an Italian wants me to say "Where", I link dove, duvet and the image/sound of my girlfriend saying that word on the phone one day. (Still doesn't mean I can pronounce it properly, though!)

But this "memorise tons by associating with a bizarre image" thing is DECADES old. It doesn't work for me, and I've tried many times. I honestly have zero problems memorising huge strings of digits, or facts, or words, or images, or faces, or even sounds if I need to.

I can recite the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, and I can say pi to 32 decimal places without even blinking an eyelid, entirely from memory and the last time I *committed* them to memory was when I was 14/15 (yeah, I was a geeky kid). I could probably read out every line from the largest AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS that I ever had, too.

I can do the balcony scene because we were told to memorise it for English class and we would be performing it in front of the class the next day. I still know every word. I can remember pi because I went through a phase of writing computer programs to calculate it and it was simpler to have it stuck in my mind to see how fast they converged. I can do the AUTOEXEC.BAT because I wrote the thing and changed it every day for a year in order to get *anything* to run and ended up with a set of "perfect" configs. I can still remember whole conversations from primary school, and weird things like what my dad said to me on a trip I took when I was 8 and things like that.

It just matters more which type of learner you are - teachers have been teaching to a certain number of learning styles for DECADES - visual (has to see / imagine something to learn it), tactile (has to play / touch something to learn a principle), auditory (has to hear something to learn it), etc. and any decent teacher knows which of their kids are which style and how best to explain new problems to them.

The problem I have is that on every "learning styles" quiz that I've ever done I come out as every learning style evenly. So does my brother, who also went to university. That means that mere exposure to something is enough for me to learn it which means I pick up lots of useless information and my memory doesn't get any "special" exercise - it just does it's job and doesn't have to struggle for *anything* that I'm interested in. If I'm not interested in it, though, it struggles because I have to physically commit it to memory, but then it's there forever.

The problem with random memorisation is that I just don't care enough about it to memorise it specifically, and thus often miss the entire opportunity when the information is exposed to me of committing it to memory (e.g. people's face - I work in schools so I see thousands of unique faces every day and it's not worth me memorising even 1% of them, so I don't remember any except the people I interact with every day - I've worked with some of those people for 5 years, though!). So if I don't have a reason to remember something, my memory simply won't bother to take it in. Thus I don't *care* what the phone number for my office is because I never have to dial it, but I can name almost every component and specification of every computer I ever had, down to the model name. I also play "word games" such as putting thing in alphabetical order (or otherwise) in order to remember which is which, like remembering that Lewis is "higher up the alphabet". That works quite well and I discovered that myself when I was a kid.

When I was in school, one of my classmates said I "knew too much". I said I didn't learn that much, I just absorbed information. He rushed to a poster on the wall of a class that I'd only been in a few times. It was a poster of the space shuttle, and it was among dozens of other posters. He covered the poster (and I was too far away to read the tiny print on it anyway - you couldn't read it unless you specifically *wanted* to read that poster and came up to it) and asked me how many thrusters/engines it had. I just said seven. It was exactly what the poster said. I didn't "guess", my memory just supplied the number to me. I'd never read that poster, but it was a random poster amongst dozens that I'd walked past in that room on the handful of occasions that I'd been in there. I don't even know if the answer is actually correct, but I got the same answer as that poster. My brain had absorbed it and, when prompted, supplied the answer. If I hadn't been given the answer, I wouldn't have tried to guess (but I'd probably have gone for three, myself).

The problem I have is that memorising stuff is incredibly simple - it's just a matter of caring about the fact, or of repetition (I can tell you the number plate of a hire car that my father-in-law once had for two weeks several years ago and that I saw twice - because the hotel we stayed in wanted to know our registration and I had to run outside, memorise it, and come back to tell them). I find *recall* is the biggest problem.

That doesn't mean remembering when you are asked to remember something, but being reminded, by your brain, that you had to do something, or that you were supposed to meet someone at X o'clock, or that you had 4 things in your list to do today. If you ask me what was on that huge list that my girlfriend gave me to do today, I can tell you every item. Chances are, though, that if you didn't ask me my brain will never *prompt* me to recall the existence of the list. That's more frustrating (for me and everyone else) than anything else. Memorisation is piss-easy, just keep repeating it, put it to a tune, associate it with something you know, make it more daft, etc. and you'll do it. Let your mind play with it long enough, either through tricks or repetition, and it'll get ingrained on your neurons.

For me, it's being prompted to recall by my own mind that's the problem. Think about this - you can memorise huge lists of things to do tomorrow but when you get there, your brain "forgets" about the list, even when you get that "there's something I should be doing" feeling, and you end up sitting there doing nothing all day until ten minutes before you need to go home - and then you recall EVERYTHING you were supposed to do perfectly. It's horrible.

Now imagine you actually write down the list of things so it doesn't happen again and put it on your chair so you can't miss it. The next day, you walk in, pick up the note, are instantly reminded. You put the note on the table, go to the loo, come back and walk straight past the note several dozen times - even moving it out of the way, or putting something on it, or seeing the note but it not "registering" this time around. And still you don't get any of it done.

But memorisation? Just link it to something in your head. For you that's an image. For musicians, it would probably be a piece of music, or the voice of someone saying it. For some learners it's seeing it written down on paper (the list-makers). For others its having *written* the list - the physical act of touching the paper, not the list itself. There's no single technique that will work for everyone but there's always at least one that will work for each person. I know that if I make a list of things I don't care about, I tend to forget the things on it because I "know" I don't need to remember them - they are on the paper... which I then forget about entirely. My brain works quite strangely.

Once it's in there, you can recall it just by being asked. That's the *easy* bit. For me, once it's in there someone HAS to ask or it just lays in there for years, cropping up only at random times. I can remember my girlfriend's birthday without any problems at all. But I never know the date, and even looking at a huge calendar with today's date clearly marked won't necessarily mean I'll link that to my girlfriend's birthday being that date. And I only "check" what the date is about once a month when I have the sudden panic that maybe I've missed something important in the meantime. By then, it's often too late.

Memorisation is dead-simple. You just need to care about memorising it, either through interest, or self-determination and repetition. It's recall at the right time that's tricky.

Re:I read a similar story in a magazine recently (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298092)

I remember my card PINs through their differences between successive digits (up 2, down 1, up 6, etc.)

Wow, that was remarkably revealing (and, I trust, utterly fake): +2,-1,+6 = +7. This means that the sequence is either 1328 or 2439... unless you let it count multi-digit numbers.

Still, a clever way to remember it!

Re:I read a similar story in a magazine recently (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35298112)

So, you see a girl whose name you don't remember...

Now you have to remember: is this the girl who is careening down an icy road, or is this the girl that has to breathe oxygen?

I don't see how adding an extra step in the process helps!?

Re:I read a similar story in a magazine recently (1)

damaged_sectors (1690438) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298374)

It offered real techniques that simply work. I adapted some of it to help me remember names. For a friend named Carice, I imagined her careening down an icy road with a look of terror on her face. Car + Ice = Carice.

Another, Flo (real name!) I couldn't remember so I picked out that she has to use oxygen. The oxygen "flo's" into her nose.

Simple things like that really do work, it doesn't have to be elaborate.

Oh, another one. I kept mixing up the names of two brothers who looked very much alike, except that one was much taller than the other (about 6'6"). So, I looked at their names: Lewis and Drake. On an alphabet counted upwards from the bottom, Lewis is higher than Drake! Great, so the tall one is Lewis.

I would love to remember more things that aren't easy to remember automagically. Like, why do I remember that a MIG 25 used drone engines with a overhaul time of 100hrs and that mach 3 would kill the engines in short order, but can't remember the process for some stupid Windows thing that I do every other day? Seems like my head is full of useless trivia, but when I think about those things guess what pops into my head? Images.

Images + association = Memory.

I did a speed reading course in my youth, that was the (neurolinguistic) technique they taught, it still works for me.

It seems risky at first, but it's never failed me eg. meeting new people on job sites - this is John Dwibble (dick nose, cos he's got a large nose) - I always remember the name, and even drunk I've never accidentally said the word I used to remember them.

Not what I expected... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297722)

I seriously thought that a Sunday supplement advertiser had slipped some spam through the net and expected to see something asking for me to send money for more information.

I have memory palaces, I just can't remember where they are.

What is it really about?! (1)

domatavus (1927700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297736)

The summary is a bit misleading. I did read the article and it contains a long enumeration of historical facts and stories about mnemonics, then goes over to describing the training of Joshua Foer and finally says something about his win of the 2006 WMC.

Each year someone — usually a competitor who is temporarily underemployed or a student on summer vacation — comes up with a more elaborate technique for remembering more stuff more quickly, forcing the rest of the field to play catch-up.

So Ed Cooke, did not really invent a fundamentally new method. He just adjusted an existing method a little bit. Although I must acknowledge that he is quite a good athlete (http://memocamp.de/highscore?type=user&user=118&daten=wrl [memocamp.de] ). While that other guy from the article, Joshua Foer, has not participated in any championship since 2006 (http://memocamp.de/highscore?type=user&user=197&daten=wrl [memocamp.de] ).

Joshua Foer is the author of “Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything,” from which this article is adapted, to be published by Penguin Press next month.

So I guess the article is just about promoting that book. Because Foer is not a memory athlete anymore. (Not even in the worlds top100: http://memocamp.de/highscore?daten=wrl&type=gesamt [memocamp.de] )

What if you don't have a Mind's Eye? (3, Insightful)

oluckyman (2002794) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297756)

This technique is useless for those like me who have no mind's eye. (Yes, I experience mental images in dreams, but I can't even summon up a circle when awake.) This affliction runs so much against the grain of modern theories of vision and thought (inter alia) that even the experts dispute its existence. See http://www.imagery-imagination.com/non-im.htm [imagery-imagination.com] and the references. I've never met anyone else with the condition, but I should get out more. I'm guessing it occurs more often among IT people, but who knows? Any fellow Slashdotters with me on this?

Re:What if you don't have a Mind's Eye? (1)

Suelyn (83652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297950)

I know exactly what you mean. I have the same problem, except I don't even get mental images in dreams - my memory works more along the lines of remembering the actions (I learn very well by doing). I do think that it's fairly uncommon though - I had a specialist freak out a little over it when I mentioned it during an unrelated health issue (as if there was actually something wrong with me).
This makes a technique such as this completely useless to people like me, since I can't store the picture in my memory.

Re:What if you don't have a Mind's Eye? (1)

oluckyman (2002794) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298034)

Great to meet you! Wow, no images in dreams -- that's really out there! I think you'll find the material at the link I gave interesting. I have all sorts of theories based on my own experience. Yes, remembering actions is a way we cope. I find myself moving my finger or foot or head or whatever to think of things like (drawing) circles. My memory of distant past events is extremely weak compared to others': many fewer memories, all weak -- nothing vivid or even close. I have trouble recognizing the same character in a movie. I have very high verbal intelligence but am hopeless at visual tasks of course. Anything mechanical defeats me. Do these ring true for you?

Re:What if you don't have a Mind's Eye? (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298284)

I can't imagine what it must be like not to use images in thought. So I'm curious (not trolling): how do you handle text? Reading various fonts, handwriting, typing...
In the end, written symbols are drawings. Mathematically, they are curves with specific properties. In order to recognise them, you are using those properties in some way, so you are "postprocessing" the visual data in some way. I would be curious (as a programmer) to find out what it is your brain is actually doing, taking into account that it's apparently not very good at handling images.

Re:What if you don't have a Mind's Eye? (1)

Puff_Of_Hot_Air (995689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298428)

I too am a programmer, but cannot see things in my head. To answer some of yor questions, I hear all written words as I read them. I am equally curious about how a visual person tackles abstract thought. There are many concepts that cannot be pictured (for instance in mathematics), how do your grapple with them? For me, all thought that is not text is symbolic (closest word I can think of to get the gist), so things like algebra came very easy. Do you revert to a different mode of thought if you can't picture something?

Re:What if you don't have a Mind's Eye? (1)

Puff_Of_Hot_Air (995689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298476)

Actually now that I think about it, surely the brain must store and process all images in some symbolic fashion. The amount of data would otherwise be ludicrous, imagine developing such a naive image recognition system. I suspect that what happens is that visual people such as yourself can rebuild (an approximation) of the original picture from the stored symbols. My brain is just broken in that way, and works in with the raw symbols. Gave me an advantage with maths though.

Re:What if you don't have a Mind's Eye? (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298146)

I don't remember anything through images. I can't conjure up an image. I have never remembered anything through imagery. I just have abstract ideas, connected together by some smooth flow of thoughts guided by manipulation rules. This means that what comes naturally to many people is difficult to me. On the other hand, what is much harder to other people - because they can't rely on imagery - is no harder for me than the simpler tasks. For example, I might find basic Euclidean geometry harder than the smart high schooler (I don't "see" anything or manipulate it in my head), but find non-Euclidean geometries no harder.

I'm sure it's unusual. It means some people seem to have very polarised views of me as either very smart or very dumb (why do people like pigeonholing so much?). I have consistently good results academically, but I know I work for it. I've got to the point where I'm annoyed when people talk about imagery to think and remember. Why should the brain work like that? We seem to know pretty much fuck all about how the brain engages in complex processes, and humans are all too happy when it comes to mental function to make sweeping statements to suit political aims from all sides. "We can all do it if we try hard enough" / "we're all the same, really" / "I am like this because I worked hard, you're just lazy!" / "I have a natural gift and I deserve to reap reward for it" etc. Yet you won't find many people saying that the difference between a fat slob and an olympic athlete is merely that the latter trains more.

Re:What if you don't have a Mind's Eye? (1)

locofungus (179280) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298278)

I'm the same. In fact, possibly a useful technique for me would be to turn images into numbers and then remember the number. It's not something I've ever considered trying to do.

I can still remember the telephone numbers of my grandparents more than 20 years after they died (and so I can guarantee that I've never used them since).

I can remember things like my bank account numbers and sort codes. I don't have "speed dials" programmed into my telephone because I can remember the full telephone number of anyone I want to call more than a couple of times (and it's very useful when you can just borrow someone's phone)

Erdos is supposed to have had a phenomenal memory for numbers - he is recounted as having looked up half a dozen telephone numbers, then had a half hour or more conversation and only then ring the numbers he'd looked up earlier.

One of the numbers I am having problems remembering is my credit card number. About six months ago I lost my card and I'm still getting confused about the number when I use it on a website and have to fish the card out of my wallet to check - partly at least because the first six digits are the same between the old and new card and the old number I'd had for many years.

I play the piano but I have great difficulty playing from memory. In fact, the few pieces I have learned from memory have been more "muscle memory" rather than note memory - which is a problem - if you go wrong it's difficult to impossible to recover. It would be like remembering long numbers by the difference between each digit. If you get one digit wrong then the entire rest of the number will be wrong. My sight reading is reasonable compared to my overall ability (although much less good than I would like) which is probably a contributory factor to finding playing from memory difficult.

Tim.

Re:What if you don't have a Mind's Eye? (1)

Puff_Of_Hot_Air (995689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298280)

Hey there brother! I too have the same problem as you. I see stuff in dreams, but cant picture anything awake. Kind of makes the descriptive stuff pretty pointless in books. I do find that I can "picture" (for want of a better term) somehow symbolically. As in, I can map directions in my head, or work out where everything is in my house in my head. I just can't do it visually, it's more like doing math. Do you experience anything like that? I also find I have a lot of trouble explaining things visually (as in with diagrams) to people at work (I'm a developer). Which I think is related. Feels like a disability some times, I think these visual people must be wielding enormous amounts of brain power to picture this stuff. I often wonder what it's like, what kind of resolution people see things at, whether the image is static... In some ways I think I may remember pictures more accurately because it is again symbolic. I can describe the picture to you, not from my minds eye, but because the description is how I remember it. Anyway, enough rambling; just glad there is someone else like me!

Good training book? (1)

Haffner (1349071) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297768)

This sounds interesting. Does anyone know of a good book that would help teach me this technique?

I wanted to make a comment about TFA (1)

crohan (1028032) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297792)

but now I cannot remember what it was :(

Memory vs Usage (1)

bug1 (96678) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297798)

I wonder if people with great memories are bad at actually processing information.

Like, if you can remember everything, why bother ever working stuff out for yourself...

If you cant remember much you have to work stuff out as you go.

Everything has its good and bad points.

Re:Memory vs Usage (1)

meburke (736645) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298172)

There is a difference between memory and skills. In order to do good Algebra you must have a specialized vocabulary of about 620 concepts and be able to make the distinctions among them. Using these tools is easier if you actually know what they are, but good usage comes from good practice.

Pants (1)

davidjgraph (1713990) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297830)

1 minute 40 seconds? Pile of pants America. In the WORLD memory championships [worldmemor...nships.com] it was done in 24 seconds.

post office civil service exam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297862)

Years ago, I took this written test. It contained a section allowing two minutes to memorize a series of street addresses, which was then followed by multiple choice questions which depended on recalling these addresses. Only two of the street names had the same first letter. All of the house numbers were four digits and multiples of one hundred. In addition to this, I matched the numbers to the quantity of hit points posessed by units in a Super Robot Taisen game (taking advantage of this existing mental database...) so I only had to remember something like "L-gaim, Kalvary Temple, Gundam Wing..."

(I declined the job though because it was required to be on call all week with only 8 hours guarenteed)

Junkyard of places (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297884)

Does memory places help people who forget where they left their keys (if not always leaving them in the same spot)?
How do "you" avoid getting your memmory totally messed up as in real life?
Thank god the memory doesnt smell ( unless you have the strawberry variant of tinitus )

All races are the same - sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297910)

Have any BLACKS ever won the 'USA Memory Championships'?

I don't mean 99% white, 1% black mulattoes, I mean BLACKS.

Still, it's more important that you pretend to want to live around non-whites, than that you save your children from a certain hell on earth once the non-whites become the MAJORITY in your own country.

Re:All races are the same - sure... (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298156)

If I was forced at gunpoint to be racist, I'd root for the race which doesn't engage in competitive behaviour. Relax and cooperate. Better to live 30 years in a friendly community than 60 among those who only want to step on you.

Parking Sensors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297960)

hi,

this is Philip Norton...

i would like to say that....
Parking Sensor [backup-sensor.com]

How to make money from your eidetic memory (2)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298014)

  1. Claim that you don't have one, and you're just a ordinary Joe with a secret sauce.
  2. Sell the recipe for your secret sauce to people who really don't have an eidetic memory.
  3. Profit!

PCMCIA and other acronyms (2)

codeButcher (223668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298030)

From the article:

They referred to themselves as mental athletes, or M.A.’s for short.

What's wrong? Can't remember the full name?

Super power memory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35298266)

I once read a book - How to get a super power memory or something like that. I forget the exact name :-)

But the ideas in that are quite workable. For example to remember a list (e.g. a shopping list), you create a mental image of fantastic events linking the items in the list.

For example: Eggs, Milk, Shampoo, Bread.

Imagine:
1. A huge chicken stomping on the super market.
2. The chicken laying cows instead of eggs
3. A Cow in your bathroom putting on shampoo
4. You vomit eating a shampoo sandwich.

Essentially you're building a linked list of strange images. It works surprisingly well. I've tried lists of 30 or more items and you can memories within a couple of minutes.

There are other things as well. Numbers from 0-9 have a letter (or more accurately a sound) associated with it:
0 - z, s
1 - t, d
2 - n
3 - m
4 - r
5 - l
6 - sh, j
7 - k, g
8 - f, v
9 - p, b

Vowels, h and w are ignored. Using these sounds you can make words (e.g. 25 could be Nail) so long streams of numbers can be memorised by linking these words together (like the shopping list).

Scientific Progress? Well. (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298294)

TFA: "Now Joshua Foer writes in the NY Times magazine (reg. may be required) that a 'skilled memory' can be acquired and proves ..."

News indeed. Prior art (e.g.): Egan and Schwartz (1979), Chunking in recall of symbolic drawings. Memory and Cognition, 7(2), 149-158.

And again someone who 'proves'.

CC.

Should we be less complacent about this (1)

Liambp (1565081) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298348)

now that we know that governments can turn off Google.

For some time now I have been happily reducing my reliance on both my memory and on paper records as I move all the stuff I need to remember over to digital storage. The pay-off for this is that "me+google+wikipedia" is smarter than "me+a few textbooks" and is a whole lot smarter than "me+ my half remembered facts from college".

The danger however is that should someone hit the fabled internet kill switch I would quickly revert from being 21st century cyber- man back into a clueless Neanderthal while the chap who has been learning tables of logarithms by rote would continue to thrive.

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