Playing Games With Memory




Wander Around Your House

What do I need?

  • A little imagination
  • A familiar place to walk around -- like your house
  • A piece of paper and a pencil
  • Optional: A timer or a clock with a second hand and someone to tell you when two minutes are up

What do I do?

On the next web page, there are pictures of 10 different things. This experiment is a little harder than the last one, so we decided to start small. This experiment is a challenge, but it's worth trying. It's a very good way to remember a list of thing for a long time.

First, walk through your house and find 10 different places where you could put something. For instance, you could put something on the couch in the living room, the top of the TV set, on the counter in the kitchen, the refrigerator, the bathtub, your own bed, and so on.

Choose any 10 places you like, but make sure that you can walk from one to the next easily and in the same order every time. Spend a little bit of time imagining yourself walking from one place to another, looking at each one. Make sure that you can remember all 10 places.

Next, you'll click the GO button and look at the pictures on the next web page for two minutes.When you look at the pictures, imagine each object in one of the places in your house. For instance, maybe the bathtub was one of the places on your list. And suppose a duck was one of the things pictured on the next page. You could imagine a duck floating in the bathtub, surrounded by bubbles. The sillier the picture you imagine, the more likely you are to remember it.

Do the same thing for every other item on the list. Imagine yourself walking from one place to another in your house and seeing the things you've imagined.

Now try it.

Ready, set, GO!


Now write down as many of the things as you can remember on your piece of paper.

How did you do this time? Did you remember all 10? Click the Check button to see.



What's going on?

This trick helps you remember for the same reasons that telling yourself a story about the pictures helped you remember. You are connecting all these different things and you are picturing them in your mind.

With this trick you are doing one more thing: you are giving yourself a hint that helps you pull out the memory of something. Sometimes all you need to help you remember something is a little hint. When you think "bathtub," that tells you to remember "duck" (or whatever you put in your bathtub).

This memory trick was invented after a grisly event in ancient Greece. Back in around 500 BC, a Greek who won a wrestling match in the Olympic games celebrated by having a feast at his house. A man named Simonides gave a speech praising the wrestler, then he left the banquet hall. While he was out, the roof collapsed, crushing everyone inside. though the bodies of the guests were mangled beyond recognition, Simonides could remember where each person had been seated. By doing that, he could name all of the people who were at the feast. Knowing where each person was sitting helped him remember who was there.

Ah ha! Simonides realized that he could use his imagination and a set of locations to help him remember other things. The trick you just learned is the same as Simonides's trick -- but you used places in your house instead of seats at a banquet table.

Any time you need to remember a list, you can use the same set of locations in your house. One warning: creating a new list usually wipes out the old one. So if you need to remember more than one list you need to have more than one set of locations.

So Now What?

You can apply these techniques to whatever you want to remember. Suppose you need to buy these ten things at the store:

1) toilet paper
2) tomatoes
3) a loaf of bread
4) apples
5) hamburger buns

6) a box of corn flakes
7) lettuce
8) ice cream
9) cat food
10) spaghetti

You could make up a story about how you wrapped toilet paper around your head because someone was going to be dropping tomatoes from the balcony. You tucked pieces of bread into the toilet paper turban to attract birds out of the apple tree. And so on, until you have a silly story that has all the things on the list in it.

Or you could use your imagination to put these things all over your house, as you did in the "Wander Around Your House" trick. Imagine each item on the list in one of the places in your house. For instance, maybe the bathtub was the sixth place you chose. Corn flakes are the sixth item on your list, so think of a bathtub full of corn flakes, with milk pouring out from the faucet. The sillier the picture you imagine, the more likely you are to remember it. Do the same thing for every other item on the list.

Try these tricks when you have to remember a list of things -- whether it's stuff you need to buy at the store or vocabulary words for school -- and see how your memory improves!


Games       Memory

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