Arbitrary Actions vs. Person-Action-Object System (Part 3)

Back to the drawing board. While I work on developing a functional 2-card memory system with 2,652 images, I’m using a temporary 1-card system with 52 images.

The temporary card system uses an image of one person, animal, or object per card. It’s not a person-action-object (PAO) system.   I like the idea of flexible actions more than a rigid PAO system.

The problem that I’m having is that, when memorizing multiple decks using only 52 images, the images are repeating too frequently.  If I try to memorize two or three decks in a row, I sometimes get the images confused even if they are in different mental journeys. A pair of images might appear together in two different journeys and it becomes difficult to remember where I saw that combination.


The 8 of Clubs

With 52 images and a non-PAO system, a locus might contain:

An antelope pronking (2♦) on a piano (4♥) which collapses on an avocado (8♣), squashing it.

In another deck of cards in a different journey, the avocado might also appear in the same locus as either the piano or the antelope which sometimes makes the images from different decks overlap.

In a PAO system, where a slightly different order completely changes the image, or in a double card system that has 2652+ images, I’m guessing that there is little chance of seeing the same images together when memorizing multiple decks of cards.

My conclusion from this experiment is that a system for memorizing cards that has only 52 images and no compound images probably isn’t ideal for memorizing multiple decks of cards. If I’m going to memorize multiple decks (which is required during practice) with a 1-card system, I need to make it a PAO system.

Photo of avocado © avlxyz under Creative Commons License.


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  • Hey Josh,
    I actually thought this when I first started out and its eventually what led me to switch to a PAO system. But now when I do my old PA system once in a while to switch things up I don’t get confused anymore. I guess over the months of practice your brain learns to really make each image unique. Avoiding confusions. Just my experience, thought I’d mention it.


  • Thanks for the tip. I’ve been wondering what would happen if different systems were mixed up. Do your PA and PAO systems have the same images/phonetics?

    I just tried to memorize another deck this evening and ended up with the antelope and the piano in the same locus again. With my current method, it seems like almost every deck will have some overlap with another deck. This weekend I’m going to make it a PAO system — only three months left before I have to put it into action under pressure. 🙂

  • I was curious too, that’s why I tried switching back to PA system to see. Its actually more fun for me than the PAO system and I feel like I can create images much quicker (because of the freedom the action lends itself too). The only problem is I have 26 images to go through…..its a bit exhausting compared to 17 with the PAO. And I never quite got any faster with PA than my current PAO system. Close, but no. So I stick with PAO for general practice. I actually have been practicing a hybrid method that combines the two. I do the first 12 loci with PAO and then the rest I speed through with PA. It was the potential to be an awesome strategy if I can control my speed through it. What tends to happen now is I get so anxious about my speed that I end up thinking about it the whole time Im memorizing, so I go slower lol. So we’ll see. The point is, is that the two methods dont get confusing at all. Maybe its because I’ve been doing it for so long or maybe its because I know my images really well. Who knows. How are your card memorization times? Are you under 5 minutes yet!?

  • That’s an interesting idea. I redid my entire original system from scratch because I changed the phonetics and wanted my two digit system to match my three digit system. I thought that mixing two phonetic systems would confuse me, but maybe it wouldn’t in the end…

    My goal at the beginning of this week was to reach five minutes by tomorrow, but I’ve been under some much stress from work that I couldn’t even successfully memorize a single deck in the past two days. (I need a new line of work. :))

    I’ve only used this new system on cards for about a week so I still have to think about the images. I’m hoping I can hit three minutes by March once I am more familiar with the images, but I don’t know what is realistic.