The USA’s Performance in Memory Competitions

The UK, Germany, and now China, have the highest number of record breaking mnemonists. The USA is still lagging behind. China had over 100 competitors in the last World Memory Championships, and the US had just one.

I’m predicting that in 3 to 5 years, the US will have the same high numbers of world-class mnemonists as the current the top countries. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, only that I think that memory techniques are about to explode in popularity here.

My goals don’t include trying to be the best at competitions, but they do include helping to popularize the techniques in the US.  I’ve been working on some projects in that direction that I hope will help at least a little.

Do you think it’s possible for the US to catch up?


  • I think once it takes root in U.S. high schools and colleges you will see more U.S. representation. But I don’t you’ll see more than a few good competitors. Memory techniques in memory competition took a quantum leap forward with Dominic O’Brien, but everything since then has been building on that. The system limits have been nearly reached, so it is now just left to exhaustive, thankless, uncompensated work in honing the memory skills. Kind of like chess without the recognition or respect.

  • In addition to promotion in the schools, here are a few things that I think have the potential to help it to take off in the US :

    • Joshua Foer’s book and movie (if the rumors are true). One successful book will lead to publishers and book stores to see value in the subject. If he does heavy book promotion on TV and radio, it could generate a lot of interest.
    • Increased visibility for the US competition (coming soon)
    • If the US could field people in the international competitions that can at least place in the top 3, people in the US might follow it.
    • and one more thing that I will write about soon… 🙂

    I’m not sure if we are nearing the limits of technique. I think there is still a way to go, especially with younger people who could gradually be taught even more complex systems from the time they are young. There are also new techniques that could be developed for things not covered in the current competitions. There is plenty of room for innovations that go beyond just memorizing cards and numbers.

    Also, I think that increased sharing of the details of technique will lead to improvements…

  • You have 2 months until the U.S. Memory Championship in New York City. Do you plan to compete?

    If this competition were in the Fall I’d definitely try to work on a training schedule, practice and compete, but at this point I think I might just attend as a spectator.

  • I’m not sure. I will score very low if I enter this year, but I’ll probably do it just for experience.