Method of loci

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#1 11 December, 2016 - 08:12
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Method of loci


Background: The academic life in medical school is hectic and requires for the most part memorisation. I've often noticed that what hinders learning here is the fact that we are required to learn. We have to learn around 100 items of information a day or such.
Idea: Would it be possible to have 7 palaces each for a day of week to store that day's knowledge, and then review it over the week? And then hope that after a week of revision the material becomes internalized and thus reducing my dependency on the palace(I often see that after 2-3 runs through the palace I have no particular use for it, and the information has been memorised)

15 December, 2016 - 01:40
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Joined: 2 years 6 months ago

Based on my experiences:

Short answer: yes, it could work, but there is no guarantee

Long answer: It depends on how quickly and smoothly you can create images, and how long those spur-of-the-moment images stick for you. Creating images to put on your loci is a proces that tends to require some mental focus, especially if you want them to stick until the rest of the day.
If you have breaks inbetween, that could help. Store 25 bits of information during class, review the loci during break, repeat. That can help you to keep the information until the end of the day.

But as I mentioned, it also depends on you creating images. Writing actually takes little of your attention away, your focus can literally stay at the lecture while your hand writes down the information. During my school days, I often could even write things down without looking down at the paper all the time. I only needed to look down ocassionally to make sure I was still writing on the lines. Typing was even easier, I didn't even have to look down at my screen, my fingers automatically typed my notes. The upside is: I never missed a bit of waht was told and shown. Downside of that all is: it is a brainless activity, while my brain was hearing and processing the information once (which is basically just fancy for saying "I payed attention"), it lacked the second processing that could help maintain the information easier. (Like if you focus on writing all pretty instead of sloppy, you remember the stuff better, as you have to focus on what you write down)

Now, using the method of loci during a lecture does give you the second processing, because you have to create an image that represents the information. However, that second processing will take attention away from the lecture and hence you might miss some told information. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time, and creating all them images means it has to switch between listening and image creating constantly. That means missing bits of the lecture, but also a more tiring process if you have to keep it up for a few hours every day.

15 December, 2016 - 07:59
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Joined: 5 years 1 month ago

It may work indeed, but I would not bet on it if I were you, unless you rely on memory palace no more than as temporary structure allowing you to review things during a week and you don't want to store knowledge as mental images on the long run.

Otherwise, if you want to keep your mental images alive, you need review, more preferably spaced repetition reviews (such as what Anki implements). You should also avoid using the same palace too much (if not at all).

I have no strong evidence supporting my following point, but I feel that the method of loci, while providing better recall performances, may suffer more dramatically from memory decay. This is why, from this point of view, using the method of loci explicitely as a temporary structure is a much better option than fully rely on it and never review after the one week window.

If you intend to do this method, I would advise you to push a bit more and use 14 palaces instead to limit interferences.

26 December, 2016 - 04:01
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Joined: 11 months 2 weeks ago

So Bruno, what you are suggesting is that I should probably try to learn the information in the old way, ie rote memorization and about 1-2 weeks before a test construct a palace to store stuff that I find difficult to learn by rote.

26 December, 2016 - 07:01
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Joined: 5 years 1 month ago

This is not really what I meant. Thanks for letting me know :). I like your approach and I am onto something similar (for random things not as important as courses). Having a memory palace to store things on-the-go temporarily is handy. I just highlighted that whatever the method you use (rote or loci), the feeling of being very familiar with the content during the first week may be deceiving if you want to remember something for the long term (like for more than 1 month). Spaced Repetition is the key, whether you use with a software or do it manually.

Aside this point, what I suggested was just a minor improvement which is to double the size of your palaces. You use just 7 palaces during the week and let the second pack of 7 other palaces aside, so that when you re-use your journey you override images that are 2 weeks old instead of 1 week old. While giving you not much work (building a palace takes time, but not a tremendous amount of time), it should improves your recall by diminishing the risks that you recall the wrong images.

Is it more clear now ?

31 December, 2016 - 08:30
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Joined: 11 months 2 weeks ago

That's great advice man. Been trying out this method for sometime. Will update all results shortly.

Thanks again man.

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