Person-Action-Object (PAO) System
Get a first look at our new memory palace software!
The Person-Action-Object System (or "PAO" System) is a popular method for memorizing long random numbers and decks of playing cards. The PAO system is similar to the person-action Dominic System but it adds an object to the images.
- 1 How to Create a PAO Mnemonic System
- 2 Example Usage
- 3 Lists of ideas for generating a PAO system
- 4 PAO System Lists
- 5 Learning Your PAO System Images
- 6 List of mnemonists who use a PAO system
- 7 See Also
- 8 References
How to Create a PAO Mnemonic System
Here are some tips on how to create a PAO system:
- The most common form of PAO system is for every 2-digit number to get converted into a series of three visual images: a person, an action, and an object.
- The images can be generated using the Major System, the Dominic System or arbitrarily. The most common method is the Major System.
- In the Major System, every digit is converted into a consonant. Zero becomes "s" or "z", and one becomes "d" or "t". The number, 11 might become "Titan" and 10 might become "Otis Redding". 12 might become Tina Turner. A good tool for generating Major System images is 2Know.
- Once you have 100 persons for the numbers 00 to 99, give each person an action and an object.
- When memorizing numbers, chunk them in groups of six, like this:
- Then chunk each 6-digit segment into twos like this:
- The first segment becomes a person, the second an action, and the third an object.
- 10-11-12 would be an image of Otis Redding → holding-on-his-shoulders → futuristic chain mail
- 11-10-12 would be an image of a titan → singing-into → a suit of futuristic chain mail
If you have questions about creating and using PAO memorization systems, please ask them in the Art of Memory Forum.
Here is an example using sample images based on the Dominic System:
A number like 151633163315 would be chunked in 6s and then again in 2s like this:
The first 2 digits become a person, the second 2 digits become an action, and the third 2 digits become an object. Each compound image is then placed in one locus of a Memory Journey.
- Locus 1: 15-16-33 becomes Albert Einstein → lifting → a cane
- Locus 2: 16-33-15 becomes Arnold Schwarzenegger → swinging → a blackboard
Some people use a 2-digit PAO system, while others use 3 digits. A 3-digit system places 9 digits per locus.
If you are confused, you can watch a video that introduces concepts of the PAO System, Dominic, and Major System:
Lists of ideas for generating a PAO system
Another interesting idea is to use a date-based system for assigning images to the numbers.
Ideas for Generating People
There is a List of 10,000 Famous People and People ANYONE could use to fill in gaps in their PAO in the forum, and on Google Docs.
Wikipedia is a great source of lists. Here are just a few examples:
- Lists of lists
- Wikipedia's lists of actors
- List of legendary creatures
- Lists of D&D monsters
- List of deities
- List of Star Wars characters
- Lists of musicians
- Lists of philosophers
- Lists of writers
- Fictional characters (also here)
- Comics characters
Ideas for Generating Actions
- balancing (object)
- balancing (self)
- bends (object)
- bends (over)
- bicep curls
- chest compressions
- fist pump cheers
- flips (gymnastics)
- goes into labour
- jump shot
- jumping over
- mouth to mouth
- picks nose
- pirouettes (spins)
- pounds with fist
- pretends to be an airplane
- puckers cheeks
- regenerates (Doctor Who)
- rubbing stomach
- scat singing
- shuffles (cards)
- shuffles (dance)
- sitting on toilet
- smiles (devilishly)
- sneezes repeatedly
- staggers (drunkenly)
- stepping on
- stretching with hands
- talks (to object)
- twerks (butt gyration)
- yawns repeatedly
- TO DO: add more examples of easily visualized actions. We can move it to a new page when it gets long enough.
Ideas for Generating Objects
Two Methods for generating objects are:
1. Think of an object that associates with the person. If your person is Spider-man and his action is swinging, the object that is directly associated with him swinging is his web. Thus, the object for Spider-man is Web.
2. Think of an object that is out of place for your person. This will create an easily imagined image that will stick well. If your person is priest, and his action is praying, an object that would be highly out of place is a bloody chainsaw. I do believe a priest praying while wielding a bloody chainsaw will evoke a disturbing image that is hard to forget.
PAO System Lists
For complete PAO system lists, see the PAO System Examples page.
Learning Your PAO System Images
Here is a simple script that generates PAO sets:
You don't need to memorize the numbers and cards, but just practice converting them into images. That will help you learn the images.
French speakers who use Emacs might like this post.
List of mnemonists who use a PAO system
- Person-Action System
- Dominic System
- Major System
- Ben System
- Memory League App
- Definition of mnemonic
- Does Photographic Memory Exist?