Memory techniques – Your secret weapon in the information age | Simon Reinhard | TEDxTUM


Translator: Lukas Kompatscher
Reviewer: Hélène Vernet Hello everybody! Actually, this was intended
to be on the big screen. So my goal is now to memorize 24 digits
as the start of my speech. And here is a random number
generator that will start now. And when I say “Start!” it starts. And “Stop!” Okay! What I was just doing is that there were 24 digits
visible on the small laptop, and I just memorized them. So you just have to believe me,
that there were 24 digits and that I memorized them. (Laughter) Sorry, and what will now happen,
is I’ll turn to the audience, and I hope that now
I will announce digit by digit, and each digit will appear on the screen. So, we would start now with five, one, nine, eight, four, nine, nine, six, six, eight, seven, two, two, eight, five, seven, two, four, seven, five, two, one, zero, three. (Applause) Thank you! Wow, okay! Thanks! Memory is central to who we are,
but independent of what you just saw, our memory is very limited. And, I also want to test you now. I now will show you 15 words,
you’ll have 20 seconds to memorize them. Please try as hard as you can
as if it would be an exam. And after those 20 seconds, we will see. Time starts now. Try as hard as you can. You still have 10 seconds. Look at all the words, however you want. Five seconds. Three. And … Time is over. Now see how much you can remember. Really try to find
all of the words in your head. Go from one to the other. And what I can tell you
is that some words might come easily, some might take some time,
and some might not come at all. Well, it might feel like you might get
seven, eight or nine words, but there are still some words
out of reach, that you cannot grasp. And I did this to illustrate
that it’s an effect that you get in school, in university,
in your job and daily life, that there is still too much information,
that feeling that you’ve learned something and that it is simply
not really accessible to you, that you would need it,
but you can’t access it. And that is something
that I think is stress, the feeling that we have to learn
more than we really can. And in addition to that,
it has been proven that when we learn
something in a natural way, after one day, about 70% of it
is not accessible anymore. Why is that the case? Because the brain is very good at creating
associations, but those are not stable. After one day, many of those are lost, and you only got the main points
of what you wanted to remember, a bit like headlines or bullet points,
and that’s often not enough. So what can you do? You can use notes. But then, if you use notes,
you often would consult them, and people would see
that it is not very convincing, that you need something
to aid your memory. And I think that we can do better. And I think, as limited
as our memory might be, I am sure that you can still recall
the little memory feat in the beginning. And you might have asked
yourself what I did there. It was not something of eidetic memory
because I think that does not exist. What I did there was I used
something called the “method of loci.” I used a number of locations
in a fixed sequence and put the information on the location. It is a method that has been used since
millennia by the ancient Romans and Greeks and also by monks in the Middle Ages. In the modern times,
it has even become a sport. People are sitting there and memorizing
vast numbers of names, words, and faces. And in this sport, I am the current German
and European champion, and I hold the world record
of 134 words in five minutes. (Applause) Yes, it is really hard enough. There are people from China,
Mongolia, everywhere, and they are training like crazy. So, I am very happy
that I still hold one world record. But I think the very important
question is why does this work? And it works because the brain, and thus the mind, are hardwired
to connect information with places. This has been shown
in number of studies and also makes sense
from an evolutionary standpoint. If you know where to get food
and where the danger is, then you have a survival edge. And I can also show you
how this works in your own life. Think of your last vacation,
think of the hotel, of the dining hall, and think of the table
that you were sitting at. And you’ll notice that one after the other
memories will start to emerge, memories perhaps of a conversation, of the plate in front of you
with a nice meal, the smell, the taste, and perhaps the whole
feeling of the hotel, and perhaps also a longing
that you want to go back there. It is similar to what the French
author Marcel Proust wrote in his most famous novel
“In Search for Lost Time,” where the smell and taste of a madeleine evoked a multitude of childhood
memories in the protagonist’s mind. And as you just saw, locations
can even be a stronger trigger. The main difference is that what
these triggers do is not voluntary, and what we want to do is,
by our own will, to connect information with a place. And for that – you can also do this
with me – of course you need locations. Try to follow them now. You stand at the door.
You go down the stairs. In front of the house, there is a car. You follow the street and,
on the right side, there is a wall. And you come to a big place
with a city hall in the background. So follow this in your mind,
you need to keep the sequence. From the door, down the stairs,
in front of the house, there is the car, then the wall,
and the place with the city hall. So, what do you do next? You put images, encoded information,
on each of these locations. And you try to connect
the images with the locations. You look for similarities because
perhaps they have the same shape, the same material,
or they embody the same principle. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have a great speech about the ecological dangers
of the modern world, about the endangerment of the rain forest. And the first two sentences
of your speech would be the following: “The rainforest has significantly
decreased in size in the last years due to industrialization, for example
because of the building of highways. Any further rain forest decrease
needs to be prevented in the future by cooperation of all
involved governmental agencies.” So the point is if you want
to memorize this, what do you do? You choose keywords. You choose a keyword
for each half or full sentence that is enough to lead you
to the whole meaning and to allow you to speak freely. I chose “rain forest,” “decreased,” “highways,” ” prevent” and “government.” You now have your five locations
and you have your five keywords, now we try to connect them. Look for similarities between them. “Door” and “rain forest,”
both are made of wood. Then “stairs” and the word “decrease,”
both are going downwards. The “car” and “highway,”
the car drives on highways. “Wall” and “prevent,” a wall usually
prevents someone from coming inside. And “city hall” and “government” is clear:
city hall is part of the government. So the idea is that some
aspect of your location can lead you to the keyword,
that you have a connection. Let us try this! The door made of wood, “rain forest.” Stairs going downward, “decreased.” Car, cars drive on “highways.” The wall to “prevent” and city hall, part of “government.” Now when you have these keywords
safely in your mind, each keyword will enable you
to go one step further with your speech. Now you might think “Okay, I could also have memorized
these two sentences as easily, without any memory aids.” Sure! But there has never been a speech
that only had two sentences, it’s more like 200. And if you look at this, it might be clear
that it becomes a bit more difficult, and this might only be the first part. Here you have 30 words and not 15, and you saw that you already
struggled with 15 words. But the great thing
is if you use the locations, it doesn’t really matter
if you have 5 or 500, as long as you make
the connection properly and repeat again until you can
perfectly reproduce it. And then it’s safe,
and you go easily, like on a walk, from one place in your mind to the other,
and everything comes along naturally. It is not really harder if you have more,
it’s not like natural memory. And also, a great thing is
it is much more resilient to forgetting. While I said earlier that usually,
if you learn stuff naturally, 70% will be forgotten. if you put things on locations, usually, more than 90% will be there the next day. Also, it’s not just for memorizing. A very interesting aspect
is because, by using keywords, you also need to kind of symbolize
them to place them there, It’s also an interesting
tool for text analysis. Because when I do it,
I very often have the experience, that a certain keyword, a certain symbol seems similar to something
I read 10 minutes ago. Then I notice that those two areas
of the text are related, and I wouldn’t have
noticed that otherwise. But from this theoretical part, perhaps you are also interested
in how I use this in my own daily life. I love golf. Golf is great, golf is relaxing. And I very often do it
before my memory competitions. Last year, I went
to a tournament in the US. And it was a golf resort,
it called itself like this. And I booked a fairway room
that they offered. And when I came there and looked around,
I saw there is no golf course. There was just a lobby area, a fence,
and you couldn’t play golf. Well, there was no information,
no email, there was nothing. And you have to know that the main
selling point of the whole thing was the golf course
because the hotel itself was basically only a small
lobby area and nothing else, in the middle of nowhere. So I went to my room and I thought,
“OK, this is going to be tough, because a hotel manager who does this
is also probably a bit of a ruthless guy, because he would not
be afraid to tell a guest ‘What is your problem? You’re booked.'” So I knew that when I will go to the guy, it would not do to show any kind
of weakness or the slightest hesitation. I needed to get this all down. But I had a number of points
I wanted to make, not just one, two or three,
but rather more than 10. But I had my method, I went to my room,
I wrote it down, nicely ordered: Fairway view hotel, golf resort,
no information and no email, that I had lost trust in the brand,
and so on, and so on, with the strongest point last. Then I made keywords
and I put them on my locations. I repeated it once
and I knew I had it down. Then I knocked, and I saw
the hotel manager in his room. And he smiled, he was easy going
but he was also watchful. Yeah, I mean you know the guys. When I took a seat, I knew
that I had all my points down, that I could tell them all. And I could keep eye contact.
I could be calm and controlled. And because I had no fear
at all of forgetting, I could much more concentrate on
the delivery of what I wanted to say: A pause here, a slightly
raised voice there, a bit of disappointment there,
and his smile got less and less. This guest was to be taken seriously. And when I also told him
what I wanted, he wrote it down. He looked at me once more
and you could see that, in his head, there was
a kind of risk and rewards calculation because this guest was quite determined. And then he looked up and said,
“Mister Rainhard, this is all doable.” And what I had asked from him
was a 50% reduction in room price, free food for the whole of my stay, and free green fees at another
golf course plus free transportation. (Laughter) Because they don’t do this! It was a nice success… (Laughing) So this is just an illustration because I had in my life
many similar experiences, where there was a situation of pressure
and a challenge I wanted to overcome, and where this really helped me,
this talking of the list. The people I teach are CFOs
who want to memorize financial statements, traders who want to gain an edge
during their daily dealings. But there are also artists who want
to draw a bit more precisely because they notice when they look
at an object and then go to the canvas, then the object is already
close to having dissolved; and also companies who want
to teach English to Chinese students, but also some who want
to teach Chinese to the world. It can be used by scientists
to memorize the latest articles, and by mathematicians
and basically by everybody who wants to keep more control
of their life and less stress. And if people still think
that it’s strange and that the method is weird, I mean progress has always been made
by the unconventional thinkers. And the main thing is it works,
that’s the ultimate litmus test. As the method becomes more well-known,
people will have to decide either to ignore it and give
other people a definite edge or to embrace it as something
new and promising. And as we have seen in the beginning, because our memory is limited, this method definitely has
a lot of potential for our own progress. And business and science have always been intricate parts of humanities pursue
to discover the future. I think that we should use
any means to get there faster. So at the end of my speech,
I can only say, “Try it out and see how far you can get.” And I can promise you that, unlike the protagonist
of Marcel Proust’s famous novel, your time will not be lost. Thank you. (Applause)

67 thoughts on “Memory techniques – Your secret weapon in the information age | Simon Reinhard | TEDxTUM”

  1. Great job, Simon. Lots of great content in there, and you have a good delivery. Oh, and I totally got all 15 of those words! Ha, ha.

  2. He sure doesn’t want to reveal too much. Maybe they should have had the 10th place man or woman in the world’s competition come out and explain how to memorize numbers and explain more. So you memorize a key word…then memorize a picture but then forget the keyword and just keep the picture and then create a virtual reality world of going through a slide show of these pictures to remind you of keywords which remind you of sentences which remind you of ideas?

  3. Just a little more volume please. No time to strain over poor audio. Stopped listening to yet another useful teddy talk !!

  4. this technique doesnt work for me very quickly.. i am terrible at remembering directions maybe it works better if you use a place you know really well already

  5. The techniques used aren't new or innovative but the delivery of the explanations and the use of real-life scenarios make this speech impressive.
    In fact, how interesting it is that the actual use of story telling in this speech, to help you understand the concept and retain its information, is a direct example of the concept itself! Using real-world scenarios to understand how using real-world scenarios is good for understanding!

    The presenter felt a bit like a robot, I think he used a pretty strict method to memorize this speech too precisely, haha.

  6. The key is setup a sequence of images for the informations you want to memorize.
    Do we have images first and then connect information with the existing images? OR
    Do we have information first and then find a sequnece of meaningful images for the information?

  7. CIA uses this technique, it simple and effective. Want to not forget it even under pressure then put meaning to thing you effortlessly 🙂

  8. Eidetic memory does exist, despite the speaker’s lack of belief. Examples of people with the skill have been presented for decades. I managed to develop some level of this skill myself

  9. Be confident, magnify, believe in your brains agility and capacity to accomplish what you want to accomplish and overcome the barriers before it.

  10. great technique. BUT in the last part of Marcel Proust's Novel the protagonist finds the lost time back by memory. It is astonishing how this book has changed my life, and listening to this speech I became aware of it once more.

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