I have read many things on how to improve your memory, but one technique that always confused and fascinated me is the idea of a “memory palace.”

Memory palaces are known more formally as ‘the method of loci’ and they help people remember things (facts and opinions) by “assigning” them to various locations within the brain itself. If you imagine the brain as a palace of many rooms, using this technique you would make up a location within your brain to place these facts, like furniture in a room.  You commit the information to a particular scene and place within the memory palace.

This linking of the memory together with the place is what makes it a stronger memory. It is suggested that this “palace” be based on a place that does exist in some manner –  your own home, a place you have visited or seen in some detail in photos  one you have seen before. It is best to have a palace which does exist in some capacity.

A small amount can be placed in a smaller, basic mind palace room like your bedroom. A large amount of information may require a larger mental space.

I describe this quite simply, but it’s not a simple thing to do. I have tried it with little success, although others find it really powerful.

Apparently, one of the issues people have with this technique is confusing locations. They need to be unique enough that you won’t mistake one place for another.

Do you need to recall information in a specific order? You need to set a route through the palace and room.

Other memory techniques also use associating things with certain places and positions and this can be useful for students. This mnemonic system associates things with specific physical locations and relies on memorized spatial relationships to establish, order, and recollect memorial content. This method is also known as the “Journey Method,” when used for storing lists of related items, or the “Roman Room” technique, which is most effective for storing unrelated information.

The technique is used by the fictional character Hannibal Lecter who sometimes is mentally walking through an elaborate memory palace to recall information, and also to mentally escape unpleasant situations.

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie contains a character who is a memory palace containing the memories of another.