Why Aren't Language, Text, and Meaning the Focus of Memory Systems?

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#1 23 October, 2015 - 23:08
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Why Aren't Language, Text, and Meaning the Focus of Memory Systems?


I'm very surprised by how little focus seems to be on encoding words into images rather than random things like playing cards or binary. Even numbers seem like they would have very limited use in the real world short of a few basics like phone numbers and dates. Why aren't systems like the Ollie system and Josh Cohen's system that use syllables more common when text, language, and meaning are far more important, and are what we deal with day to day in life or school. Are there major inherent flaws or weaknesses with encoding this information that I'm overlooking?

When looking through the memory sports, I see random words as one of the categories. What systems are the top champions currently using to encode information for that category? It's hardly talked about at all even though it seems like it would be the most important one to know practically.

24 October, 2015 - 04:09
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Which literature do you use? Because texts and language are actually a pretty common part of mnmonics, just as common as cards and numbers. I have my entire agenda in my head, using my own system for dates and a separate memory palace. I know what I have to do and when I have to do it, I know of each date of the current year what day it is. In daily life with a job where you actually need an agenda, that is incredibly useful and time-saving. It is a way in which I made mnemonics useful for my daily life. It is not something you'd read in every book.

What makes you say that text, language and meaning are far more important? Yes we use a lot of language and texts in daily life, but how many new aspects of language do you learn on an average day? how many new texts do you have to memorize? To my experience, the things I have to know for daily life are mainly things I have to do and when I have to do it. The position you hold in a company and your job there might add some things. I also have to know a lot of information on people for my job, I have to know which days they work and what tasks they have for that day, which I all memorize now rather than write it all down. What I mean to say, the things that are important are not the same for everyone.

Most showing off is done with cards and numbers, so most of the things you read about in the describing literature (like 'moonwalking with einstein', by Joshua Foer) are about those aspects. Of all books which teach you mnemonics that I've read, all also focus on texts, languages, and sometimes also abstract concepts. Also, it is memory sports that most books focus on. So would it focus on improving your memory for daily life or improving your memory for all aspects of memory competitions? And to reply on your statement of random words being more imporant: no, to memory sports, texts and languages are not more important than numbers and cards, each is just as important as all others. Also, memory sports and daily life have just as much aspects in common as other sports. Reading books on memory sports to learn how to improve memory in daily life is like reading a book on running to learn how to get to work/school faster, the book will neglect the fact that you could also take a bike or car as it is not important for the aim of the book.

In daily life, for students and certain jobs, texts and languages can be more important than numbers. But in memory sports they are equal. If you want to learn about memory in daily life, or applying memory sports techniques in daily life situations, feel free to ask for advice on the forum and the people here will help you the best they can. A lot of people here have found or made the systems and techniques they use in daily life, and are happy to share it. But realize that a lot of the popular books are on memory sports, not memory in daily life.

24 October, 2015 - 06:04
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Hey, Thanks for the response. I very well could be wrong about my impression, but it just seems like most of what I see online revolves around numbers and cards when it comes to encoding. Looking through the wikis for some of the most popular mnemonic encoding systems like Major, Ben, and Dominique, I don't see them even mention how those systems could handle encoding language and text, and all of them use numbers as the basis to create their images.

90%+ of the time when i'm learning something new, it has little to do with numbers. In my every day life I talk to people and read about Politics, Biology, Philosophy(ethics,logic), languages, stories, jokes, poems and a million other things that usually don't involve memorising a line of numbers. The hard part for even something as number based as math, programming, or physics would in very large part be the concepts and meanings. Learning the way you move the numbers around, or when and where to use which formula in math for a given context seem like most of what is hard about these subjects. With a line of text you can learn anything. Dates, times, and telephone numbers seems silly when compared to that. Though Maybe i'm overestimating the potential of mnemonics for use like this, and maybe systems for general mental note taking have been tried without much success.

What I was saying about memory sports was a slightly different question. I was just wondering how people deal with memorising words for that category because maybe they are doing what i'm looking for.

Don't get me wrong. If all mnemonic systems could do was encode long strings of numbers, it would still be epic. :)

24 October, 2015 - 06:28
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Hey, Thanks for the response. I very well could be wrong about my impression, but it just seems like most of what I see online revolves around numbers and cards when it comes to encoding. Looking through the wikis for some of the most popular mnemonic encoding systems like Major, Ben, and Dominique, I don't see them even mention how those systems could handle encoding language and text, and all of them use numbers as the basis to create their images.

I always thought the Major, Ben and Dominic system are made especially for cards and numbers. Cards and numbers are abstract information, and therefor it is hard to remember without giving it meaning, those systems are designed to give it meaning. So it is only logical that you won't see any references to language or words there, as those systems weren't made for it.

Memorizing words and concepts use different systems. For words you could use an alphabetic system, where every letter is an image. A = Abraham Lincoln, B = B.A. Baracus, etc. If you feel abitious, you can make a system with letter pairs, AA, AB, AC, all the way to ZZ. Some people also use a phonetic system, 'call' could be 'mall', 'fat' could be 'cat', 'decide' could be 'the side', just naming some things. I'm sure there are people here who can explain those and other systems for it better than I can, I am only just starting with techniques for words.

24 October, 2015 - 07:23
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Just to address one question of your post, I know that some of the major memory experts use method of loci for random words. They quickly convert the word into an image that will make the word easier to recall, then place the image on a locus. I use two images per locus, and I know several others do as well. A few, I think, even use three images per locus. For example, if my first two words are "fire" and "house", I would imagine a fire rapidly spreading and approaching a house. For more abstract words, like "empathy" or "lonely", you have to be creative. Maybe I would imaginine a nurse caring for a dying patient, and then the relative of the person sitting in a big empty house after that person had passed away. Sometimes, even if your image doesn't exactly correspond to the meaning of the word, as long it triggers the word in YOUR mind, you'll be able to recall the word.

You may want to check with Graham, though, on these forums. He's a monster at random words. Something like 126 words in 5-minutes.

24 October, 2015 - 07:44
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Yeah, the Ollie system and Josh Cohen's system involving sounds are the best i've seen so far that encode syllables, but they are nowhere near the prominence of something like the Major System which seems so much less applicable to a daily life.

24 October, 2015 - 07:45
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I think there are some semantic issues going on here, as well. I think that, for many people, when they hear the word "system" in the memory context, they think of a way of transforming abstract information, like playing cards, digits, and binary digits, into images that are more easily recalled. This type certainly gets the most press, probably because people seem to be astounded when someone can memorize a deck of cards, or remember 1000 binary digits. But if you peruse this site, you'll find forums devoted to learning languages, poetry, mental math, even more generally how to study effectively.

In the USA Memory Championship, of the first four events that everyone participates in, two are speed cards and speed numbers. But the other two are memorizing a poem and the Names & Faces event. There are quite a few folks who think this last item is especially important in life. For those folks who make the finals, they first do random words, then a unique event called Tea Party/Three Strikes You're Out, in which they must memorize information that is fed to them from five people, including data such as their names, telephone numbers, addresses, favorite foods, etc. The championship concludes with the Double Deck of Cards, in which the remaining finalists must recall audibly, one contestant at a time, the order of two decks of cards that they memorized in five minutes.

It's quite a well-rounded event. The World Memory Championship has a few different events, such as binary digits, historical dates, abstract images, and remembering the sequence of digits called out at 1 digit/second.

24 October, 2015 - 09:58
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The reason is because from the very beginning the WMC has effectively been one event (converting numbers into memorable images) again and again and again.

The poem event was rightly dropped because it's difficult to manage with an increasingly international usage group. Abstract images was a good addition. Historical dates was pointless.

It's only recently that Words has been taken seriously by trainers. Just look at how Ben and I did compard to the greats when we competed for the first time in 2000.

You've raised a good question.

24 October, 2015 - 12:40
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You might be interested in this and the related posts:

blog.artofmemory.com/images-for-the-english-alphabet-830.html

24 October, 2015 - 13:46
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I personally somewhat agree with what Mr. Purple was saying about the important focus of memorizing texts, language, and words. In real life, memorizing long strings of numbers and multiple decks of cards are meaningless and not very practical except for telephone numbers, addresses, dates, and other information associated with numbers. Your ability to memorize long strings of numbers does not mean you can memorize professional textbooks like law statements in verbatim or with great detail which contain a lot of abstract words and concepts and only a small amount of data like numbers or binaries or cards and dates. So I think it is pointless and useless to memorize decks of cards and binaries, and numbers as cards are rarely seen in real life except in places like casino where black jack is played. I think the aim of memory sports is misled by Tony Buzan because memory sports puts a lot of emphasis on memorizing numbers, binaries, and cards which are not practically seen in real life unless your job has to do anything with numbers, like accountants who have to deal with numbers and computer programmers who have to deal with binaries since computer data are made by binaries, and memory magicians like Harry Loyane or Jerry Lucas who amaze the public with card memorization. I personally think the poem and random words (or any kind of textual information containing abstract words) play a significant role in real life as they help post-secondary students who encounter a huge amount of abstract textual information in textbooks as long as the events (random words and poems) are tested in a language that the memory sport contestants are more familiar with. For example, Tony can hold the poem event in a language that is suitable for memory contestants. For example, Chinese poem for Chinese memory contestants, English poem for English contestants, and German poems for German contestants so it is fair for those with little English vocabulary to be tested with poems that have words in their mother language.

memoriad

24 October, 2015 - 13:53
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Memorizing long strings of decimal numbers and binaries and cards can seldom help improve students study skills in mastering several subjects like politics, law, history, mathematics, dentistry, and medicine as these subjects contain abstract concepts and terms and words that are harder to encode. And decimal numbers and binaries and cards are not practically seen in real life except for memorizing historical dates, telephone numbers, or your credit card number or password. I think different memorization systems have to be created based upon the type of data (textual words/concepts and numbers and binaries and cards) that is presented.

memoriad

24 October, 2015 - 14:16
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For example, Chinese poem for Chinese memory contestants, English poem for English contestants, and German poems for German contestants so it is fair for those with little English vocabulary to be tested with poems that have words in their mother language.

Without wanting to derail the thread too much, I think it is extremely difficult to ensure that such poems are at the same level of difficulty, have the equivalent amount of rhythm, colloquial/technical ratio, alliteration and so on. All of those little things that make a poem more or less memorable, make it - in my opinion - difficult to translate across a number of languages.

24 October, 2015 - 18:09
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I think it is hard to develop a poem event that is equally fair for memory contestants from different countries because mnemonics depends upon the use of language and different language rhymes differently. For example, English words "white" and "bite" rhythm with each other, but if they are translated into chinese language, then the translated results do not rhyme with each other. One of the reasons that memory contestants from different countries encode decimal numbers into different images is that they use different language-based memory systems to encode numbers and different languages have different rhythms if you have studied linguistics. For example, the number 48 is encoded into "roof" by means of the English Major System but is encoded into book in Chinese based upon chinese rhythm "shu ben". So if an English poem in which certain words rhythm with each other is translated into another language, then the translated words may not rhythm with each other. In other words, if an ancient Chinese poem such as Tang Shi that contain words that rhythm at the end is translated into English language, the translated work may not contain words that rhythm with each other. Different mnemonists from different countries encode abstract things (numbers, binaries, and cards) differently because they use different systems based on their mother languages to encode abstract things into different words, and it is hard to ensure that these words can form equally memorable images as a result of the difference in memory systems. This is one limit for mnemotechnics as it is hard to develop a memory system that is universal for different people from different countries who speak different languages.

Another thing that I have to tell Tony Buzan is that he puts too much emphasis on memorizing cards, decimal numbers, and binaries. For example, speed cards and 1 hr cards, 5 min numbers, 1 hr numbers, and spoken numbers, historical dates, names and faces, abstract images, random words, and binary numbers. Two out of the ten disciplines are cards. Three out of the ten disciplines are numbers (just different time intervals). Historical dates (a combination of words and numbers). Cards and decimal numbers and binary numbers are not practically seen in real life as much as textual information (words and text and books) is. Tony Buzan distorts the definition of being a good memorizer by neglecting what is practically useful in today's education (textual information - concepts and key words) but focusing so much on those impractical disciplines (decimal and binary numbers and cards) and making those disciplines as the guidelines for determining who is the world's best memorizer. He misleads the course of mnemonics which is supposed to be applied on useful stuff such as textual information that is more practically seen in today's education. Who needs to memorize so many numbers? Unless anyone wants to break the Guinness World Records in decimal and binary numbers, will today people memorize many books containing lines of decimal and binary numbers (like Andryi Slysuarchuk who falsely claims he memorizes 30 million decimals of Pi!)? That is why mnemonic sports has not been popularized globally since no one wants to waste his or her precious time memorizing those useless information (decimal and binary numbers and cards and abstract images). That is one sadness for these memory sports contestants worldwide. I remember one line in Joshua Foer's book "Moonwalking with Einstein" saying, "Tony Buzan has amassed a huge fortune by establishing this memory sport worldwide and all the money from those memory contestants have gone into Tony's pocket". Tony Buzan is not a true educational guru; he is a businessman. Otherwise, he should let all these memory contestants learn mnemotechnics and compete with each other for free. Why would he use this memory sport as a way to gain fortune? His motive is not right.

Another thing is that if the memorization systems developed by the world's top memorizers are entirely useful, why would Tony Buzan and Dominic O'Brien not use their memorization systems to get many PhD degrees so the public can see how useful these two men's techniques are? Their memorization systems are developed solely for the purpose of competition. They have narrowed the development of memorization systems on those tiny circles (Memory Sports) and do not teach how to develop various memorization techniques for use in practical ways (memorizing textbooks in great detail). Even though Tony Buzan's book "Use Your Memory" 's last chapter has a method on memorizing a book, he did not include a detailed method on how to analyze the structure of a paragraph and turn those abstract key words into images and did not give sufficient examples (for example, a carefully selected paragraph from a professional textbook on law, history, politics, medicine, and so on).

memoriad

24 October, 2015 - 18:10
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Another thing that I have to tell Tony Buzan is that he puts too much emphasis on memorizing cards, decimal numbers, and binaries. For example, speed cards and 1 hr cards, 5 min numbers, 1 hr numbers, and spoken numbers, historical dates, names and faces, abstract images, random words, and binary numbers. Two out of the ten disciplines are cards. Three out of the ten disciplines are numbers (just different time intervals). Historical dates (a combination of words and numbers). Cards and decimal numbers and binary numbers are not practically seen in real life as much as textual information (words and text and books) is. Tony Buzan distorts the definition of being a good memorizer by neglecting what is practically useful in today's education (textual information - concepts and key words) but focusing so much on those impractical disciplines (decimal and binary numbers and cards) and making those disciplines as the guidelines for determining who is the world's best memorizer. He misleads the course of mnemonics which is supposed to be applied on useful stuff such as textual information that is more practically seen in today's education. Who needs to memorize so many numbers? Unless anyone wants to break the Guinness World Records in decimal and binary numbers, will today people memorize many books containing lines of decimal and binary numbers (like Andryi Slysuarchuk who falsely claims he memorizes 30 million decimals of Pi!)? That is why mnemonic sports has not been popularized globally since no one wants to waste his or her precious time memorizing those useless information (decimal and binary numbers and cards and abstract images). That is one sadness for these memory sports contestants worldwide. I remember one line in Joshua Foer's book "Moonwalking with Einstein" saying, "Tony Buzan has amassed a huge fortune by establishing this memory sport worldwide and all the money from those memory contestants have gone into Tony's pocket". Tony Buzan is not a true educational guru; he is a businessman. Otherwise, he should let all these memory contestants learn mnemotechnics and compete with each other for free. Why would he use this memory sport as a way to gain fortune? His motive is not right.

Another thing is that if the memorization systems developed by the world's top memorizers are entirely useful, why would Tony Buzan and Dominic O'Brien not use their memorization systems to get many PhD degrees so the public can see how useful these two men's techniques are? Their memorization systems are developed solely for the purpose of competition. They have narrowed the development of memorization systems on those tiny circles (Memory Sports) and do not teach how to develop various memorization techniques for use in practical ways (memorizing textbooks in great detail). Even though Tony Buzan's book "Use Your Memory" 's last chapter has a method on memorizing a book, he did not include a detailed method on how to analyze the structure of a paragraph and turn those abstract key words into images and did not give sufficient examples (for example, a carefully selected paragraph from a professional textbook on law, history, politics, medicine, and so on).

memoriad

24 October, 2015 - 18:36
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Hi MP,

You might want to search these forums for 'lanier verbatim memory system'. I believe there's a full break-down somewhere.

Back to your initial question, I think that you are effectively asking, "Why are memory systems designed for memory competitions not great for memorising text...?"

The examples you've given were developed specifically for the purpose of memorising things like numbers and cards. However, Greg Lanier's system was originally conceived, I believe, to memorise religious texts.

Tracy,

It's a while since I've been called a monster! :) I have some pre-memorised images for common words, but they rarely come up. I memorise two words per location (which seems far more effective than just one word) and the way the words interact is different depending on whether or not they're nouns or verbs, etc.

There's no more to it than that. The minute the top stars apply themselves to words as much as to cards, I'll be left in the dust! I'm just hoping to break a record before thy do! :) I use my 'speed cards' journeys for 5-minute words, so my mind is primed to zip through it. Just as it's possible to doubt you've fully memorised a card, to find that it is later there in the location, I've found that our minds can link words together much quicker than we might think.

I'd love to think that I have some unique contribution to add to the random words event, by I don't. However, interestingly, I first got into memory back when I was religious and learning books of the Bible. So, maybe there's something there, just in terms of familiarity with memorising words.

(Personally, I don't go for 3 words. I like any 'peripheral' memory to attach to the linking between locations (e.g. Word 2 to word 3). I've also found that three words limits the interplay I can concoct between words if they're verbs, and so on.)

Not sure if that makes sense?

Memoriad, although I have sympathy with some of you points, I wonder if that's a separate discussion?

24 October, 2015 - 19:35
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Thanks for your responses everyone. I'm glad some other people see what i'm talking about. I'll check out the lanier verbatim memory system graham. Are you using anything other than loci to remember words?

I feel like if all the mental effort that is put into numbers or cards was put into language and text, we could see a lot more unique ideas and innovation. Some of the ideas of the number and card encoding systems are really ingenious, but I don't feel that as much for text.

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