Person-Action-Object (PAO) System
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.
How to Create a PAO Mnemonic 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.
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.
- 10 might be Otis Redding → singing-into → a microphone
- 11 might be a Titan → holding-on-his-shoulders → the World (maybe represented as a globe)
- 12 might be Tina Turner → wearing → futuristic chain mail
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 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.
Lists of ideas for generating a PAO system
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 people
- Wikipedia's lists of actors
- List of legendary creatures
- 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.
Complete PAO Systems
- Major System based PAO with pictures (couple of versions)
- Update to my PAO (feel free to borrow) by kbjeff
- Version 1 of my PAO list by NeilG
- Forum user Bateman's Complete PAO system
- "My person action object system"
- First published draft of PAO system
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
add more here...