Colin Cookin’ Chitlins In My Kitchen

January 13, 2012

MEMORIZE A DECK OF CARDS!  Yeah right.  But wait, can it be done easily enough?  Apparently so, with the right techniques.  After reading “Moonwalking with Einstein” and reading a website or two regarding Person-Action-Object (PAO) systems, I was ready to give it a try.  

Pile-of-playing-cards

I decided that I’m not quite ready to try the PAO system, but I did run across a website that had a neat twist on card memorization.  Make each suit a category and each rank will be a different person in that category.  So that’s what I did.  This morning, I created my lists.  

For the suit of Hearts, I used my family… starting with my Brothers, Ace=Gene, 2=Les, 3=Raff, 4=Jean, the children 5=Caitlin, 6=Max, 7=Dallas, 8=Preston, 9=Caroline, 10=Martin, J=Giovanni, and finishing it off with Queen=Mamma and King=Mark.

For the suit of Spades, I used my friends… and similarly went through my list of friends, using the number of letters in their names to choose my different friends, so 2=Ho, 3=Min, 4=Josh, 5=Colin, 6=Richie, 7=Rick(Richard), 8=Manny(Emmanuel), and some other arbitrary stuff to choose the rest, so Guido, Guidry, Karim, etc. were in there.  So basically, you just have to remember which cards represent which people.  And so as to make this proof of concept not entirely too difficult, I started with only these two suits, and I kept my cheat sheet of names in front of me since I had not yet committed them to memory.  That part I will eventually do with enough practice.

I attempted to memorize just 10 cards in order.  After 1 minute and 40 seconds, I felt I had them memorized, and I recited them back perfectly!  I followed it up with a second effort in 1’30”!  The concept works!  

Erm…what concept?  The concept is simple.  You combine these images of friends and family with your Memory Palace.  The memory palace concept is simple – the brain is extremely good at remembering places and spaces.  Just think of the last time you went to a friend’s house for the first time, or visited a new shopping center.  You don’t think about it much, and you certainly didn’t try to commit it memory, but you probably remember very well how to navigate through that place.  So by choosing a place for which you are very familiar (like your home or office building) as your memory palace, you will be able to remember many arbitrary things rather effortlessly.  

For the task at hand, as I saw each card, I created an image of the person represented by the card in different parts of my home.  That is, I  would envision different things happening in different parts of my home as I “walked” through the house.  So while 5 of Spades followed by A of Hearts might not be all that memorable, especially when they were the sixth and seventh card I had to remember, the image of Colin cooking chitlins in my kitchen while chatting with Eugene putting dishes into my dishwasher is unforgettable!  The technique simply works!  

So, to test it further, I tried it out with Mamma tonight.  Mamma is a great test case.  She claims to be awful at such tasks, but even moreso now since she thinks her memory is no longer what it used to be.  So I made it extra tough on her.  We did 20 cards together!  I weaved together a nice little story of friends and family entering the house, eating at our dinner table, watching television, playing on the porch, cleaning the bathroom, etc. and after we were done… roughly 4 minutes later, we went back through the 20 cards… flawlessly!  She got each one correct AND in the proper order!

What’s even more impressive is that after about an hour of doing other things, pretty much forgetting about the memory technique, I asked Mamma to go back through the list again.  Although she made one or two errors, she got 90% of it right!  And that was with almost zero effort in trying to really commit this stuff to memory!  It was the amazing Person system coupled with the Memory Palace.  
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So why am I doing this?  I personally find it damn impressive just to be able to recite the order of a deck of cards!  But while it’s a stupid human trick to be sure, what if it can be applied to learning other things?  …like languages?  …or business stuff?

Indeed it can!  And so that is my ultimate goal.  I’m going to go through some of the fun stuff first, like cards and 50 digit numbers.  But really soon, I expect to put this stuff to the test and see if I can’t quickly memorize 1000 words in Spanish with the goal of really helping me improve my fluency in the language.  And by quickly, I mean roughly 100 words a day for 10 days.  After that, I’ll find something new learn, I’m sure.  

What are YOU attempting to master these days?

PS  It is quite random and coincidental that I also played “Memory” from Cats on the piano today.  Weird!  
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