Put Those Images in a Location
The next step is to put those strong mental images in a place that you’re really familiar with. In Dellis’ example, he places each one of the seven wonders on a route through his house, starting with a wall in his entryway, then Christ—representing Christ the Redeemer— lounging around on his sofa. “The weirder the better,” Dellis says. In the kitchen, you might imagine a Llama cooking up a meal.
This technique of linking images with places is called the memory palace, and it’s particularly useful for remembering the order of certain elements, says Shaw. “A memory palace capitalizes on your existing memory of a real place. It is a place that you know—usually your home or another location that you know really well.”
If it’s a list with just seven items, that space can be relatively small. But when it came to memorizing 10,000 digits of pi, Dellis had to widen out his memory palace to the entirety of his hometown, Miami. He divided the 10,000 digits into 2,000 chunks of five digits each, and placed them all across 10 different neighborhoods.
“Neuroimaging research has shown that people show increased activity in the [occipito-parietal area] of the brain when learning memories using a memory palace,” says Shaw. “This means that the technique helps to bring in more parts of the brain that are usually dedicated to other senses—the parietal lobe is responsible for navigation, and the occipital lobe is related to seeing images.”