My conference mind palace!

I stumbled upon this book, Moonwalking with Einstein, while browsing the many wonderful reads my Goodreads friends were into.  I’m involved in a neuroscience-related project in my graduate program, and a book on memory sounded intriguing, even if it wasn’t written by a neuroscientist.  The book was golden.  Written in narrative fashion, it depicts the experience of a man with normal memory—like you or me—try to improve his memory to compete in the US national memory championship—and all to answer the question, are those people who memorize pi to 10,000 digits prodigies, or can anybody do it?  Turns out, the answer is… anyone can!

Image result for moonwalking with einstein

The book includes several different kinds of information—case studies from scientific journals, some brain anatomy, and memory techniques that have been around since ancient Rome and the middle ages.  He details how multiple inventions—first books, the printing press, the internet—have all led to the lack of need of memory.  Memory used to be an art, and now it is more of a parlor trick.  Kind of sad really.

What I really got into in the end was the technique itself.  Anyone seen the fun Sherlock TV show with Benedict Cumberbatch?  Remember his mind palace?  That’s a real thing.  And Sherlock didn’t invent it.  It was started by a Greek named Simonedes.  The story goes he was having a party and a volcano erupted and covered everyone in ash.  He had been lucky and stepped out of the house just in time and avoided the awful death.  But in this moment, he was able to preserve in his memory an exact account of who sat where at the table when the eruption occurred—and there were a lot of guests.  And hence was born the mind palace.  Your brain isn’t very good at memorizing isolated facts.  But it IS surprisingly good at stories and places.  Taking advantage of this fact, you can construct stories and maps in your mind to help aid your memorization.

Using these methods, some people go to crazy levels, memorizing the order of multiple decks of cards, pages of binary, entire epic poems, and crowds of faces—each of these an event in this memory competition.  I don’t plan on going to that level, but using some of this simple strategies, I immediately set about memorizing my credit card number.  I constructed a few mental maps to help me memorize the anatomy of the brain.

And my newest project is to construct a few stories to help memorize the conference talks from October 2016.  Each conference, I regret that my memory of the previous conference fades so quickly.  I mostly can only recall one or two, like the talk given by Elder Renlund on the distance between giver and receiver.  I thought this might be a great attempt at helping me internalize some of the messages, supplemented, of course, by regular review of the messages.  Each of the stories will take place in one of the areas surrounding Temple Square—City Creek, the Tabernacle, Temple Square proper, the Conference Center, and the church building behind the Conference Center. I thought I would share my first story so you can see how fun it is—and perhaps suggest a fun way to help your studies of conference!

Capitalized letters represent the speakers, each a locus point or little hook on which I can hang the entirety of the talk.  In parentheses I included little asides that capture the essence of the topic.


Starting at the Farr’s Fresh Café:

On my way to conference (Saturday session, of course) I decided to stop and get some FRUCHTDORF flavored ice cream (Oh how great the plan of our God! He included ice cream!).  Frucht is German for fruit, but Fruchtdorf doesn’t actually mean anything.  IF you translated it directly it would mean fruit village.

While inside, I HAILED one of my friends (that’s some Christian service).

He was actually a protester, and had dressed up in a Ronald MCDONALD outfit (start praying this will go over well!)

I was a little startled but I decided to do the CHRISTIAN thing (try to ignore his sign about Joseph Smith).

There was only a minor altercation—YOU SAID what?

In the end, it ended in some CORNY CONVERSATION (Am I a good enough missionary?)


The stories can be perhaps a little silly, but the sillier the better! It makes them more memorable.  If you don’t think my story works for you, I would encourage you to try it out for yourself! Try making your own memory palaces.  It’s already been a great help in my study habits, even when I don’t construct a memory palace for each one.  I find myself remembering the cast of characters in books better, and it’s a fun little game you can do without any electronic props!

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