There's a sense, in which it is a 'junk' association, to associate 'zero' with Ozzy Ozbourne eating a bat's head.
Do I really want to have many such associations in my mind?
Is there a cost? Our brains are bounded in volume, energy, complexity; there have to be limits and costs? I've always been wary about such mnemonic techniques, on these grounds - but I don't know if this caution makes any sense.
1) The techniques work well to impress your friends and family (you look like a genius weaving that magic) but better still, they work wonders for examinations that require lots of memorization (think history, biology, geography, chemistry, literature and so on.) In a world where we all agree memorization is not the best way to go, our education system can't seem to avoid it. These memory techniques help you to "tape" the facts and spit them out appropriately - no thinking, no stress. They've allowed me to get done with the memorization quickly, and move on to where logic and analysis is actually required. A double win.
2) The other great fear in life - public speaking - is also neatly handled. Among other things public speaking combines the recalling of the content of a story, and the presentation of that story. We fear we will forget on the one hand, and that we will screw up delivery on the other. These memorization techniques make the recalling a breeze, and allow you to focus on the presentation. Worth it's weight in gold.
3) Finally, on the questioning of the value of the "junk associations" connected with these techniques. As others have pointed out, the reality is our human mind creates mostly junk associations anyway. We remember what we remember only because those mostly junk associations are vivid. These memory techniques teach you how to make vivid whatever junk association you use via heightened or over exaggerated imagery.
What I've found is that while the short-term benefit is better short-term memory, in the long-term the exercise of such vivid imagery has made me much more creative in the way I see things. Sometimes crazy but mostly creative, and lots of non sequiturs that bring out a crazy sense of humor that keeps you chuckling along to better ideas.
A beautiful naked blond jumps up and down.
The key linking the two is this:
1 : t, d
2 : n
3 : m
4 : r
5 : l
6 : j, sh, soft g
7 : k, hard g, hard c
8 : f
9 : p, b
0 : s, z, soft c
For the others, this is the book: http://www.amazon.com/How-Develop-Super-Power-Memory/dp/0811...
For example, occasionally I'll visit a train stop known as "7774". To check on the train arrival schedule if I'm not there yet, the simplest route is to feed that number into an Android app. Initially I used the ancient Major System of equating digits and consonant sounds, so 7774 becomes k-k-k-r, or "kaka car". (Think of a clown car driving past the stop, except it's filled to overflowing with poop instead of clowns.)
Now my point is that these days I only use the car association on those rare occasions when I momentarily block on the stop number. Normal usage brings up the stop number automatically -- without the poop car image. So it's not like my thinking is somehow cluttered with thousands of random images.
BTW, working on generating your own memory prompt images is effectively the same as practicing your creativity and lateral thinking skills. And that's a good thing, no?
That's why things people told me yesterday get blended together, but I'll probably be stuck remembering the "purple monkey dishwasher" thing for the rest of my life, even though I haven't seen that show in a decade or so.
Edit: this is especially relevant to the "read me a list and I'll repeat it forwards, backwards, or in any order you call out" party trick.
It is often mentioned that there is a cost in that an additional association seems like more work. (To disclose my bias, I find visual memory techniques to be a boon to my apparently concept-driven mind.) Consider, however, that work must be done both when constructing the memory and also when repeating it. Visual memory, mnemonics, and the like, all work, I believe, because they increases the strength of the encoding, decreasing the need for repetition later. So, there may be more work upfront, but there is much less over the lifetime of the memory.
It goes like this.
You are running and a dog chases you. So you run toward the dog acting like a lunatic. I've tried this and the dog does run away. But only the first time. The second time (that I tried) the dog was on to it and continued the confrontation.
I still vividly remember the moment a week later when I dislodged the lost and then found spelling bee study guide that was jammed behind the drawer of my nighttable.
Yes, it's very difficult to become a national champion (or be competitive at that level). However, these skills really do help in real life at a much less intense level - grocery lists, names and faces, cough card counting... lots of practical applications.
That being said, in other games it can be very helpful - remembering poker hands, etc...
Great to remember groceries, not so good to remember the parameters for that function you created yesterday.
Wonderful in many ways, I hope they keep creating content. Thanks for the link!
Memrise is really an implementation of the Heisig et al approach to memorizing Chinese characters - imagine their components to be images/shapes of things which they mean, and use those mnemonic images to recall the characters' meanings. Which is, unsurprisingly, the original basis of most Chinese characters anyway, although they've undergone a lot of evolution in the intervening millennia.
Unfortunately I'm past the stage that I need to use mnemonics to remember characters, but it's certainly a useful tool for those starting out or at intermediate levels.
> So for a grocery list, the example goes, imagine a container of milk overflowing on your doorstep, and when you get inside, perhaps two giant steaks attacking you in your foyer. Continue to your living room to find pretzels dancing on your rug.
To people for whom this works: how vivid exactly are you imagining these things? I think I'm like this guy; basically, I can't close my eyes and "see" anything, much less "imagine walking through my house."
I think the memory palace technique is supposed to help you remember things like this: you "walk" (via imagination) into a room and see a crazy scene full of memory prompts. Right? But... how automatic is seeing that scene? I can memorize "a wet lion on my bed" or something, but then I'm just memorizing it, so why shouldn't I just memorize the original thing? And if you can walk into that room and see the lion, and then go, "oh yeah, a wet lion, that means an Ace of Spades" can't you just imagine a poster on the wall with an Ace of Spades on it?
I guess, basically, the memory palace technique seems so far from useful it makes me question how my brain works vs. other people's.
One of the lessons in the book is was to memorize the memory champion's grocery list which contained some items I'd never remember on my own (pickled garlic, for example, I've never had or heard of).
My daughter and I walked through the list, doing as instructed in the text, and instructing my daughter to do the same. I never performed an image replacement (e.g., the ace of spades actually equals something else,) but did try to abstract the items. For example, for pickled garlic, I imagined a car-sized jar of pickles, but the pickles were garlic shaped. Instead of cottage cheese, I imagined (as instructed) Charisma Carpenter bathing in a large cottage cheese tub.
To this day, both I and my daughter can remember the list perfectly, by walking through the house and looking how we should.
I haven't gone much farther with it to the degree that I would have had to encode a lion into an ace of spades, but just exaggerating the image itself into a more memorable form works for me. I also have the same lack of visual imagination, but following the instructions in the book exactly as offered worked perfectly.
One of the catches though, is that numerous memory champions will tell you that becoming really good at mnemonic memory is really a game of who can be more imaginative.
Some routines (like memorizing a deck of cards) can become rote, as you already have the cyphers in your head, you just have to encode them. The more advanced mnemonists have partial encoding techniques such that one mnemonic image can encode a 3 or 4 card sequence. That doesn't take imagination, just discipline... but encoding things, on the fly, that you haven't predetermined the pattern to, is a game of imagination.
That said, you might suck at it, as I sort of expect to suck at it myself. Regardless, there are other, less imaginative techniques that may work well for you, and allow you to permanently remember things you would wish to.
"I imagined a car-sized jar of pickles, but the pickles were garlic shaped."
did that involve you creating a mental image of this? How clearly can you see it? Can you close your eyes and visualize just an ordinary pickle, for that matter? I wonder how integral that is in order for this technique to be useful, since I have trouble visualizing even a simple colored shape.
That said, it occurs to me now that I can imagine the feel of things very well, as well as the sound of things. So maybe I could prompt myself with a slippery trumpet or something, rather than an odd visual picture.
Thanks for the book recommendation.
I don't really 'see' it, as I would a scene I was actually looking at. I don't see items in the periphery of it to the extent that I could describe non-essential items in the scene, but I know what I pictured, and I know it's there.
For comparison's sake, I know that my guitar is brown, and I know that it has chrome hardware, and I know it's got that classic Les Paul shape, but I don't really 'see' it in my mind's eye very well. When I look over at it now, I realize several details that I didn't envision in my head, but I generally know what it looks like.
In summary, it sounds like we might be similarly minded, and I can say that mnemonics have definitely helped me to learn certain things very well. I feel like it would be a bad all-around memorization technique for me though, because the act of creating the memory takes quite a bit longer to 'encode' than it does to just remember. While I realize that encoding is more reliable, it isn't practical for every day memories, and there are certain types of things I think I would be very bad at encoding.
Your mileage may vary.
For something more instructional, I was recommended Higbee's, "Your Memory, How it Works and How to Improve It".
I also noticed somebody else in this topic post a link to Memrise.com, which is a startup actually created by one the guy who actually taught the one bit of instruction in Moonwalking.
 - http://www.amazon.com/Your-Memory-How-Works-Improve/dp/15692...
 - http://www.memrise.com/
The reason you start forgeting the name of the person just introduced to you is that you are thinking of a 100% other things, like what to say, do I know him, what to do.
All the excercises in the article will help you 'pause' and really concentrate on what you want to remember.
Even the first tip: Once you hear a new name, immediatelly try to think of someone you know with the same name. Will improve your 'name memory' greatly. (Not because you know someone else, but because you took a second to concentrate on the name)
(begin sort of random tangent)
I've tried using the memory palace technique to memorize poetry, and I found the clashing images somewhat disconcerting. On the one hand, there was the imagery of the poem, and on the other, there was the image I had created. Often times, I had to create completely new images, totally unrelated to the substance of the poem, in order to remember it. And well, somehow the images I created always involved a lot of...boob.
yet another advantage of these systems, I suppose.
A "perk", if you will.
Just sayin.. :P
Everything seems to be a trade-off - the mind included.
For stuff like decks of cards and long numbers this is very difficult and requires practice. But there are easy examples you can do to show you the power of this method. For example, I tried memorizing the basic layout of the electromagnetic spectrum about two years ago. This was accomplished in about five minutes and I can still recall everything with clarity at this very moment.
For numbers, I've partly described the "peg" system in a comment above where you assign sounds to the numbers 0 to 9, then make words that reflect the number sequence with the matching sounds, using vowels to fill in.
For cards, it's a similar approach: For example, for the diamonds suit you begin each member with the letter d and join it with the appropriate number ( 2 : n, 3 : m etc) so that two of diamonds becomes DeN, the three of diamonds DaM etc. Using this kind of mnemonic to represent the cards it becomes very easy to visualize and remember them.
I've done this and astounded people by calling out the order of a deck of cards in sequence - forwards and backwards, the card in any random position in the deck, and the position of any random card. A lot of fun, and a lot more useful in practical applications that call for a good memory.
//----- In theory
First of all, what is being described seems a lot like the "Art of Memory". It is a technique whose modern incarnation was developed mostly during the Renaissance, based on older techniques of the ancient roman schools of rhetoric. If that is the case, we need to put the Art of Memory into a context and remember that it pre-dates Gutenberg and his printing press (let alone any sort digital media).
So, the way I see it, its a little bit like running. We have all this professional and olympic athletes, who we admire and subsidize so they can devote full time to their art, who represent the maximum levels of human physical achievement. Now, to expect those athletes to run longer and faster than a car would be obviously ridiculous, and to expect that the whole society ditch their cars and begin running everywhere is beyond impractical. However, most people would agree that it's a very sad state of human existence to be unable to move oneself without motorized assistance for a few hundred, or even a few dozen, meters.
With memory, it is the same thing. These memory athletes may do amazing things but it'd be foolish to expect them to store and recall as much information as a computer. Still, having a good memory is a very human thing that everybody can do, and we are reaching to a point where cloud computing and hand-held devices are not empowering us to remember and handle even more information, but to be complacent and not to bother with it.
//----- In practice
Now, when we are talking about the particulars of how this things are remembered... There are some points... first, some people here has commented that it is harder to remember all this crazy imagery that then payload data in the first place. As others have pointed out, the crazy imagery works because it is loaded with strong emotions that trigger responses in our brains that simple digits cannot. This is part of the answer, the other part is that imagery is meant to be reused over and over again.
As it is described in , you have to pay the cost upfront. You build what is essentially a sort of ideographic alphabet with which to encode new information in the future. I assume you could go the other way around and load our native alphabet and guarisms with a bunch of strong emotions... but it i not how the method evolved historically.
Other important flaw that I find in the original article is that it fails to stress the fact that these new symbols are (or should be) a personal fabrication. It is not like everybody has to cramp their heads with imagery of Ozzie Osbourne chewing off bat heads. If there's a number of competitors doing that, it must be a (very recent) defect in the teaching of the technique. Its like the students are literally blindly copying their teacher's symbol table; instead of developing a personal, and more effective, one of their own.
By example, the author of  is a sorts of fan of Tolkien, and his mental imagery is filled up in characters from LOTR. I have very recently started to use this technique, but its very clear that I shouldn't pick the same work of fiction to base my own symbol table. Instead, I am using Eliezer Yudkowsky's "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality".
So it is not that we clutter our heads with useless stuff. We ought to "recycle" the stuff that has already found its way in. To continue with the example, may mind has attached emotions to "Theodore Nott, Chaotic Lt." (as depicted by Dinosaurusgede , nonetheless) in a way that "Theoden of Rohan" will never reach. So, I use that when trying to pinpoint the phoneme "Th" instead.
 Art of Memory I. Introduction and historic development. http://hermetic.com/caduceus/articles/1/1/ars-memorativa.htm...
 Art of Memory II. Description of one technique. http://hermetic.com/caduceus/articles/1/2/ars-memorativa.htm...
I listened to it while working out over the course of several weeks and, despite not putting much effort into it, was able to improve my ability to remember short lists (e.g. groceries) and names. With more focused practice, I'm sure it would lead to excellent results.
The only flaw in it is that some of his social references are a bit dated. In the imagery exercises, you'll probably want to substitute your own, updated names and faces. :-)