BUILDYOURMEMORY.COM / A mnemonics and memory improvement resource
Mnemonics and memory / Build Your Memory
roman room statue

How memory operates
Why we forget
Observation and memory
Using mnemonics to link together memories
Mnemonics to master a foreign language
Mnemonics to remember numbers - The number/rhyme system
Mnemonics to remember your dreams
Advanced number mnemonics - Pegging
Mnemonics for quotations
Mnemonics to remember abstract symbols and letters
The Roman Room or journey system
Mnemonics to remember names and faces
Mnemonics for rememberring appointments - The Mental Diary
How to combine the systems - The Mental Database


How your memory operates

Firstly let me begin this section by telling you that your memory is excellent. Yes you read correctly. I did say excellent! What do you mean you don’t believe me? The plain and simple fact of the matter is that it has been proven, with the aid of such techniques as hypnosis, that everything that an individual sees, hears, thinks, or does in his or her life, leaves some trace (no matter how small) somewhere in their brain. And unless someone’s brain suffers some kind of physical trauma – for example an haemorrhage, tumour, or some other form of injury or disease that results in the permanent destruction of certain regions of the brain. Then the memories will leave some record for the rest of their life.

Now at this point you are probably asking yourself that, if everything that you have experienced in your life is stored away somewhere in the depths of your brain – then why is it that you appear to forget things?
Well there are a number of reasons why people seem to lose memories (or forget) and the primary ones shall be discussed in the next section. However for now, I will offer a simplified explanation for how human memory operates. I will do this with the aid of a simple analogy.

Imagine if you will, that your memory is an enormous multi-floor library. Now visualise each one of your memories as but a single paragraph, on a single page, of a single book, in this vast library.
In the untrained memory these books are not indexed, and in fact they are not always placed on shelves with books that contain similar memories. So unless you have made a note of which floor and which row ‘specifically’ you placed a particular book, and upon which page of that book the required memory was written. Then finding any piece of information in this labyrinth of shelves, becomes a next to impossible task.

Now I would like you to consider for a few moments, a particularly rare kind of human being. Namely someone who possesses total recall, or to use the generic term – a ‘photographic memory.’
There are not many such individuals around. Also, of the few people that are gifted at birth with a photographic memory, most loose it by the time that they reach adulthood. But nevertheless, enough of them do exist to carry out research with. So, going back to my library analogy. It would seem that in a photographic memory (or library), the books of memories are both indexed and catalogued. Each book is also placed in a section and sub-section, with books of similar content. As a result of this, memories from any part of such an individual’s life are immediately accessible to them.

Now I will be the first to admit that my analogy is (to put it mildly), a little crude. However, it does serve to illustrate that (as will be made abundantly clear throughout the course of this book), an organised memory operates far more efficiently, than does a disorganised one!

The process of remembering

The process of memorising information can be split into four distinct stages. These are:

  1. The registering of information by the five senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch and/or taste.
  2. The interpretation by the brain of the impulses that are generated by the five senses. This is what is termed understanding.
  3. The temporary storage of the information in the so-called short-term memory.
  4. Finally, the transfer of the information from the short-term, to the long-term memory. This is where a (theoretically) permanent record of the memory is stored.

All of the above stages are important and all of them can be used by most people far more efficiently than they generally are. This efficiency may be accomplished with the aid of the many mnemonic techniques, which will be outlined in section two of this site.

The biological basis of memory

In this site, I do not intend to delve to deeply into the biological basis for memory. The reason for this, is that whether or not you have an exact understanding of how your memory functions ‘biologically.’ I find it highly improbable that this knowledge will in any way improve your ability to recall information. Which is after all the purpose of this site. Nevertheless, I shall offer a brief description of how the human brain ‘physically’ processes memories.

Collectively the areas of the brain that appear to be linked with memory are known as the limbic system.


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