How to Use the Loci Technique

Learn how to use the Loci Technique in this Howcast video about memory techniques featuring memory expert Barry Reitman.


I'm Barry Reitman, author of Secrets, Tips and Tricks of a Powerful Memory. And I'm going to speak a little bit about the loci system, how it evolved and what it means to you. Loci, plural of locus, simply means location or locations. 2,500 years ago a great poet named Simonides was at a banquet. He was asked to step outside to speak to someone and just as he left the banquet hall, it collapsed. This big stone structure collapsed in on everyone who remained. They were unrecognizable.

But Simonides realized that he could tell the authorities which remains belong to whom because he had seen them at these tables. So, he remembered them by their location. And this led him to realize, as is recorded by Cicero, this led him to realize that if you know the location of something, or if you put something in a location you can remember it. In this case, the name of individuals.

The loci system is truly synonymous with the memory palace system. I generally think of memory palace as my home. You will think of it as your home and there is another video in this series that discusses that. If you want to extrapolate it out a little bit, let's say, loci locations and make it broader. It might be the stops on bus that you ride to school everyday or on the train that you ride to work. It may be the exits on the highway. It may be the stores in a shopping center that you visit frequently or in which you work. It doesn't matter. Give those things numbers.

You arbitrarily decide what those numbers are, in order, obviously if it's something like the bus route, just take them in the order that you come upon them. Number one is Main Street, number two is Elm Street, whatever they happen to be. And refresh yourself on them several times until they become automatic. It'll be soon because it's your regular route. And then when you have to remember something, perhaps a shopping list or a list of things to do, you're going to associate those things in silly pictures tied to those bus stops, those train stations, or those stores in the shopping center. A couple of examples perhaps, let's say you have a shopping list and you want to remember to get hamburger meat and fresh salmon and ice cream.

And the first exit on the highway that you pass every single day is Hariman. Well, number one is Hariman and number one on your shopping list is hamburger meat. I'm sorry, but I am going to picture a hairy man, Hariman, eating raw hamburger meat. I'm going to see a picture of that. If I just say the words it's not going to help me. But if I see a picture of some hairy man eating raw hamburger meat there is no question in my mind. If the second stop on the highway that I drive every single day is Moatville and second thing I wanted to buy is fresh salmon, I might picture giant salmon swimming around in a moat. A moat, you know, that water bed that surrounds a castle.

And I'm going to have, not salmon swimming in the moat, because that's a pretty natural picture, I have to make my picture silly or outrageous in some way. So, I'm going to have giant salmon, as big as the castle itself, swimming in that moat. I'm going to continue to do this with each stop. I already know that they represent the numbers. So, when I get to the store I don't have to say, what was the first item I have to get? What was the first item?

All I have to do, since I know that my first exit on the highway is Hariman, all I have to do is ask myself what did I see a hairy man doing? He was eating raw hamburger meat, of course. You can't forget a list if you use a loci system.

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