Jon Aquino's Mental Garden

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Memorizing pairs is far easier than memorizing single items

Suppose you have a list of things you want to memorize (like the first-initial-to-conversation-topic list from The Art of Mingling):

A - Art
B - Baby
C - Cat
D - Danger
E - Energy

I was getting frustrated trying to keep these 26 items in mind: "OK, A is for Art, B is for Baby, C is...shoot (looks) Cat, D is for...shoot (looks) Danger, E is...shoot..."

Well it turns out that if you double up the words, they become a lot easier to memorize:

Art baby
Cat danger
Energy food
Glowing host
Ice jewelry

It then took only took a few minutes for me to master the list. I suppose it's because pairing up the words forces us to create an association between them, and associations are naturally "sticky".

Here's the rest of the list. Great triggers for conversation starters; trigger them off the first letter of someone's name, of something you see in the room, etc.

kill, laugh,
magic, noise,
old, practice,
quiz, real estate,
sun, toes,
utopia, vocabulary,
winner, xerox,
yell, zoo


  • 1 or 2 years ago, I found Memory Master (amateur site, good content), the theory might help explain why remembering pairs is easier.

    In essence, the association of ideas, especially weird and outrageous ideas, creates an image that's hard to forget. Doesn't "art baby" bring up such an image?

    It just seems like learning about learning, or learning about memory, should be part of a normal curriculum. When we have to learn that by ourselves, often later in life, we, well I, feel like we missed out on something important.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 2/19/2007 8:39 a.m.  

  • Jonathan - neat site - thanks!

    We are getting old, aren't we :-)

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 2/19/2007 6:43 p.m.  

  • Jon,

    When I read your blog, I couldn't believe my eyes! I had just written a post about word pairs in memory systems on my blog the previous week. I guess GMTA after all.

    Larry Becker

    By Blogger Larry D. Becker, at 3/01/2007 1:24 p.m.  

  • Larry - amazing! Also it's great to hear you have a blog. Subscribed!

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 3/01/2007 6:56 p.m.  

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