The Artificial Memory

Chris Thomas Ars Memoria, The Reformed Humanist 2 Comments

So after reading the previous two posts on memory you should now be asking yourself, Where do I begin in the development my artificial memory?  First we begin with the 3 keys of artificial memory.
Three Keys of Artificial Memory

  • Association
  • Imagination
  • Location

You can remember these 3 keys to developing your artificial memory by the acronym AIL.  Why are Association, Imagination, & Location important?  In order to remember something such as a chapter from the Bible, a section from the London Baptist Confession of Faith with its scripture proofs, or even just a simple grocery list, we use first the principle of association in which one thing reminds us of another.  In helping memorize we must use our imagination to create memorable images that stand out because of their unusual nature.  And we string all these images together in a mental journey through some location.  These three will be the building blocks for developing our artificial memory to a level that allows us to memorize the entire Bible, a Confession & a Catechism with their scriptural proofs, organize material within our own “Memory Palace”, memorize mathematical formulas and their use for tests, or even prepare for and pass tests such as the LSAT without ever attending law school.  Such achievements may seem like a dream at the moment, but as we practice the upcoming techniques and develop our artificial memory you will soon find yourself considering the aforementioned achievements as child’s play.
If I were to read out to you a list of random words or numbers, how many of them do you think you would be able to remember?  Perhaps only 4 or maybe you did well and got 7.   Within a month of daily practice you should have no issues with memorizing a list with 100 objects, numbers, or people in any order you wish.  So let’s begin with our first exercise.


In the following list I want you to think of and then write down the first association that comes to mind.  Don’t think about it, let it happen spontaneously.

  1. key
  2. stadium
  3. autograph
  4. cross
  5. bald
  6. cup
  7. figure
  8. number
  9. school
  10. knife

Now I seriously doubt that anyone doing this exercise upon reading the word key thought of the dictionary definition.  Mostly likely you thought of something like lock or perhaps golden.  But whatever it was that you thought of for each of the above 10 words, it was not the dictionary definition.  That’s just not the way our minds work and this is a good thing.  The associations you make for each word happened quickly and probably took little thought.  Don’t worry if some of them took you a few seconds.  As with any new exercise program your muscles, in this case your brain, may be a little stiff.
Let’s take the above list and break it down into 5 pairs of words.  Now there is no ready made association or link between each pair of words, so we will need to create an artificial link.  Spend a minute or two doing that with the following list.

  1. key-stadium
  2. autograph-cross
  3. bald-cup
  4. figure-number
  5. school-knife

Perhaps for key-stadium you imagined a key unlocking the stadium before a big game.  For the 2nd pair perhaps you imagined someone signing an autograph with a cross pen.  The 3rd pair you could imagine a bald man drinking coffee from a cup.  For the 4th pair perhaps you thought of a skater skating the figure eight.  And for the last pair you imagined kids in shop class at school sharpening their Bowie knives.  It’s an East Texas school.  But whatever the association that you created between each pair of words, you should be able to remember either word whenever someone mentions the other word in the pair.  Practice making associations between words.  The first association you make between words will usually be the best association.  They can be random words, words you read in a book, titles of a TV show.  But wherever you get the words, just focus on making associations.


Imagination is the tool we will use to come up with associations and locations as well as actions that occur at those locations to help us remember whatever we wish.  Perhaps you don’t think you have a good imagination and if so, then I have some good news for you:  You’re Wrong!  Perhaps you let your imagination atrophy a bit.  But I assure you that your imagination is more than up to the task of creating unusual links, mentally traveling to strange locations , seeing strange actions to help your memory.


It’s the end of the day and you’re friend asks you, as a memory exercise, to tell him about your day from the beginning.  What would you find yourself doing as you recalled for your friend the events of today?  You would mentally walk through your day visiting each location and describing to your friend the events that occurred there.  It’s the places that determine the order of your memory of the events throughout the day.  If you have read the the previous two articles on memory, Ad Herennium On Memory and Ars Memoria Part 1 you will see that among the Ancient Greek and Romans location was extremely important to the Art of Memory.
The LinkMethod.
We’re going to take the above list and create a short story to help us remember the list in the correct order.
On a nice sunny day you walk up, golden key in hand, to the Grand Stadium.  You unlock the stadium with the golden key and as you do so you notice John Hancock is already there signing his autograph with a brand new Cross pen.  Sitting in a chair next to him is a balding Benjamin Franklin who, upon seeing you, offers you a cup of coffee.  As you are about to accept the coffee, thinking to yourself how glad you are it isn’t tea, King George of England comes skating by doing a figure eight stealing the coffee.  You immediately give chase, following him into a shop class at the local school in which Jim Bowie is giving a class on knife making.
As you can see, with the above story it is much easier to remember the list of 10 items in a story than it is as a list of 10 unlinked items.  Now if you have never done any type of memory exercises you may find this an interesting technique.  But if you have studied memory techniques before perhaps you were wanting something more.  This technique is only a warm-up technique.  Much in the way you warm your muscles up before running 5 miles, you need to warm up your mental muscles before you memorize a book of the Bible like Romans or before memorizing a list of 100 new vocabulary words with their conjugations.  And no, this will not be the technique we use for book memorization.
In the next post I will cover the Journey Method / The Method of Loci

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4 years ago

Are you planning to continue your posts on that topic? Because if so it would be very great.
There’s already some information put together on that topic – yet it’s still somewhat chaotic
See also here:
and here:
If you would notify me of further posts in this series, that would be awesome. Thanks in advance. Greetings

4 years ago

Cool post. I just discovered all of this memory science myself and I’m very excited to start learning how to learn