By Dominic O’Brien – 8 times World Memory Champion

As a boy I used to enjoy playing a variation of Kim’s Game which originated from the 1901 novel by Rudyard Kipling. The hero, Kim played a game of memory as part of his training to become a spy.

Traditionally, up to fifteen small household items are placed on a tray and the idea is to memorise them with just one minute of observation. The tray is then covered with a cloth to see how many items can then be recalled.

Give yourself one minute to memorise the following items: 

pen, keys, 4 of Hearts, wrist watch, candle, elastic band, wallet, ring, sunglasses, glass, match, teaspoon, apple, battery, postcard

It is unlikely that you can recall more than ten items without using a memory technique and the average is around eight.

The Roman Room Method

If you need to memorise items in a sequence such as a ‘to do’ list then the Journey Method is the best technique for memorising anything in a specific order. Briefly to remember five items you could place them along a journey or walk, with five stages or stops along the way. The journey preserves the order of the information.

However, if sequencing is not important and you just want to recall all the items then the ancient technique, the Roman Room method works just as well.

The idea is to associate each item with an object in whichever room or setting you happen to be in. 

Let’s say you are in a typical office. You would then use objects such as a monitor, telephone, calendar, picture, calculator, speaker, and so on, to attach to each of the items on the tray.

For example, you could imagine drawing a shape on the monitor with the pen, the first item. 

You rest the keys on your telephone. 

An image of the 4 of Hearts has replaced the picture on the wall and a wrist watch is hanging from the calendar. 

Imagine a glass balanced precariously on top of the speaker and so on.

If you spend three or four seconds connecting each item to a specific object on the room then you should be able to memorise all fifteen items in 60 seconds or less. 

Then by looking around the room, each object will act as a visual prompt to remind you of the corresponding item.

When you first attempt this method and to make the recall stronger, try to create a logical connection between each item and its opposite object. 

The wrist watch has a logical connection of time with the calendar. How would you or someone else feel about having shapes daubed by the pen on the monitor. The keys could be on the phone to remind you to call your local mechanic to get the car serviced, and so on.

You may not remember the exact order of the items but as long as can find the connections with all the objects then you will have recalled them all.

Now look at those items again and wherever you are sitting, look around you and use whatever objects there are to memorise all fifteen items. 

You should find your score will improve. 

Once you’ve proved to yourself that the method works, imagine how many bits of useful knowledge you could acquire by simply making associations with objects around your home?

Dominic O’Brien