Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Behind an Extraordinary Memory

By now, most of you should know that I am a die-hard fan of Scientific American. Here is yet another interesting article about extraordinary minds. The interviewee, Daniel Tammet, is special in his own right. He is a mildy autistic linguist who can recite the first 22 514 decimal places of the mathematical constant Pi.

Here are a few takeaways from the interview:
  • Visualization improves memory. Instead of treating numbers as boring static strings, view them in dynamic, multi-dimensional shapes and forms. This technique also works beautifully with learning vocabularies.
  • Clustering also improves memory. If you break a series of numbers into smaller chunks (of 3 or 4), your brain can better handle them. This is why telephone numbers are hyphenated.
  • Creativity further improves memory! When you throw in creative imagery to the above formulas, your memory becomes super-charged. In fact, the more exaggerating the imagery, the better the results. In Daniel's words, he used to "dance with" numbers in Pi.
I actually read about these techniques in my teenage years, albeit with much skeptism. I did give it a try eventually on reciting my personal goals. Yeah, laugh all you want. Reminding myself of my personal goals every morning has become a habit of mine. Indeed, one of my goals is to live every day as if it was my last. So I imagine myself lying in a coffin, which grows larger and larger until it becomes an arena. This leads beautifully into my next goal, which is to think Big.

Well, I just gave away my memory secret. What's yours?


-PTS

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