Improve Your Memory With This Ancient Loci Technique

Woman Placing Sticky Notes on a Board. Getty Images

There are many theories and ideas about improving memory, including some that have been around since ancient times. 

Ancient accounts show that early Greek and Roman orators used the "loci" method of remembering long speeches and lists. You may be able to use this method to enhance your memory at test time.

The term loci refers to places or locations. To use the loci system, you will first need to think of a place or route that you can picture in your head very clearly. It can be your house, your school bus route, or any place that contains clear landmarks or rooms.

For this example, we will use the thirteen original colonies as a list that we want to remember and your house as the method for remembering.

The List of Colonies Includes:

  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • Delaware
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Massachusetts
  • Connecticut
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Georgia

Now, picture yourself standing outside your house and begin to make connections with words on your memory list. In this case, you could make a mental note that the front of your house faces north and the back faces south. We have our beginning!

North = North Carolina
South = South Carolina

Your Tour Continues

Imagine that you enter your house and see the coat closet. Open the closet door and note the smell. (It helps to invoke all the senses you can in this method). There you see the coat that Aunt Mary gave your mother (Maryland).

The next room in this imaginary house tour is the kitchen. In this tour, you are suddenly hungry, so you go to the cupboard. All you can find is some virgin olive oil (Virginia). That won't do.

You turn to the refrigerator and look inside. You know your mom just bought some new ham (New Hampshire) from the deli—but where is it? (Delaware).

You manage to locate the items and assemble a sandwich. You carry it to your bedroom because you want to change into your new football jersey (New Jersey).

You open the closet door and a pen falls on your head from the top shelf (Pennsylvania).

"What's that doing there?" you think. You turn to put the pen in your desk drawer. When you open the drawer, you see a giant mass of paper clips (Massachusetts).

You grab a handful, sit down on your bed, and begin to connect them together to form a long chain (Connecticut).

You realize you're still hungry. You decide you are ready for some dessert. You go back to the kitchen and look in the refrigerator again. You know you'll find some leftover New York cheesecake from yesterday (New York).

It's gone! Your little brother must have finished it off! (Note the shock and anger.)

You turn to the freezer.

There are two types of ice cream. Rocky Road (Rhode Island) or Georgia Peach (Georgia). You eat both.

Now look over the list of states again, and think about the place association for each one. It won't be long before you can recite the list of states easily.

This method can be used for remembering a list of objects or a list of events. All you need is keywords and associations for them.

It may help you to come up with funny things that occur along your path. Emotion and sensory experiences will reinforce the information and enhance the exercise.

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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "Improve Your Memory With This Ancient Loci Technique." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Fleming, Grace. (2020, August 26). Improve Your Memory With This Ancient Loci Technique. Retrieved from Fleming, Grace. "Improve Your Memory With This Ancient Loci Technique." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).