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Memory Technique: Remembering a Random List of 20 Items

Rick loves writing fantasy novels, and has an unending passion for football, cricket and music.


It is always cool to be able to remember things at will. Some people are born with this ability, which is commonly referred to as Photographic or Eidetic memory. However, most of us are not blessed with this. But guess what, one doesn't necessarily need to have this ability to remember a long list of items. There are numerous memory techniques (or mnemonics) that can be employed to help us do this. I am going to explain one such technique in this article.

Consider a random list of 20 items as follows:

1) Book

2) Mobile Phone

3) Flower

4) Pen

5) Table

6) Biscuits

7) Pepsi

8) Bicycle

9) Laptop

10) Fan

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11) Chair

12) Eraser

13) Guitar

14) Clock

15) Bag

16) A Deck of Cards

17) Tea Cup

18) Speakers

19) Knife

20) Gloves

Now let us see how we can memorise these items to such an extent that we would be able to recall the list in any order at will. There are multiple ways to do this, but the one I prefer is assigning numbers 1-20 to people we know (either our friends or popular celebrities) and then associating these items with those people. The numbers should be assigned to each person in such a way that there is some kind of connection between the person and that number.

Confused? Let me explain with a couple of examples. In my list of people, No. 7 has been assigned to the Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo (as he wears the No. 7 Jersey). So when I come across the 7th item in the above list, which is Pepsi, I create an image in my mind of Cristiano Ronaldo drinking Pepsi. Likewise, No. 11 on my list of people is Millie Bobby Brown (as she plays the character ‘Eleven’ in Stranger Things). So when I come across the 11th item in the list (Chair), I create a mental image of Millie sitting on a chair. In a similar way, as you go through each item in the list, take about 10 seconds to create an image in your mind of your assigned person doing something with that particular item

Once you are done with this exercise, see if you are able to recall all the items in their correct order. You might not be successful in the first attempt itself, but once you get used to the technique, you’d be surprised to find that recalling all these items isn’t so difficult after all! This is because visual memory is always the strongest, and therefore creating mental images of our assigned persons performing actions with these items helps our brain to easily recall the items.

The main trick here is to make sure that the people we have assigned the numbers to are easily relatable to those numbers, so that each time we think of a number, the associated person’s face automatically comes to our mind. After that, it is just a matter of creating mental images of those persons performing some action with the item in the list we are trying to memorise. The assigning of numbers to people is a one-time exercise, and once done, that list should never be changed. It is with this same set of people that we try to memorise different sets of items until it becomes an involuntary activity in our brain. By regularly practicing this technique, we'd even be able to recall items in any order, and when someone randomly asks us to tell which item No. 6 is, we can do so without thinking twice. With time, we can slowly expand the list from 20 to 50 or even 100! In addition to being a fun memory game, this could also prove to be useful in our everyday life when we come across any numbered list that we need to memorise for some purpose, and have no means of noting it down.

So what are you waiting for? Create a random list of your own, try this technique, and have fun!

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