One of the most memorable lines of Ageless Memory, by Harry Lorayne, is you can’t “forget” what you never “got” in the first place. What he means is that we easily remember what we find most interesting, challenging, shocking, etc. What we can’t seem to “remember” at all are things we never cared about in the first place.
This can have bad consequences as we get older. How many clueless physicians have asked a senior citizen to name the local mayor, or senator, or (before the polarizing Obama and Trump) the president. If they can’t, it is taken as proof the senior citizen can’t live alone any more. In fact, one of the doctor “tests” for cognitive impairment is to give the senior citizen three unconnected words (e.g., apple, penny, table) and then after 15 minutes of discussing something else ask them to recall the three words. If they can’t… well there you are! Obviously you’re losing it.
Learning about these “tests” has worried me for some time. Because, in my 30s, I could not have successfully answered them. And, of course, I still can’t in my 70s. Honestly, I don’t care enough to remember politician names. I get so angry thinking about politics and politicians that I long ago stopped in the interest of my mental health. Ask me to name any one of them (other than Obama and Trump) and I wouldn’t be able to. And I could NEVER remember three unconnected, meaningless words. Heck, I’d be amazed if I remembered one word that meant nothing to me.
So I was skeptical, to say the least, reading a book by a self-described “memory expert.” I only bought the book because of 1) a fear that I might REALLY need this someday to stay independent and 2) recommendations from major media (e.g., Time, Modern Maturity, and Reader’s Digest magazines) and famous actors (Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft).
Mental “tricks” known since 1500 B.C.(!)
Lorayne found the first mention of the memory tricks he uses back around 1500 B.C., where they were used by orators who would declaim for hours without written notes.
Today, there is little attention to memory tricks, at least in the United States. In fact, our education system prides itself that we are NOT teaching memorization. Actors in plays may be the only group today that has to memorize long speeches without the crutch of notes.
But we may be short-sighted in ignoring memorization. To do it well, it requires imagination and focus — techniques that should help our thinking as well as our memorization.
Can you really boost your memory?
Yes, you can. Dramatically. Instantly. I’m the proof.
I’m only about 1/4 the way through Lorayne’s Ageless Memory, but I’ve been exposed thus far to two of his memory tricks:
- Pairing (where you pair two words that have nothing to do with each other), and his
- Link System (where you memorize a list of random words, and can recreate them in order or backwards)
I had already known memorization techniques include some sort of “visualization” of shocking pairing between two words. But apparently my creativity was never up to the task. Lorayne helps with that, giving you three different “outrageous” visualizations for each pair. And I really needed his help! But… he soon had me visualizing tiny little automobiles strapped onto each wrist as a wrist watch (for one example). I may never think automobile again without picturing them on my wrist.
Given 10 pairs of unrelated words, following Lorayne’s advice and visualization suggestions, I was able to get nine of the pairs with about six minutes of learning.
More shocking to me, given 10 unrelated words, I was able to “remember” them both in order AND backward — with about 8 minutes of visualizing.
You probably don’t know me, so you don’t know how astonishing this accomplishment is. I HATE the idea of learning random words (or numbers). I hate it so much it was hard to make myself apply his techniques even once — to see if I could do it. And… once I found I could, I couldn’t make myself do it again with a second list he presented. I have always resisted — strongly! — learning something that is truly meaningless.
But… we might REALLY need this skill!
Rather than “waste” a doctor’s time diagnosing cognitive impairment with a 40-60 minute test, doctors have developed a “mini-cog” test. They claim mild cognitive impairment can be determined in less than five minutes with a three-word memory test and a clock-drawing task. Less than 5 minutes to categorize someone as mentally impaired(!)
But… if some doctor in the future tries to “test” me to raise questions as to my mental capabilities — I now know exactly how to beat his test. You can too!
What do you think? Could you beat the “apple, penny, table” test if you had it today?
Marlene Jensen is a 71-year-old full-time marketing professor. Previously she was a VP at CBS and ABC and spent decades as an entrepreneur and pricing author/consultant. Sadly, none of these prepared her for the onslaught of marketers who now think her daily interests/needs consist solely of hearing aids, wheel chairs, adult diapers, medi-alert buttons, medications, and bath tubs you walk into.