43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Actors & Memory

Association for Psychological Science: 'To be or, or ... um ... line!'

Given my own undependable memory and the hand-hewn props I rely upon to shore it up, I was intrigued by this article/press release from last year on how actors are able to remember their lines (via boing boing):

According to the researchers, the secret of actors' memories is, well, acting. An actor acquires lines readily by focusing not on the words of the script, but on those words' meaning — the moment-to-moment motivations of the character saying them — as well as on the physical and emotional dimensions of their performance.

That resonates for me. I'm pretty sure that a lot of my own memory deficits start at the time of "encoding" because I haven't done more than try to shove the words into the right slots. This approach seems like a sensible and organic way to put the material in a more meaningful mental context.

For a good overview of memory techniques, try the Memory Improvement Tools section over on Mind Tools. I'd recommend starting with the introduction, which offers insight into further engaging your "whole mind" in the memory process:

By coding language and numbers in striking images, you can reliably code both information and the structure of information. You can then easily recall these later.

You can do the following things to make your mnemonics more memorable:

  • Use positive, pleasant images. Your brain often blocks out unpleasant ones
  • Use vivid, colorful, sense-laden images - these are easier to remember than drab ones
  • Use all your senses to code information or dress up an image. Remember that your mnemonic can contain sounds, smells, tastes, touch, movements and feelings as well as pictures.
  • Give your image three dimensions, movement and space to make it more vivid. You can use movement either to maintain the flow of association, or to help you to remember actions.
  • Exaggerate the size of important parts of the image
  • Use humor! Funny or peculiar things are easier to remember than normal ones.
  • Similarly rude rhymes are very difficult to forget!
  • Symbols (red traffic lights, pointing fingers, road signs, etc.) can code quite complex messages quickly and effectively
Clementina's picture

Yep, I learned this in...

Yep, I learned this in high school when Mrs. W said we would each have to memorize a part of the Canterbury Tales- and not modernized, either. Then she revealed the secret to memorizing poetry: "You have to understand every single word," she said.

It works. 30 years later I can still say some of the lines: When that April with his shoures soote The of drought of March hath pierced to the roote...

I checked...here it is: Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote And bathed every veyne in swich licour, Of which vertu engendred is the flour; 5 Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne, And smale foweles maken melodye, 10 That slepen al the nyght with open eye- (So priketh hem Nature in hir corages); Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages...

It's how I learned to recite "A Visit from St. Nicholas," too ("On Dasher! On Dancer!..) which REALLY impresses the kids in my life...




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »