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Moonwalking and Metacognition

I became aware of the existence of elaborate systems of memory techniques in my youth, when I saw an infomercial for Harry Lorayne’s products. I expect everyone to be familiar with a few mnemonics, we’ve probably all heard in school of such phrases as Every good boy does fine, which is a coded message to help you remember the sequence of letters which define the notes of the lines of the treble clef, or FACE, which is a word, an acronym which is meant to aid your memory for the notes that fall in the spaces of the clef. Well Harry Lorayne, and other authors such as Tony Buzan and Kevin Trudeau have all written books or sold audio products or training software to teach people systems for devising their own mnemonics. These are sometimes referred to as mnemonic systems, but the word wold mnemotechnic would suggest what they do is give you tools to build your own mnemonics, and that is pretty accurate.

I doubt any writer I have mentioned can make any claim to originality. In fact, one of the greatest claims they can make that their systems work and are useful is by reference to ancient authority. Books that more directly reference the ancient origins and the practice of such methods in antiquity are “The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci” by Jonathan D. Spence or “The Art of Memory” by Frances A. Yates.

Recent Memory champion Joshua Foer has also written a book giving a good overview of memory systems currently known, and his experience using them to excel in a contest. See the interview in the embedded YouTube link below:

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