Guide Memory Search By A Memorist

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Somewhat surprisingly, S was unaware that his memory was unusual until Luria began his investigations.


S used three basic processes, usually in combination, for remembering verbal material. The first was to generate rich visual images to represent information. When he became a stage performer, he trained himself to convert senseless words into meaningful images so that he could remember nonsense words or words from unfamiliar languages.

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The second process was to use familiar locations, such as stops on an ofttraveled street, to place the images mentally for later retrieval. This procedure is the method of locations or loci developed by the ancient Greek poet Simonides of Ceos in about B. The method of locations has been discussed by authors as diverse as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. S apparently developed the technique independently.

The third process was to create a story with appropriate images to retrieve the information. With these techniques, S was able to remember any information presented. Luria was unable to find any limit to the amount of material S could recall in this fashion. More surprisingly, there appeared to be no limit to the duration of S's memory. Luria reports a request for recall of a fifty-word list given without warning sixteen years after presentation of the list.

That request, like all the others Luria reports, resulted in successful retrieval of the list. S had strong synesthesia, which appears to be unique among the memorists who have been investigated. Synesthesia is said to occur when information coming into one sensory system e.

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S once said to the Russian psychologist Vygotsky, "What a crumbly, yellow voice you have" Luria, , p. On another occasion, Luria was concerned that S might not remember his way in an unfamiliar location. S replied that he couldn't possibly forget because "here's this fence. It has such a salty taste and feels so rough; furthermore, it has such a sharp, piercing sound.

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  8. Synesthesia interfered with the images S produced and presented an enduring problem for him. For example, S once noted that "Other times smoke or fog appears … and the more people talk, the harder it gets, until … I can't make anything out" Luria, , p. Many psychologists think that Professor Aitken, who lived from to , was the best all-around mnemonist. In a summary of the work on Aitken, Hunter points out that he was a brilliant mathematician, an excellent mental calculator, and an accomplished violinist with an extraordinary memory. His primary method for learning was to search out meaningful relationships within the material and with previously learned information.

    Hunter provides a quote from Aitken that best captures his approach:. Musical memory can … be developed to a more remarkable degree than any other, for we have a metre and a rhythm, a tune, or more than one, the harmony, the instrumental color, a particular emotion or sequence of emotion, a meaning, … in the executant an auditory, a rhythmic and a muscular and functional memory; and secondarily in my case, a visual image of the page … perhaps also a human interest in the composer, with whom one may identify oneself … and an esthetic interest in the form of the piece.

    They are so many, and they are so cumulative, that the development of musical memory, and appreciation, has a multitude of supports. Although Aitken's memory was prodigious, it was not infallible.

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    For example, in he correctly recalled sixteen three-digit numbers after four presentations. Two days later, he recalled all but one of the numbers and, after an additional presentation, he recalled them all. In , without further study, he recalled twelve of the numbers but also produced eight incorrect numbers. VP identified only by these initials in the published report is an excellent chess player whose memory has been investigated by Hunt and Love VP has an exceptional memory but, like Aitken's, it is not infallible.

    For example, Hunt and Love reproduced VP's recall of an Indian story after intervals of 1 hour and 6 weeks. Although there were small changes in both recalls, his overall accuracy was remarkable. VP learned material by relating it to prior information. For example, he knew several languages and could associate any three-letter string with a word. He learned number matrices by rows and sometimes recoded the row as a date.

    It is also clear that he spent a great deal of time practicing memorizing so that he became very adept at recoding information. Rajan has an exceptional memory for digits but not for other material. A group of researchers from Kansas State University Thompson, Cowan, and Frieman, performed extensive tests on his memory.


    Their studies showed that Rajan learned sets of digits more rapidly than VP or S. He used a procedure pairing locations and digits to learn the material. He also encoded the digits in chunks such as a row in a matrix. Thus, he learned that the fifth digit in the fourth row was 3 rather than using preexisting knowledge to encode the information.

    He explicitly attached cues to the chunks for retrieval.

    For example, he learned the first column in a matrix as a cue for retrieving each row of the matrix. Once the material was learned, Rajan's procedure allowed for extremely effective retrieval of information. Working in the first 10, decimal digits of pi, he could retrieve a digit at a specified location e.

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    He had the digits of pi chunked in groups of 10 digits. When he was given the first five digits of a ten-digit group in the first 10, digits of pi, he could give the next five digits in an average time of seven seconds. In several papers, Ericsson and his colleagues e. The three principles they propose are meaningful encoding the use of preexisting knowledge to store the presented information in memory , retrieval structure explicitly attaching cues to the encoded material to allow efficient retrieval , and speedup a reduction in study time with further practice.

    They claim that ordinary subjects, as well as skilled memorists, show these principles. Consistent with this theory, all four mnemonists described here attach retrieval cues when learning material to ensure accurate and fast retrieval.

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    Further, three of them show a reduction in study time with practice. There is no clear evidence available on this point for Professor Aitken. Because those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it Start reading The Memorist on your Kindle in under a minute. Don't have a Kindle? Download "The Memorist" by M.

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    Book "The Memorist" M. Rose ready for download! As a child, Meer Logan was haunted by bizarre memories and faint strains of elusive music. Now a strange letter. Thompson, Thaddeus M. Cowan, Jerome Frieman:. Memory Search By A Memorist. Shop by Department. Follow us:.