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9. Remembering: Hacks 81–92 > 89. Navigate Your Way Through Memory

A 2,500-year-old memory trick shows how our memory for events may be based on our ability to remember routes to get to places.

Remembering where you are and what is currently happening are (as you might expect) both rather important. It turns out that orienting yourself in space may rely on some of the same brain areas as are used for remembering what has happened to you—areas that originally evolved to help animals find their way around, but now allow us to retain the episodes that make up our personal narratives.

The demonstration we’ll use is a famous memory trick used to remember a list of arbitrary things, with the added bonus that the things are remembered in order. It’s called the method of loci and involves remembering things according to where they are positioned along a route. Simply take your list of things to remember and place them along a familiar route, imagining each item (or something that will remind you of it) at key points on the route.


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