To memorize things in your mind, it helps to create novel images that surprise your brain. One easy way to do this is by associating two objects together in an unexpected way.
For example, Laurel and Hardy taken separately are not remarkable. But when you put them next to each other, the contrast between them is striking and gets the attention of your mind. Consequently, you remember them much better.
This same technique works for anything you want to memorize. Let’s see 6 ways to associate objects in a creative way.
A little refresher on memory palaces
Before I give you the list, let’s do a little refresher on the memory palace technique. The memory palace is a memorization technique you can’t ignore if you want a reliable and effortless way of memorizing. It has been used by ancient Greeks and Romans, memory champions, and medical students. And the 6 types of creative object associations we’ll see in a few lines will make your memory palaces even more powerful.
I first mentioned the memory palace technique in the first article of the practical memorization article series. A memory palace is a list of places called loci where you store objects in your mind. The easiest way to create a memory palace is to create one inside your house or apartment. First, identify a sequence of places – or loci – in it. For example a chair, a sideboard, a laptop, a table, etc. Then visualize a list of objects you want to memorize on those loci in your imagination. This must be done in a remarkable way, we will see how in a few lines. When done, you have successfully memorized the whole list. Next time you want to bring back these objects from memory, just visit the place again in your imagination.
6 object association types
As mentioned, creative associations are especially helpful to make memorable images in your memory palace.
To illustrate this, let’s take this memory palace I have annotated with 6 loci:
And let’s put your grocery shopping list on it.
Now let’s associate them with their respective loci.
The first type of association we can do is stacking. So here we’ll put the chocolate on the bench. Just picture a huge bar of chocolate sitting on the bench. And let’s imagine it is melting on the bench to make it more memorable.
Next, juxtaposition is the act of placing 2 elements side-by-side. What we need to do is imagine a bottle of milk next to loci number 2: the tall clock. Even better, we can humanize the milk bottle with a face, legs, and head. Now the milk bottle hugs the clock. It is ridiculously small compared to the tall clock, which makes a good contrasting effect, just like Laurel and Hardy.
Also, we can embed things in each other. Let’s do this with the block of butter and the third loci: the chair. We can imagine for example that the chair is on top of a huge half-melted piece of butter, and it slowly gets embedded into the butter like moving sands. Or let’s say that butter is inlaid in the back of the chair and when you sit on it, your back gets very greasy.
Now, let’s do blending. How can we blend the flour with the fourth loci: the table? Well, we can for example imagine a table made of flour. This makes the table very fragile, if you scratch the surface, the flour gets into your nails.
Moving on with the cookies and the fifth loci: the small clock on the left. We can for example imagine that the clock is made of jelly. So when we put cookies on top of it, it bends like a jelly cake.
Or let’s say that Mr Cookie is punching the clock, and now the clock hands are distorted.
Last, we can cut an object with another. Let’s imagine that the bread is a baguette sharp like a saw. It is so sharp it can cut the sixth loci: the cup, into two parts. This association is usually very effective as it implies violence, which is very memorable. Let’s imagine for example that while you cut the cup with the bread, some blood is pouring from it.
Investigating your memory palace like Sherlock Holmes
I love to use these 6 object associations on my memory palaces because it usually leaves marks in the memory palace. For example, you might have forgotten that you have put chocolate on the bench. But you can’t help but notice there are still some chocolate stains of chocolate on it because it has melted.
In a sense, what you do while visiting a memory palace is watch for clues like Sherlock Holmes at a crime scene. Also, note there can be other kinds of specific associations between two objects depending on their nature. For example, you can imagine that a lamp leaves a burning mark on an object, or that a camera leaves a halo of light with its flash
Associating two objects together in a creative way is a great technique to create memorable images in your brain. Today, we have seen 6 types of associations and I’ve illustrated how to use these associations on a memory palace. Once you have done that, it’s easy to remember what objects were present in the memory palace. You just investigate each loci like sherlock holmes watching for clues.
Creative associations are a great technique to use when trying to remember something. And it can also be fun to come up with new ideas to associate the objects with the loci. So next time you struggle memorizing something, try using this technique to stick it effortlessly and reliably into your brain!