This page attempts to summarise the systems used to memorise by a selection of people who are excellent memorisers.
There are many differences between different memory systems; some of these differences are likely to matter a great deal for how effective the memory system is, and some not. For example, when memorising numbers, in the DominicSystem, the number 1 is represented by the letter A, whereas in the MajorSystem, the number 1 is represented by a letter T or D. Does this difference make a difference to how effective each system is? Almost certainly not - how each letter corresponds to a different number is arbitrary and any combination is likely to be as good as any other once it has been learned.
The differences we are interested in are in what each memorist actually does when they remember things. Are the mental pictures they form complicated or simple? Do they involve people, places, actions, or a combination of these? What features are there in common between the methods used by the most effective memorists out there?
In the classifications below, the systems are classified by "Peg" and "Mnemonic". To explain this terminology, suppose we are learning a list of 10 playing cards. The "Mnemonic" means the type of thing we use to represent the playing cards. For example:
The "Peg" is the memory image used to distinguish each item in the list. If the Peg is a location, it means that the images representing the 10 cards are each imagined in a different location.
The evidence below shows that many of the very best memory performers, and particularly those with memory world records in championships, use very similar systems, which suggests that this might be the "best" system. The evidence suggests the following tentative conclusions about what might be the "best" system:
The field of memorising is notorious for exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims, so I have tried to stick to people who have demonstrated good memories (e.g. in competitions), and cited sources indicating what systems they say they use.
If you have further knowledge of what systems leading memorists use, please add it below with sources if possible.
-- ThufirHawat - 27th August 2008
The memorists and their systems are as follows:
Harry Lorrayne (Memory performer)
Dominic O'Brien (World Memory Champion)
Andi Bell (World Memory Champion)
Jonathan Hancock (World Memory Champion)
Gunther Karsten (Regular top 5 finisher in World Memory Championships)
Ben Pridmore (World Memory Champion)
SEM3 (Tony Buzan, writer on mental performance and memory)
Classical memory systems (Greek and Roman)
Excellent work, Thufir! I'm amazed and impressed by the amount of work you've been putting into the wiki lately. This page is frighteningly good. :) Thank you.
Thanks! And thank you for setting up this wiki in the first place, it's a great idea and it fills a niche - there is no other wiki like it on the internet. -- ThufirHawat