In this episode, we're exploring the fascinating enigma of human memory; how memories are created and stored; why we remember certain things but not others; and how to improve your memory long-term; as well as an incredible tool to hack your short-term memory used by national memory champions; and much more.
Memory is something that is both incredibly powerful and not very well understood. How is your memory? Do you have a good memory? Do you have a bad memory? Do you forget things all the time? Memory is something that's vitally important. In many ways, our memories shape who we think we are. But memory is also something that's not well understood in many ways by the scientific community. In fact, I wanted to open with a quote from a fascinating book on memory, titled The Guardian of All Things by Michael S. Malone. Here's how he describes it. "What we do know is that a quarter million years after mankind inherited this remarkable organ called the brain, even with all the tools available to modern science, human memory remains a stunning enigma." Today, we're going to dig into memory a little bit. We're going to talk about how memories are formed. We're going to talk about the way your memory works; what happens when you recall a memory; and the difference between the experiencing self--the you who is experiencing this moment right now, who's listening to this podcast--and the remembering self--the image that you have of your life, of the experiences and the things that have taken place; and we're going to talk about and dig into how you can improve your memory both from a sort of long-term, sustainable standpoint, but also ways that you can trick your memory or use memory hacks to remember things like a deck of cards or pi to the 20th digit or whatever it might be, and these are often tricks that are used by national memory champions and people who compete in these memory competitions. So, we're going to really dive deep into memory today and I'm really excited about this topic. It's something that I've always been fascinated by and I can't wait to share some of these findings with you.
How Memory is Defined
Let's start out. I want to talk about how memory is organized to really define and understand memory, and I think there's another great quote from Michael Malone to give you some context about this. "Architecturally, the organization of memory in the brain is a lot more slippery to get one's hand around, so to speak. Different perspectives all seem to deliver useful insights. For example, one popular way to look at brain memory is to see it as taking two forms: explicit and implicit. Explicit, or "declarative", memory is all the information in our brains that we can consciously bring to the surface. Curiously, despite its huge importance in making us human, we don't really know where this memory is located. Scientists have, however, divided explicit memory into two forms: episodic, or memories that occurred at specific points in time; and semantic, or understandings (via science, technology, experience, and so on) of how the world works. Implicit, or "procedural", memory, on the other hand, stores skills and memories of how to physically function in the natural world. Holding a fork, driving a car, getting dressed--and, most famously, riding a bicycle--are all nuanced activities that modern humans do without really giving them much thought, and they are skills, in all their complexity, that we can call up and perform decades after last using them." Now, there's a lot of information in that quote. There's a lot to really unpack and I know it was a long quote, but it's something that I wanted to share because I think it explains very clearly the different components and the different structures of how our memories are sort of categorized, stored in the brain; what is understood; what's not understood; and the different components of memory itself.
Let's take a look at how memories are created, how memories are stored. They're stored using a process called encoding. It's a biological phenomenon. It's rooted in the senses and it begins with perception. We've talked before about how biology underpins and constrains and defines our minds in many ways. In fact, the first episode ever on The Science of Success was a podcast called The Biological Limits of the Human Mind, and if you haven't listened to that, it's a great primer on sort of the topic of biology and how it factors into psychology and neuroscience and how it controls the brain. But the encoding process is fundamentally rooted in biology and it begins with the process of perception. So, the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain, along with another part of the brain called the frontal cortex are responsible for analyzing all of our different sensory inputs and deciding whether or not they're worth remembering. This sort of filtering idea, this process of filtering out the mass amounts of information that fly in and hit you from every single instance of conscious experience is something we talked about in the episode about the reality of perception. We talked about how our belief structures are the filters that our mind uses to determine whether or not we should remember something, whether or not something was important or useful to remember.
But to be able to properly encode a memory, you have to be paying attention. You have to be focused on that event or that thing consciously. And constantly, every day, we filter things out or we never encode them to begin with, and so our memories don't exist. The simplest way to think about this is the example of lost keys. I'm sure everybody's had a moment where they came home, they misplaced their keys, and they don't know where they are. Or, you know, you walk through the door, you set your keys down somewhere, you're on the phone, you don't...you're not really paying attention, and then 20 minutes later you have no idea what happened to them. The crazy thing about this--and the way that encoding factors into this idea--is that many times when you've misplaced something, when you've lost your keys, even if you were just thinking about it, you've often not technically forgotten where your keys were placed, which is the sort of language that we use to describe that. And we talked about how language can shape our perceptions of reality when we talked about NLP in one of the previous episodes. But the language we use--say, oh, I forgot where my keys are--that language isn't really appropriate because what actually happened is that your encoding process, your conscious attention, was not focused on that, so you didn't forget where the keys were -- it never got into your memory to begin with. It was filtered out, and so you can't find, mentally, where they were placed. It's not a question of you forgetting something; it's a question of the encoding process in your mind never recording the keys' location to begin with.
So, one of the themes you're starting to see that's going to continue to emerge as we explore memory more deeply is that almost every piece of the process of both storing, recalling, understanding memory is fraught with sort of processing errors, is fraught with places where our memories aren't necessarily true or real or don't necessarily describe reality accurately. And we'll get into that more, but we also went in-depth on the implications of that idea in the episode about perceiving reality. So, if you haven't listened to that podcast, it really talks about once you understand the premise that memory is falsifiable, that memory isn't really true or real in many very physical and scientific ways, it starts to ripple through your life and you can really think about your beliefs, your world structure, the things that are happening around you. But I won't go too far into that. Again, there's an episode about that--perceiving reality--that we've already talked about it. But you're going to see a number of different instances of how what we call "memory" isn't something that's set in stone, that's a perfect definition of what happened in the past that we're recalling. It's often something that's very fluid, changing, and dynamic, and even when it's being recorded on the front end with encoding, processing errors can happen, things can be left out, and our memories themselves may not reflect what actually happened or things might be left out of her memories to begin with.
We hear a lot about the distinction between short-term memory and long-term memory, so I wanted to just address that, talk about it, and give you some simple working definitions of each of those so that you would have them and sort of have a deeper understanding of how each of them works. Short-term memory, very simply, can hold roughly seven items for about 20 or 30 seconds. And your short-term memory, it swings up and down a little bit. The actual sort of range is really about between five and nine items, depending on a number of different factors, for roughly 20 or 30 seconds. And one of the caveats to that is that if you have a deep network of long-term memories or information that's mapped in your neural network, if you see something, it can actually very quickly be taken from your short-term memory and placed and plugged into a specific slot or component of that larger long-term memory neural network about whatever that topic is. And so things can, especially if you're an expert or you have a very detailed understanding of something, something can immediately sort of jump from your short-term memory into your long-term memory if it's plugged into the right piece of that mental network. And that's something that Charlie Munger, who we've talked about before on the podcast and are huge fans of, really digs into when he talks about the idea of sort of an interconnected or interlaced network of mental models that is self-reinforcing.
When you have deep knowledge of something, when you have a lot of myelin in your brain around the neural networks or around the patterns of understanding something very deeply, it can more quickly be placed from the short-term memory into the long-term memory. But there are really two fundamental distinctions between short-term memory and long-term memory. One is the concept of temporal decay, i.e. the idea that things fall out of your short-term memory after about 20 or 30 seconds. And the second is that your short-term memory has capacity limits, right. Your short-term memory, it can only hold a certain amount of information, whereas your long-term memory can hold vast amounts of information and, despite sort of the challenges with encoding and recalling memories, in many ways is relatively permanent. And, again, we talked about at the top how it's not fully understand or totally known how and where all of our memories are stored, but it's believed that short-term memory is the primary function of the prefrontal cortex of the brain.
To look at and describe long-term memory, I'll share another quote from Malone. "Chemically, we have a pretty good idea of how memories are encoded and retained in brain neurons. As with short-term memory, the storage of information is made possible by the synthesis of certain proteins in the cell. What differentiates long-term memory in neurons is that frequent repetition of signals causes magnesium to be released, which opens the door for the attachment of calcium, which in turn makes the record stable and permanent. But, as we all know from experience, memory can still fade over time. For that, the brain has chemical processes, called long-term potentiation, that regularly enhances the strength of the connections, or synapses, between the neurons and creates an enzyme protein that also strengthens the signal -- in other words, the memory inside the neuron." So, getting a little bit deeper into the science and really talking about the physical processes, remember, memory fundamentally is a biological process rooted in your mind and that's how memories are physically encoded into cells. But, take that with a grain of salt because we don't fully understand exactly how memory works.
Now, let's examine how to recall a memory. This is a critical point in something that is very interesting. There's a 2013 study in the Journal of Neuroscience by Donna Bridges, and the study shows that when we recall a memory, it actually makes...every time we recall a memory, it makes the memory less accurate. Think about that. Let that sink in for a moment. The reason that's the case is because when you pull up a memory and then you put it back, your brain makes tiny changes to the memory every single time that happens. And if you think about it almost like the game of telephone, where you whisper something down the line into somebody's ear and they whisper it to the next person, et cetera, the message often gets completely distorted after it's been passed through a number of different people. The same thing can happen to our memories. Every time we recall something, we're putting it back with slight tweaks, slight changes, and, over time, again and again and again, we can completely distort or create memories that never existed to begin with. Here's how Donna Bridges describes it in her study. "A memory is not simply an image produced by time traveling back to the original event. It can be an image that is somewhat distorted because of the prior times you have remembered it. Your memory of an event can grow less precise, even to the point of being totally false with each retrieval." That's a pretty clear statement. That's a pretty clear distinction. Point blank, the researcher in this study is saying that your memories can be totally false. Really let that sink in for a minute. And, again, we talked about a lot of the implications of what happens when we realize that our memories are false in a prior episode about the reality of perception, so if you want to dig into that topic or that's something that you're sitting in your chair thinking, wow, that's crazy; I can't believe that my memories literally can be false, check that episode out because we talk about what that means and how that can impact your reality and a way that you can really use that your advantage in many ways.
The next idea is something that ties into the notion of how our memories can be false or how our memories can be manipulated. This is something called the peak-end phenomenon. You may have heard of it. The peak-end phenomenon essentially states that every memory you have of any experience is sort of shortened down to two, fundamental things. One is the peak--either the emotional high or the emotional low of that experience--and the end. Your mind essentially takes both of those things, kind of merges them together, and says, okay, this is what the memory of this experience or this event is. And in a 1993 study, Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, the author of Thinking Fast and Slow, which is an amazing book--highly recommended and one of the books that I previously gave away to listeners as one of my favorite psychology books--they've done a number of different studies ranging from colonoscopies to waiting in line, all kinds of different things. But they have a very simple study where they had people keep their hands submerged in freezing cold water for 60 seconds. They then had the same people stick their hands in freezing cold water for 60 seconds--the same temperature--and then 30 seconds after that in a temperature that was one degree Celsius warmer, which created the effect of... It was slightly warmer to the point where it was slightly more comfortable, but, overall, it was still 30 seconds longer and still relatively uncomfortable and relatively painful. If people were totally rational and our brains were totally rational and memory was perfect, everyone would have chosen, if they had to do it again, to do the 60-second version instead of the 60- plus 30-second version, right. Nobody's going to pick basically a 50% longer period of suffering. But when they actually had people do it and gave them the choice to pick either the 60-second version or the 90-second version, 69% of the people, of the participants in this study, chose to repeat the longer version of the experience. They chose to go for the 90-second version, and the reason is simple: Their memory of the experience was skewed overall by the end of the experience. Their memory of the slightly warmer water... It was one degree Celsius warmer, which is about two and a half degrees warmer in Fahrenheit perspective. One degree warmer Celsius -- they chose that longer experience because that ending was slightly less painful than the other ending. And, again, those results have been replicated in a number of different studies looking at a number of different things, including colonoscopies, where they had people sort of rate the pain and the experience of their colonoscopies, and the people who had...even if they had a much longer colonoscopy that had much more painful, sort of high-intensity moments, at the end was better, people would rate it as shorter, people would rate it as a better experience overall because their memory of it was much better because the end had such a huge, disproportionate weighting on their total experience of it.
There are obviously huge implications to this. Not only do your memories of most of your experiences not necessarily accurately reflect the experience as a whole, but there are also ways you can use this to trick yourself or game yourself or tweak experience that you have so that you can remember them in a certain way, either positively or negatively, depending on how you want the experience to be remembered, and you can also modify experiences that other people are having that you're in control of in a way that you can have them have a more positive or more negative experience just by changing the ending of the experience. Kahneman also talks about--in a fascinating TED Talk, which we're going to link to in the show notes, titled The Riddle of Experience Versus Memory--about the distinction between what he calls the experiencing self and the remembering self. And, essentially, your experiencing self is your conscious self right now, in this moment, and the experiencing self experiences things for about three seconds. Consciousness is defined as roughly kind of a three-second interval of experience. Your remembering self is the self that looks back and says, oh, this was an amazing trip; oh, this was a fun experience; et cetera. The reality is that your experiencing self and your remembering self have very different perceptions of happiness; of events; of reality; of what they like; of what they dislike, and those can have dramatic implications for your experiences and for your memories. I'm going to talk more about the implications of the remembering self versus the experiencing self and how you can use things like the peak-end phenomenon to tip the scales in the favor or to structure your days or to structure the experiences in your life to optimize for either more positive experience or more positive memories.
Now let's dig in and talk about some of the tactics you can use to improve your memory. And, again, this is distinct from what we'll talk about after this -- more mind hacks or tips and tricks you can use to game your memory, to make it more effective, or to remember things like a memory champion. These are more science-backed strategies that are proven out in the research of ways to, in a long-term and sustainable fashion, improve the quality of your memory. The first is exercise. A 2011 study found that exercise increases the hippocampus size and improves memory. Specifically looking at just brisk walking, they found that 40 minutes a day, three days a week improved the size of people's hippocampus. We don't know the exact specifics of how memories are stored, but we do know that the hippocampus is a critical component of memories, both short-term and long-term, and so improving the size of the hippocampus via exercise is something that you can do to help yourself get a better memory. Another study in 2010 found that physically fit children performed better on a memory test and had a 12% larger hippocampus than children who were in the control group that didn't have as high quality of physical fitness. Another study found that the brains of older adults who exercised, in an MRI scan, looked more like the brains of younger adults. Additionally, there have been several other studies linking exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, to memory maintenance and improvements in cognitive function. And, in the show notes, we're going to include links to all of these research studies. So, if you want to dig, if you want to do your own homework, and you want to check some of these sources out, you can just go to scienceofsuccess.co--scienceofsuccess.co--click on the "Show Notes" button, and you'll see all of the show notes, all of the research for this episode and you can dig into every study that we've mentioned and talked about on the episode.
The next thing you can do to improve your memory is keep your brain active with things like reading and brain games. A 2008 randomized controlled study found that reading and solving simple arithmetic problems improved the cognitive function of people. There was also a 2005 study, that simply reading aloud and doing simple math problems improve the prefrontal cortex function of people that had dementia. So, even people who are having dementia or deterioration of their brain function can use something as simple as reading and doing simple math problems to improve the quality of their brain, to improve the quality of their memory. There's also a 2009 study, titled A Cognitive Training Program Based on Principles of Brain Plasticity, that showed that brain training programs and computerized brain training significantly improved memory, attention, and information processing, and that people who trained with brain-training software were twice as fast in processing information and they scored as well on memory and attention tests as people who were 10 years younger than them. A 2011 study also showed that crossword puzzles were an effective tool of warding off memory loss and of warding off the onset of dementia. So, something as simple as keeping your mind engaged with reading, with brain training, with crossword puzzles -- all of these things help keep the memory alive, help keep your memories functioning as you grow older and as your memory begins to deteriorate.
The next thing you can do, which is related to the topic we just talked about, is to play video games to improve your memory. And I love this one. You know, as longtime listeners will know, I'm an avid video gamer, so this is something that makes me very excited. But there was a 2013 study, titled Gaming for Health: A Systematic Review of Physical and Cognitive Effects of Interactive Computer Games in Older Adults, that found that the cognitive domains of attention, executive function, and memory showed consistent improvements across the board for people who played video games. So, if you need an excuse to play some extra video games, tell yourself that you're working on improving and protecting your memory.
This next tool for improving memory shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Sleep is as an incredibly powerful tool that you can use to improve memory function. A 2015 study, titled Sleep Deprivation and Hippocampal Vulnerability: Changes in Neural Plasticity, Neurogensis, and Cognitive Function, had a number of findings about the importance of sleep for brain function and for memory function in particular. Sleep benefits neuroplasticity, which we've talked about on previous episodes how important that is, the ability of your brain to change and adapt and grow and improve. Sleep deprivation impairs the hippocampus, which we talked about earlier in this episode, about how the hippocampus plays a vital role in both storing and encoding memories and holding them for the long term. Sleep deprivation reduces hippocampal neurogenesis and hippocampal volume, so this shows that sleep deprivation has a number of negative implications for the volume and the neurogenesis in the hippocampus. And, lastly, chronic sleep disruption contributes to cognitive disorders and psychiatric diseases. I don't think it's any secret that sleep is incredibly important, but this shows you that just getting a good night's rest can be integral to keeping your mind healthy and keeping your memory healthy. And we talked about in one of our previous episodes, where we interviewed the podcaster Gregg Clunis, some of the tactics and strategies that he uses to improve the quality of his sleep. A 2015 study, titled Sleep, Cognition, and Normal Aging: Integrating a Half-Century of Multidisciplinary Research, found that maintaining a good sleep quality promoted better cognitive functioning, protected against age-related cognitive declines, and helped improve memory. And, again, we've talked about in previous episodes how important meta-analyses are. So, this was an analysis of a number of different studies, looked across correlations, looked at the results of a number of different studies and found that, across the board, high-quality sleep led to improved cognitive function and improved memory function.
And, last but not least, meditation is an incredible tool that you can use to improve your memory, your working memory, and your recall. Thiis shouldn't come as a surprise. In fact, we have a previous podcast episode about meditation where we talk about a ton of the science behind it, how important it is, and give simple and easy tools that you can use to learn how to meditate. A 2011 study found that meditation changes brain structure, improves attention span, and increases gray matter in the hippocampus specifically. People who meditated for 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks saw their hippocampal density increase as measured by an MRI scan. The control group, who did not meditate, had no changes in their brain density. So, that's a pretty clear-cut, compelling example of how meditation literally changes the structure of your brain, increases the size of your hippocampus, and improves your ability for recall and for working. memory. There was also a 2010 study that found that short, 20-minute meditation studies improved your concentration. When comparing the participants to the control group, they found that the participants who have meditated for 20 minutes a day fared much better than the control group on timed, concentration, and memory tests. And, again, encoding, when we store memories in our brain, having the ability to have a really clear focus, to be able to capture information in the present is a critical component of storing and building memories that truly reflect reality. So, meditation is not only a tool that helps grow the size of hippocampus, but it also helps you focus. It also helps you capture that information on the front end so that you can more effectively store it in your memories.
Now, let's dig into a couple memory hacks. And these aren't necessarily physical ways to improve your long-term brain health, but they're simple ways that you can remember more information. The core technique is something called a memory palace, and this an idea that I originally discovered in the book Moonwalking with Einstein. It's a book about a science journalist who goes to the U.S. National Memory Championships and he initially has the idea of learning about the event, covering it, maybe discovering some eclectic characters. But what he comes away with -- he gets kind of roped into the community and actually ends up training under Ed Cooke, who's a memory Grand Master and one of the sort of best memory competitors in the United States. He ends up training with Ed Cooke for a year, comes back, and wins the memory championship the next year. It's a great book. It's a fascinating read to begin with, but it can also really dive into some of these ideas. But the memory palace has been around since Ancient Rome. It's something that orators and speakers in Rome used to use to memorize their speeches and it's something that enabled the eight-time World Memory Champion Dominic O'Brien to memorize 54 decks of cards in sequence, which, if you look at that, that's 2,808 cards in sequence, viewing each card only a single time. So, a memory palace is an incredibly powerful technique.
A memory palace is an idea that taps into the visual-spatial components of our memory. Our minds are designed... And if you think back, again, to the biological limits of the mind, from an evolutionary standpoint, the things that we're best at remembering are spaces and places. And so a memory palace essentially takes a place that you know incredibly well and you plant in pieces of information across that space. So, the simplest way to do a memory palace, the simplest place to think about as a memory palace, is your childhood home or your current home. If you pause for a moment and think about it right now, you can probably picture in intimate detail every component of the house -- the front door when you walk in, the living room, all the different bedrooms, the bathrooms, the kitchen, et cetera. You can see all the various components of that house. And what you do is basically create a map of that memory palace, and you can do it with any location. You can do it with a number of different locations. But you create this map and then you place different components into different pieces of the memory palace, and you follow them in a predetermined path. So, essentially, you want to create sort of a visually associative story, a string of things that lets you remember a huge list of numbers, entire decks of cards, et cetera.
And there's another component to this called memory pegging. This is essentially the idea of taking a predefined concept and some sort of visual image and tying it back into something that you want to remember, whether it's a number, whether it's a playing card, whatever it might be. And that's actually where the title of the book, Moonwalking with Einstein, comes from, because these memory champions use the brain's incredible power to think in images and to think in stories, and they create a very vivid, unforgettable image for each different playing card. Each one has its own, unique, defined image, and then when you stack the playing cards together, they basically tie each image to the next image. So, for example, Moonwalking with Einstein was a technique that the author of the book had used to tie in two different concepts together because it's an unforgettable image. Similarly, you can tie any two things together. All you have to do is create ahead of time an associative framework of each of the different...whether it's numbers or playing cards or whatever it might be, and I'll give you a very simple example. If you wanted to associate numbers--let's say the numbers one through ten--with certain things, you could associate the number one with a candle because it sort of looks like a candle, and then that's something you can use when you want to remember the first thing or you want to remember something that involves a one -- you create a mental image with a candle. The second: If you wanted to create something for the number two, you could use a swan because a swan sort of looks like a number two. And we can go down. You could use a heart for number three. If you turn a three on its side, it kind of looks like a heart. We could use a sailboat for the number four. It kind of looks like a sailboat. All the way down.
You could do it with anything you wanted to associate, but let's just use those four numbers. If I wanted to remember the number 41, I could simply take the image of the sailboat, which is number four, take the image of the candle, and we could have...create some kind of ridiculous image. Let's say I wanted to remember the key code to my garage. Let's say it has a keypad and the keypad's four digits, and the number is 4331. So, if we go back to the images we've created, we've got the sailboat, which is number four; we've got the heart, which is number three; and we've got the candle, which is number one. If I wanted to lock that memory in so I could never forget it, I think about the mental image of that keypad in my garage and I think about a gigantic sailboat with two bright red hearts painted on the side of it or even carrying two giant hearts, and a candle on top that's melting wax on all these different hearts, crashing into my keypad. This huge sailboat falls out of the sky with two giant hearts on it and a candle on top, crashing into the keypad. It's a ridiculous image, it's totally over the top, but it's something...those kinds of over-the-top, insane images are something that the brain latches onto and captures. And so when you go back, the next time you see the keypad, you trigger that visual association of a giant sailboat with two big hearts on it and a huge candle on top, melting wax on top of the hearts, and you really try to tie that in. You want to feel it. You want to smell it. You want every piece of the experience. And next time you see that keypad, you think of that crazy image that you thought of and suddenly you know that the thing is, okay, we've got 4331. That's what the...That's exactly what the passcode is.
So, that's how you tie in those memories and that's the same technique that these memory experts use to memorize an entire deck of cards by looking at each card a single time, or use to memorize pi to the 50th digit, or whatever it might be. Some of the feats that these guys accomplish are incredibly ridiculous. Similarly, memory champions do the same thing by associating every single card in a deck of cards with an individual person. For example... And there's actually a matrix that you can use or create that you can kind of fill in and tag each of these associations. But, for example, you could associate Michael Jordan with the ace of diamonds and you could associate Lady Gaga with the six of spades, and so if you have those two in order, suddenly you create this crazy mental image of Michael Jordan bumping into Lady Gaga or whatever it might be. While this sounds a little bit over the top, this is a way to speak the same language as your brain. This is a way that you can communicate with your brain in a visual-spacial sense, with unforgettable visuals that let you kind of tap into and harness the power of memory. And we're going to include a couple links in the show notes where you can really dig down and go deep on both the concept of memory palaces, the concept of memory pegging, which is essentially the idea of tying specific objects--whether they're numbers, whether they're playing cards, whatever they might be--to specific, ridiculous images so that you can chain them together into these memories. And we're going to provide you with some examples of ways that you can use those things if you want to build those associations so that you can play around with creating these visually associative memory stories in your mind.
Lastly, I wanted to look at how we can sort of hack or trick our memories to change the way that we remember things, to change the way that we remember certain experiences. A good way to think about this is going back to the idea of the experiencing self versus the remembering self, and thinking back to how the peak-end phenomenon also plays into this and how our brain's visual-spatial thinking also plays into this concept. There's two really distinct ways that you can kind of play with your mind and play with your memories. One of them is if you've ever had... Let's say you had a week-long vacation where you go to the beach. Because there's not a ton of differentiation in each specific thing that happens, that memory is sort of consolidated into one memory of "week at the beach" and it feels like a certain link to your mind. But I'm sure you've also had maybe a three-day weekend where you were just packing all kinds of stuff and you were going here, you were going there, you were doing all this new, exciting, different stuff, and those three days felt like two weeks. And it just felt incredibly long and, when you remember it, it seems like...the trip seems almost longer than that week-long vacation at the beach. And that's because, to your memory, it literally is. In your mind, when you have a memory of something that there's not any variation, there's not any difference, you're going to remember that as sort of one specific experience. But if you have 20 different things that all happened, those are all specific and different memories that are all tied into the same thing.
So, how can you apply this to your life? Ed Cooke, who's a memory Grand Master, has a great example where he talks about the concept of if you have a dinner party and you have people over at your house. If everyone sits in the same room for the entire time and does the same thing, you're going to have one memory of that dinner party. It's going to be people in that room doing that thing. However, if every 30 minutes or every hour of the dinner party you move to a different room in your house, you put on different music, and you do something different, suddenly you're going to have distinct chunks of that memory. It's going to be broken out into different components, and so the memory's going to feel much more rich, it's going to feel much more detailed, and it's going to feel like you did a lot more, you accomplished a lot more things.
So, those are kind of some ways that you can think about how to modify your conscious experiences so that when you look back at them from a memory standpoint, the memories feel much more rich and much more detailed. If you just do the same thing for 12 hours straight, your memory is doing that one thing. But if you spend each of those hours doing something completely different, your memory is going to be much more rich and diverse and, when you come back to it, it's going to feel...you're going to have a lot more texture to that memory. And you can change places and spaces, and that will change and kind of trigger your memory to remember something new because novel, new, and unique things are what get flagged and what get remembered. Things that are the same or that are ubiquitous just kind of get lumped into the same memory category. So, those are a couple different techniques and tricks that you can use, kind of memory hacks that you can use to improve your memory both from a physical standpoint, from a long-term perspective, but you can also use a number of these in the short-term to be able to memorize an entire deck of cards. And we'll include... Again, we'll include a couple links in the show notes so that if that's something you're interested in doing, you can check out some of the articles and go through some the exercises that you can actually memorize pi to the 20th digit, you can memorize a deck of cards, et cetera, using the memory palace and memory pegging techniques.