Memory is defined as the ability to store and receive information. Memory like a filing system involves three processes: information must be entered into the system, stored without deterioration, and recovered when needed.
These three are generally known to psychologists as the three R’s: registration, retention and recall.
Humans have remarkable memories: adults can recall between 20,000 and 100,000 words. Added to this one can learn a foreign language, possess complex skills, carry around all sorts of information.
Vedas of ancient India were passed down by memory. Themistocles was able to recall the 20,000 names of the citizens of Athens.
Xerxes was reputed to be able to recall the names of the 100,000 men in his armies.
Alexander Luria studied the most remarkable memory of Solomon Veniaminoff.
Veniaminoff is a newspaper man. He always reported the proceedings of the conferences from his memory without taking any notes. Luria handed over to him lists of seventy numbers or letters. After one hearing, at a slow pace, he could recite the list forward or backward. Given any letter he would at once name the preceding one. Luria studied him for about thirty years. He gave up his newspaper work and became a professional mnemonist.
There are a number of ways one could improve his/her memory power.
Mnemonic system is one way to remember a series of digits.
When one has to remember a series of digits the most common mnemonic device used is to form a sentence or rhyme in which the number of letters in each word corresponds to the digits in the desired order. There are many aids that have been worked out to store in memory ‘pi’ to a number of places of decimal beyond the usual four places.
May I have a large container of coffee?
In this, the number of letters in each word corresponds to the successive integers in the decimal expansion of pi. (3.1415926)
Sir James Jeans used a sentence in which the value of pi is contained up to 14 decimal places.
How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy chapters involving quantum mechanics. (Value of pi: 3.14159265358979)
Mnemonic system when mastered enables one to memorize any series of digits. This system has been developed to a high degree by modern memory experts. By using this system you can remember telephone numbers, vehicle registration numbers, mathematical constants and any important number required to be recalled often.
There are other techniques to improve our memory power which will be the subject of the next article in this series.