I’ve enjoyed the Reader’s Digest monthly magazine since I was a kid. Magazines were a big deal when I was growing up.  Mom subscribed to several of the ‘ladies’ magazines and we always had a copy of the Reader’s Digest laying on the corner table.

Monty and I have enjoyed the Reader’s Digest for many years.  This morning, Monty was intrigued with an article he read and I want to share it with you. ‘Teach Your Brain New Tricks’ is tucked in the Genius Section.  The trick that grabbed Monty’s  attention is entitled ‘Memorize Anything’. I hope you enjoy the article and give the suggestions a try.  Monty did and I’ll share his results at the end of this post.  

The article begins, “Say I ask you to memorize this list of ten unrelated words: ladybug, comb, oatmeal, lawyer, coal, stamp, knife, worm, bell and lettuce. You’d normally have to repeat them in your head many times before you achieved 100% recall.  Even after accomplishing the tiring feat, a few hours later, you’d probably remember only two or three words from the beginning and the end of the list.  That’s because of what cognitive psychologists call the primacy and recency effects:  Information at the beginning and end of a series interferes with recall of information in the middle of a series.   

This difficulty stems from the limitations of our verbal memory; the linguistic portion of our brains, where we store arbitrary lists of words, has limited storage.

However, our visual brains have vastly more storage than our linguistic brains.  Thus when you store information visually, as opposed to linguistically, you can recall it much better.  And that’s the secret to  remembering the ten words above.  

Instead of reading the words in your head, connect them to images and not just any images, but extremely vivid pictures.  Then visualize your house and mentally place the image of each object on the list in a different room or distinct location, such as a closet, within the house.

For instance, place a very large ladybug – say three feet in diameter to make it really vivid – where the welcome mat would lie by the front door.  Then deposit a large orange comb on the floor just inside the front door.  Continue to place each successive object on the list throughout your house, preferably in the order you would take someone on a guided tour.

When you’re done, take another stroll through your home and ‘see’ the objects you’ve left in different places.  You should have no trouble visualizing each and every object- and thus, each and every word.

You can use this same trick to memorize strings of numbers, letters, symbols or anything else.  Just convert what your’e memorizing into something meaningful; for example, the number 2 might be represented by an image of you and your spouse. “ 

OK, got it? Before breakfast Monty created a story with the words, we forgot about it until after lunch and I asked if he remembered the words.  He started to list them but I had to run and get the magazine because I only remembered four of the words.  He quickly told me every word in the correct order.  I’d like to think Readers Digest has contributed to our being smarter but to tell the truth, Monty had a head start in the smarts department.  

I seldom remember the three words the doctor mentions during my yearly physical, but in all honesty it is a lot harder when you don’t have clothes on!

Here’s the story Monty created: The ladybug as the door mat, he liked that one, then the orange comb on the foyer table, a bowl of oatmeal sat on the dining room table and a lawyer stood in the living room with a bowler hat and briefcase (I’m not sure that is necessary  but it is Montys’ story) a lump of coal sat on the fireplace, the lawyer was stamping his feet and waving a knife while a big tomato worm was crawling toward the table, a bell rang and distracted the worm and Monty ate the  lettuce.

And there you have it a silly story created using the ten words.  OK , no peeking, now you try it, what are the ten words?  

7 replies
  1. Greg Patterson
    Greg Patterson says:

    We have used the same technique with the kids. We have a system to convert numbers to pictures and then link the pictures together and when you convert them back, you get the number again. Jordan was in 5th grade when we moved to Scottsdale and she had to change schools mid year. Her first day of class was March 8th and she came home nearly in tears and said the students had been working on a “Pie Contest.” I said, don’t worry, we will bake something. She said that it was a “Pi Contest” and handed me a sheet of paper with the first hundred digits of Pi. She had to memorize as many as she could for March 14th. We worked on it for about an hour and then moved on to her other homework.

    On “Pi Day” they had he weakest students go first so that they could all be in the lead at some point. Jordan was apologetic and said she didn’t have much time to work on it, and the teacher was very understanding since the class had been working on it since September. She said that Jordan could go first and that she should just do the best she could. So Jordan was went to the front of class and gave the first few numbers…then the class was silent as she listed the first 63 digits. She missed one an then apologized that she didn’t know the full hundred and sat down to stunned silence. No other student got past the teens. That meant that no other student ever had the lead and she got the prize….a real pie to herself.

    • Carrie Bonello
      Carrie Bonello says:

      Thanks for sharing Jordan’s story, I can imagine the class was stunned. Jordan has been blessed with an incredible mind. Greg, I know you have used memory techniques for many years. I thought you might enjoy this one. I, on the other had would get so caught up in the story I’d forget the words!

  2. Pat
    Pat says:

    My mother always had newest copy of the Readers Digest on the coffee table. Then I did, still do. Haven’t read the article yet but will. Fascinating way to remember. I’m really beginning to need something to help my brain. As I’ve told you before, in my opinion, you’ve already go the best memory of all my friends. I’ve wondered if you have a secret way of remembering. I know it’s good to associate something with a person when you first hear their name but this article obviously goes much farther. Really liked story of your granddaughter. 💕

    • Carrie Bonello
      Carrie Bonello says:

      Love the Reader’s Digest but unfortunately like other magazines it is getting smaller and smaller. Thanks for the memory boost, I seem to have a selective memory, I can remember every detail of a fun experience but seldom remember anything about the bad ones. I guess that is OK, works for me. Jordan is special, that’s for sure.

  3. Glenn Gilmore
    Glenn Gilmore says:

    They used a trick like this at the Dale Carnegie course I took in the ’60’s the man at the door when we came in remembered all 59 he met at the door plus the page he gave them from a
    magazine he tore the page from.It worked but you had apply your self to make it a habit.
    I found it was easier to marry smart women. Kudos to Greg & Deb.


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