Last week we’ve introduced Simonides’ Method of Loci as well as established how to train memory after Cicero’s method. Today, with the aid of neuroscience we will try and have a further look at Quintilian’s remark on the exceptional reliability of our spatial and episodic memory. Furthermore, we will investigate architecture and why a lived architectural surrounding is thus ideally suited for being employed in the methodical construction of artificial memory.

“When we return to places, after an absence of some time, we not only recognize them, but recollect also what we did in them. Persons whom we saw there, and sometimes even thoughts that passed within our minds, recur to our memory.”
Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 11.2.17

Berlin-Brandenburger Tor

“When we return to places, after an absence of some time, we not only recognize them, but recollect also what we did in them….” Berlin Brandenburger Tor ©SUI

To remember the place is tantamount to remembering everything connected to it. Today we can underpin Quintilian’s remark on the exceptional reliability of our spatial and episodic memory with the insights of neuroscience: “The hippocampus is the core of a neural memory system providing an objective spatial framework within which the items and events of an organism’s experience are located and interrelated.” (O’Keefe & Nadel, 1978, p1) It thus follows that we need to conceive of our memory less as an isolated computer like storage and more as a kind of network intrinsically interwoven with the surrounding space.

A Completely Normal Apartment

Everybody will be able to confirm this based on their own experience. Think of a familiar place, for instance the apartment you live in. In your imagination, it presents itself as a pictographic whole, allowing your mind to explore details of considerable variety, from the arrangement of the furniture to remnants of episodic memory, moods and habits connected with this specific room. “So a completely normal apartment is at the same time a memory storage site.” (Mühlmann, 2005, p44)

Like a Company of Dancers Hand in Hand

Soaked up like a sponge with an abundance of information, a lived architectural surrounding is thus ideally suited for being employed in the methodical construction of artificial memory. The clue lies in overwriting familiar spaces with the facts one wishes to remember. One can then rely upon the tangibility of memorized spatial relationships instead of abstract information. Like Simonides, when wandering through the crashed banquet hall, was able to call to mind his friends faces, we too will find the memorized facts within the space of our mind connected to one another like a company of dancers hand in hand.

Architectural elements ©SUI

©SUI

Now that we could underpin Quintilian’s remark on the exceptional reliability of our spatial and episodic memory with the insights of neuroscience as well as understand why a lived architectural surrounding is thus ideally suited for being employed in the methodical construction of artificial memory. Next Monday, we will introduce to you a structure of study, which has not only been proven to result in the best possible levels of attention in the learning process, it also facilitates learning as much as is possible.  We are excited to introduce this structure of study, called E.N.A.P. to you, as it plays a very important role in our Mnemocity as well as our unparalleled approach to education.

MNEMONICS I: Introducing the first multi-blog series on Mnemonics

MNEMONICS II: The Mnemocity

MNEMONICS III: Focus on Memory – Treasury of Eloquence

MNEMONICS IV: The Art of Memory

MNEMONICS V: Memory and Architecture

MNEMONICS VI: E.N.A.P. – The Art of Learning 

MNEMONICS VII: E.N.A.P. – The Art of Speaking 

MNEMONICS VIII: Illuminate Learning 

 

Sources:
Heiner Mühlmann (2005) MSC Maximal Stress Cooperation: The Driving Force of Cultures, Springer
John O’Keefe & Lynn Nadel (1978) The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map, Oxford University Press
Quintilian. Institutes of Oratory. English translations by J. S. Watson. 2006. Iowa State