When I hear the word detective, the first thing that crosses my mind is Sherlock Holmes. For those of you who don’t know him enough, he is the most famous fictional detective, known for being detail-oriented, observant, logical, slightly (or very) sociopath. Benedict Cumberbatch did an excellent reprise of the role in the popular series. Sherlock is best known for his memory techniques. He made a singular impact upon the popular imagination and has been the most enduring character of the detective story.

“I cannot live without brain-work. What else is there to live for?” –Sherlock Homes

Those of you who have watched the famous BBC crime drama will be aware of the word Mind Palace which he mentions a number of times. For those of you who have no clue about what it is, Detective Holmes packs a lot of information into his head and draws them out as he makes deductions while solving his cases.  

Sherlock Holmes mentioned the word Mind Palace a number of times.

So, you might think this is an extraordinary power that Sherlock has. But long before Holmes was even created, the ancient Greek poet Simonides of Ceos invented the memory palace. This was then known as Method of Loci.

What is Memory palace?

It is based on the assumption that you can best remember places that you are familiar with. So if you can link something you need to remember, with the place – the location will serve as a clue that will help you to remember. This method works well if you’re good at visualizing. People who have never used it just cannot believe how someone can have such a fantastic memory.

Mind palace technique works well if you're good at visualising.

But it is not as complicated as it sounds. Simply :

  • Think of a place you know well, such as your own house.
  • Visualize a series of locations in the place in logical order.
    How? Picture the path you normally take in your house to get to your backyard from the front door.
    Begin from the front door – you go through your hall, maybe pass by the dining room/ kitchen and so on. So now, as you enter each location, move consistently in the same direction.
  • Place the items that you want to remember at one of the locations.
  • When you have to recollect. Simply visualize your house and go through it in your mind room by room. Thus your mind reminds you of the items you associated with specific locations in your house.

How do you do the mind palace technique?

So the next time you go shopping, maybe you won’t have to carry a noted list. If you had to buy ice creams, ketchup and chocolates – you can visualize your front door covered with your favorite ice cream flavor. And once you open the door, a ketchup bottle, chilled sitting on the couch watching television in your living room.  You enter the kitchen and picture chocolate bars, melting on the hot gas stove.

The more outrageous and unusual you make your mental images, the easier you’ll find it is to remember them. This method can be used to remember points of speech, list of items, names of people and other such important things that you don’t want to forget.

“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose,” -Sherlock Homes

The workaholic, Holmes used this technique to fill his brain with only necessary memories. He tossed out the rest, which according to him was not a necessity for his cases, like the very fact that the Earth revolves around the sun. Holmes’ mind palace, however, isn’t the typical type of storage place for the method of loci.

If you had watched the BBC series of Sherlock Holmes, get back to me and let’s have a discussion on whether Sherlock’s mind technique was an exaggeration of the memory palace method.

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