Using the Loci Method of Visualizing and Memorizing Materials

method of loci
method of loci


An author and educator in Columbia, MO, Willy Wood consults for Open Mind Technologies, Inc. As a proponent of classroom approaches that reflect the ways in which the brain actually processes information, Willy Wood teaches visualization strategies to help students memorize complex materials.

While acronyms, keywords, and rhymes are suitable for remembering simple materials, they do not work well for more complex facts and ideas. One approach, called “chaining,” involves creating a story (often nonsensical) using sound-alike words as a mnemonic for the words or concepts to be recalled.

The method of loci uses sound-alike words as well, but it emphasizes spatial details rather than a chain of narrative events. Using a familiar space, such as a childhood home or school, practitioners journey mentally through the spatial environment, connecting items specific to the materials they wish to memorize. One example involves remembering the stages of mitosis, in order. First, one would visualize entering (interphase) a bedroom and looking at pro (prophase) sports trophies sitting on a bookshelf. The next room is the kitchen, where meat (metaphase) is waiting on the table for dinner. This can continue as a lengthy narrative, which is often easier to remember than difficult scientific terms.