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Mind Tricks with Memory Champion Joshua Foer

The Martha Stewart Show, March 2011

You might call Joshua Foer the country's first accidental memory champ.

Joshua initially entered the world of competitive information recall as a journalist covering the USA Memory Championship. After hearing from participants that anyone could compete on that level with proper training, he began a rigorous regimen with a champion memory competitor.

Joshua's aim was merely to see how well he could do, but a year later, he found himself hoisting the grand-prize trophy as the nation's memory champion.

The Art of Memory
What was Joshua's secret? He relied on a set of ancient mnemonic techniques called the "art of memory" to improve his recollection ability. "The 'art' is in creating imagery in your mind that is so unusual, so colorful, so unlike anything you've ever seen before, that it's unlikely to be forgotten," Joshua says.

The foundation is the concept of a "memory palace," in which one visualizes a physical location -- such as a palace with many rooms -- and commits numbers, faces, or whatever one is memorizing to each room. Recalling this information is as simple as taking a virtual stroll through the rooms and rediscovering their contents.

The key to memory mastery was creating the most distinctive images possible to place in his "rooms," Joshua says. A stroll on the moon with Einstein was a particular image to which he frequently returned, so much so that he titled his new book on the art of memory "Moonwalking with Einstein."

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