Review on “Joshua Foer – Moonwalking with Einstein: the Art and Science of Remembering Everything”

 

The book follows the story of an American journalist who won the American Memory Contest only one year after he first got acquainted with the mnemonics techniques. Below are my main takeaways from this quite fascinating book full of colorful explanations about the way our brain and memory function.

  • Neuroscientists have come to the conclusion that the winners of the world memory competitions have similar brains compared to ordinary people in terms of the brain’s physical structure and weight.
  • The winners themselves claimed that their fantastic memory abilities come not as an inborn talent but from their daily trainings using special mnemonic techniques.
  • Memory is not the neurons on their own but rather the connection between them in the brain. The stronger this connection, the better memory you have.
  • You can enhance the connection (memory) either by constant repetition or by growing more connections with other neurons through associations between different facts, images, emotions, etc.
  • Our short-term memory can remember 7±2 items until they are either erased from the memory or forwarded to the long-term memory. If you come across a long sequence of numbers which you need to remember, use “chunking” method, i.e. divide the long number up to 7 smaller chunks of digits. That’s why credit card numbers are chunked in 4 digits, and our telephone numbers contain country and city codes.
  • Various studies have shown that it’s easier for people to remember pictures and space orientation rather than words or numbers.
  • In order to remember numbers, names and other facts, it’s a good idea to convert them into pictures and images in your mind. Pictures should be memorable, blatant, amusing, sexy, and difficult to forget.
  • If you need to remember a large sequence of facts, numbers, or words in a fixed order, you need to put these items on your imaginative path in a so called “Memory Palace”. It is a place which you should know very well, such as your house, your favorite library, street, etc. When you need to remember the items, just remember where you placed them along this path.
  • When a person feels that he has reached quite a good level after learning a new skill, he stops to improve and his results stagnate. It is called the “OK point”. The best athletes and professionals always tend to set themselves higher goals to stay motivated and to remain in the constant learning process. You should track your progress and when you see that you are done with one part of a skill, find a niche in that skill where you are not good enough and continue working.
  • Books for further reading: books on memory and speed reading by Tony Buzan; Rhetorica ad Herennium by Cicero; Quintilian on the Education of an Orator; Peter of Ravenna, The Phoenix (1548) .

 

In the “Reviews” section I’m going to publish my summaries of the books I have read recently which have something to do with productivity, self-development, languages and other skills. The reviews will feature a very concise summary of useful points mentioned in the books. 

In this post, I present my summary to the book by Joshua Foer: “Moonwalking with Einstein: the Art and Science of Remembering Everything“.

 

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