Virtual Environments as Memory Mnemonics

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Introduction Since before written history, many different techniques have been used to enhance memory. One of the most prevalent of these techniques, known as mnemonics, was the Method of Loci (Yates, 1966). There were many different forms of this mnemonic, but all involved the use of an environment to aid in item-order recall. Many memory experts practiced a complex form of the Method of Loci where they would have extensive spatial and navigational knowledge of the environment and also be able to picture the blueprint of the environment (looking into the environment from a bird’s eye or omnipotent view). This allowed them to zoom in and focus in on specific portions of their chosen environment, using the complexity and spatial richness of the specific portion to associate with the ideas or items to be remembered. The overall ability to focus and use small portions and specific details of the environment to aid in memory allowed these memory experts to memorize virtually infinite lists of ideas and/or items within a single environment. A single environment could even be used for multiple lists because of the special way in which memory experts were trained to expand, isolate, and focus in on specific portions of the environment. However, a more common form required less extensive training. First, the person would objectify the items within a list and place them around a familiar environment. Then, to recall the list in order, the person would imagine navigating the environment along the same path that he or she travelled while placing down the items of the list (Yates, 1966). While the Method of Loci has not been shown to be a better mnemonic then other methods (e.g. peg method), previous studies have shown that is significantly better than rote repetition or imagery, where words items are objectified and sometimes linked to other words within the same list

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