Visual study methods allow you to not only condense large amounts of info but the potential colours and images you can use provide a different sensory experience to text alone. We have seen this in previous sections for example in the case of spidergrams, mind maps, trees and concepts. 

In this section we will look at two other visual ways of studying and remembering information using familiar places and the neural building of a pathway and story. 

The first is The Method of Loci and for those of you who have watched Benedict Cumberbach in Sherlock Holmes, this is the method he uses in his ‘mind place’. It can also be seen in Elementary and Hannibal. The second method is that of The Peg or Hook System.

Method of Loci

The loci strategy was developed by the ancient Greeks and the word loci comes from the plural of locus, which means place. The principle of this strategy is that it is based on a familiar place, such as your home and helps you remember lists of items through organization, visualization, and association. It is particularly beneficial if you are good at picturing things in your mind. 

  • The Method of Loci steps:
  • identify a place you are familiar
  • visualise that place and all of its features
  • associate each item that you need to remember with a particular feature of your place. It is worthwhile noting that the more unusual the association you make the more likely you are to remember it
  • practice mentally ‘walking around’ your place and test how good your associations are and how well you can recall the information required

The best way to explain this in greater detail is by showing you a couple of examples. One a random list and another that is connected.

Examples of the Method of Loci

Example 1 – remembering 5 random items; pigeon, clown, lemon, ants, puddle. In this example the familiar place will be the kitchen. So, my pathway could be as follows: 

  • I walk into my kitchen
  • a pigeon lands on the table
  • sat at the table is a clown drinking lemonade
  • in front of him is a piece of bread covered in ants and behind him the sink is overflowing creating a puddle on the floor

In this second example we will see how you can use this method to remember connected and not random information. This example uses one we looked at earlier in acrostics and it is the order of planets. 

So, as with the first example you would need to set this somewhere that is familiar to you – and your pathway might be…you see a Mercury thermometer in the mouth of Venus, who is balancing a football shaped Earth on her head. On the floor is a Mars bar wrapper that has been dropped by Phil Jupitus (Jupiter), he is wearing a hat made of Saturn’s rings. You then turn round to see a chair in the shape of the Uranus symbol which Neptune sits.

Top tips

The Method of Loci is particularly powerful when relating pieces of information that are not easy connected. It does however, require an initial intensive period to practice the method and establish what kinds of visuals work for you.

Hints/Tips to help should you choose to give this method a go: 

  • give yourself time to practice – it’s not going to come straight away, especially if visual learning isn’t ‘your thing’
  • really focus on the place you are using. Immerse yourself in everything about it – this is a highly active not passive journey
  • you may find it easier to use familiar items and connections to start with and then progress to more obscure connections later
  • a boring image is not going to work, it needs to be as emotionally and visually stimulating as possible
  • consider using things other than images. By utilising all of your senses you are more likely to create something memorable and repeatable. So, consider smells and noises as well

The Peg / Hook System

This method works by associating the numbers 1 to 10 with words that rhyme. You can then associate these words with the information you need to remember. So, lets explain this in a little more detail. Here you can see examples of words that rhyme with numbers 1–10. Remember the words you choose will be different depending on your accent.

Example of The Peg System

 As with the Method of Loci above, let’s have a look at an example so I can show you the peg system in operation. 

If you wanted to remember that the Earth is the Third planet, you could visualise a image of Earth with a tree on top. Tree rhymes with 3 therefore this visual image helps you to recall that the Earth is the third planet.

Now we have looked at visual methods of studying, lets move on to auditory ones.