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    Cicero's Loci technique: how it works, how to use it to study

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    Joe Dispenza
    @joedispenza
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    He wrote Cicerone in his notes talking about the most famous of memory techniques, the Technique of the Loci.

    “More proper to the speaker is the memory of things; and we can note this by means of some well-arranged masks, in such a way as to be able to grasp thoughts by means of images and order by means of places "

    When they first told me about it I was 14, and it seemed uncomfortable and ineffective; so I dismissed it as useless.



    Of course, I was very presumptuous to think that Cicero, the greatest orator in history, used something uncomfortable and useless to remember his speeches!

    And in fact a few years later I fortunately realized that it was not Cicero who was wrong, but I didn't understand how his loci technique worked.

    How Cicero's Loci technique works

    In the technique of loci there are two main points, which Cicero describes very well in my opinion:

    1. Grasping the thoughts by means of images
    2. Grab the order by means of places

    Il first point refers to the ability to transform what we want to remember into images.

    Il second point instead it speaks of the “loci” or places from which the technique takes its name.

    In practice, therefore, Cicerone:

    • it created paths within spaces that he knew (his house, the way to the Senate, and so on)
    • identified in each path, one after the other, some "stations "or rooms
    • associated at each station one of the images he had to remember

    In this way he was able to move in an orderly way from one concept to the next, while "walking" cerebrally in the path that he had created mentally.



    In short, he had had 2 thousand years before the development of neuroscience, the great intuition of understanding that we have 2 memories, one long term and one short term.

    And with the loci technique he attached the new information to his long-term memory, consolidating the memory as I describe in the article long-term memory and mnemonics.

    Using the loci technique: the importance of images

    We have said about how fundamental it is transform into images what you want to remember

    Cicero, being an orator, obviously speaks of remembering "thoughts", referring in this way to the conceptual contents of his speeches.

    But any data can be transformed, with the right techniques, into an image. 

    Also numbers (thanks to phonetic conversion), formulas, names, and so on.

    In this way it is exploited the large capacity of the right cerebral hemisphere to remember images better than anything else.

    The reason for this ability lies in 2 million years of evolution, and you can learn more about it in the posts:

    Remember through pictures

    Eidetic or photographic memory

    Read them! Indeed, understand how and why you have to transform notions into images it is essential to use the loci technique in practice.

    A micro exercise in the technique of the loci

    Let's say you are Cicero, and you have to make a speech in which you address about forty main points, and that the first three are:


    • The importance of children's education
    • The poor quality of education that the school gives
    • The need to strengthen the school system

    First you have to convert these three concepts into images. You could use:


    1. Picture of your child studying (importance of child rearing)
    2. Picture of a school falling apart, with a broken roof and cracked walls (poor quality of education)
    3. Picture of a teacher lifting weights (need to strengthen the school system)

    Build all the images (remember that your speech has 40 main points, not just the 3 we have seen as examples), begins to attach them to the loci.

    Let's say that, being Cicero, you have chosen the path that goes from your home to the Senate.

    1. The first step
      it could be the door you leave the house through. Here I meet your son who, with a book in hand, is studying like crazy. Here is linked the first image to the first site, the door.
    2. Then
      you cross the garden in front of the house and notice that in the middle of the garden, instead of the beautiful Tritons fountain that was there before, there is a dilapidated school. Here is the second image linked to the second locus, the home garden.
    3. Finally
      get on your horse-drawn chariot, or at least, you try. Your place is occupied by Professor Simplicius, intent on lifting weights. And here is the third image linked to the third locus, the chariot.

    The essence of the Loci technique

    This simple exercise in the technique of the loci makes you immediately grasp the essence:


    • Since it is difficult to remember things in order, I first choose a path whose order I already know perfectly well, selecting a series of main stations within it.
    • Then I turn the abstract things I want to remember into concrete images that remind me of them.
    • Finally I tie pictures to the stations along the route, one after the other. Thus binding information of the short-term memory with information from that to long term.

    When I have to repeat the speech I do the opposite: I go to the first station of the route; I see the associated image, I convert the image into the corresponding concept / thought / data.


    Then I go to the second station and do the same, and so on until the end.

    Technique of the loci to study

    Now, the loci technique may seem useless and convoluted if there are 3 things to remember.

    But when they become 30, or 300, or 0, the Technique of the Loci demonstrates all its power.

    And when the loci become so many, it is also possible to build articulated structures that take the name of palaces of memory.

    For many there is no difference between the expressions "technique of the loci" and "palace of memory".

    The second, however, in my opinion is more effective: the word "palace" in fact conveys the idea of large amount of information you can remember using the loci technique to study.

    If you want to find out the 5 steps through which you can build one, read this article on the memory palace. 

    For a student, the loci technique is the queen of mnemonics, and if you learn it well, you can radically change your skills in learning and displaying information.

    For this reason it is one of the cornerstones of my study method.

    The advantages of the loci technique

    Studying with the loci technique allows you to:

    • Di store information in a much more stable and orderly manner.
    • To recall them "walking around"Mentally, in complete tranquility, in a place you know perfectly well. Instead of frugandoti desperately in the brain, as sometimes happens in exams.

    The second aspect is as important as the first.

    Because it gives you the confidence that you often miss when you go to an exam.

    And in fact, those who learn the technique of loci often take away not only many hours of study, but also a lot of anxiety.

    And it manages to do apparently superhuman things.

    For example, if you want to try a slightly more complex exercise in loci technique, find out How to Memorize a 52-Card Deck.

    And don't be like me when I was 14! Never doubt someone like Cicero.

    Finally, if you liked this article on the loci technique and think it might be useful to some of your friends, you can share it on Facebook. You will please me! A greeting. Anthony

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