Spatial Memory: Variations on Classical Themes


In March 2012, Joshua Foer presented a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talk to a mesmerized audience. As he began, Foer asked the audience members to close their eyes, and he proceeded to describe a scenario in which a series of striking images appeared as he talked his spectators through various architectural spaces in a house they were to imagine as their own. First, a group of nude bicyclists materialized at the front door, crashing before the very eyes of the bemused beholders, sending bicycle pieces flying in all directions. An encounter with Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster in the entrance foyer ensued, during which salient details of the Muppet’s appearance were described down to the smell of his constant companion, a cookie. Then a visit to the kitchen provoked the emergence of The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow from the oven, who proceeded to skip along the kitchen floor, now imagined as paved in yellow bricks. The demonstration halted there, and Foer explained to his audience that he had just provided a very small sampling of the workings of an ancient memory technique, sometimes called the method of loci, which utilizes spatial architecture and striking images as a means for recalling a series of items in order.

Read Article On Muse