Memory Sport

world memory championships

memory palace

Memory sport, sometimes referred to as competitive memory or the mind sport of memory, is a competition in which participants attempt to memorize the most information that they can then present back, under certain guidelines. The sport has been formally developed since 1991, and features regional and international championships.

One common type of competition involves memorizing the order of randomized cards in as little time as possible, after which the competitor is required to arrange new decks of cards in the same order. Mnemonic techniques are generally considered to be a necessary part of competition, and are improved through extensive practice. These can include the method of loci (referred to as the journey method, which uses visualization to aid recall), the use of mnemonic linking and chunking, or other techniques for storage and retrieval of information.

Techniques for training memory are discussed as far back as Ancient Greece, and formal memory training was long considered an important part of basic education known as the art of memory. However, the development of trained memorization into a sport is only a development of the late 20th century, and even then has remained relatively limited in scope. The first worldwide competition was held as the World Memory Championships in 1991, and has been held again in every year since. The highest designation set up by the World Memory Sports Council, which organizes the World Memory Championships, is the Grand Master of Memory. Joshua Foer wrote in 2005 that there were 36 Grand Masters in the world, including one in the United States.

Competitors describe numerous methods and techniques for improving their memorization skills, with some having published and named their specific methods. These include, for instance, the Mnemonic dominic system, named after former World Champion Dominic O’Brien, the Mnemonic major system, as well as the Person-Action-Object System which involves encoding cards and numbers into sequences of persons, actions, and objects. These methods are sometimes referred to as ‘mnemotechnics.’ Joshua Foer has written, ‘Though every competitor has his own unique method of memorization for each event, all mnemonic techniques are essentially based on the concept of elaborative encoding, which holds that the more meaningful something is, the easier it is to remember.’

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