Locked Out of the Memory Palace

Hey All, I’m Kristylynn, an adult artist with aphantasia.  For years I associated “picturing things” with conceptualizing them and didn’t realize that people were literally visualizing behind their eye lids images they could see.  That being said, my attempts to study memory techniques were infuriatingly confusing and lacked results.  Once I realized I had aphantasia, it made sense that I could not do things like build a memory palace.  But I want to.

Are there any alternatives for memory techniques that anyone knows about?  Virtually all of the literature I’ve been able to find in the last few years focuses fundamentally on visualization techniques.  I’m very hopeful that someone has some experience here, it’s a dream of mine to be able to participate in something like a memory competition.

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Have you tried connecting memories with story-telling in your head? I have aphantasia too. I once did a little experiment to memorize the digits of numbers, which is really hard for me. Even 6 digits is very hard. What I did was I made up words for each number from 0 to 9
0 .. frog
1 .. house
2 .. garden
This is just a random example of words to illustrate what I am doing.. you can find better words yourself I am sure. I believe the more extraordinary the words, the easier to remember in your story. Example:
0 .. talking frog
1 .. burning house
2 .. blue garden
Then you start connecting the numbers into a story that you invent on the fly while reading the number.
There was once a talking frog that lived in a blue garden. That blue garden was in front of the burning house where a lot of talking frogs where living.
Aaand you just remembered the number 02210. These stories get easier to remember if you have more than 3 different types of digits 😉
Funny thing.. you will probably still remember that number tomorrow while any other random number in your head would long be gone. I was able to remember 20 digit numbers like that without much practise.

I’m afraid not – I don’t have a reliable system. But very much emphasise with the ineffectiveness of using anything like the visualisation/memory tricks you see people doing on TV/in books etc. 

However, autism has gifted me with an excellent long term thing for some things (but not others – and I have little control over what sticks) but a poor short-term/working memory…which presents a combined interesting set of challenges! What I have found helps with memory is effectively practical use/memory muscle but it has to be tangle – so writing/typing/seeing in the real world…it doesn’t work with just repeating in head.

I struggle even with remembering six digits; it only works if I break up into memorable 2 x 3 or 3 x 2 patterns (really annoying in a world of mass conference calls).   I’ll remember those eventually I use twice a day but not a ‘new number’ I might only use once a week.  But, 25 years later I can still remember the odds of winning a six ball lottery draw using 1 – 49 (GCSE coursework subject in mid 90s…) – 13,983,816 *sighs* 

Good news! I have been trying to figure out how to utilize the memory palace for some time (I also have aphantasia), but I realized a while ago that the memory palace is not all about the mind’s eye. Little did I know, I had been using part of the memory palace technique all along. The main two components of building a palace are visual and spatial memory. Like all of you with aphantasia, my visual memory is about as useful as someone with severe dementia, who’s also blind. However, I have been coming to realize just how much my spatial memory has compensated for this fact. Recently I memorized the first 100 digits of pi… in about a week. Once I got going, it was quite easy. But how could I do it without using my visual memory as the memory palace seems to require? I arranged them in a few dull lines and began memorizing them in groups of 7. The first few became instinctual, but as I continued they became terribly hard to remember. But thats when spatial memory came in. I had, without knowing it, created instant connections between the numbers (their vibes, if you will) and their proper places. The sequence 8841971 vaguely reminded me of a Starbucks (it was founded in 1971 and 884 reminds me of double doors) and the Starbucks sequence belonged in the upper right side of the first long row. I couldn’t help but remember them. So in the end, loose connections with letters/sequences and firm connections with time/place made this significantly less challenging than I had suspected. I hope this has been helpful!