Thursday, October 18, 2007

Be Like Derren Brown, Part 1: Have a Superhuman Memory

In Tricks of the Mind, Derren Brown explains a complicated memory system he uses in his tricks. The system he describes is almost identical to one I have used, which you can find here.

This method of memorization requires you to associate certain letters or sounds with the numbers 0 through 9. You can then create peg words for each number, 1 through 100 (or however high you want to go). To remember lists of information, you simply associate each piece of information with one of your peg words (through mental visualization). You can then go through your list and recall each piece of information. If you have 100 items memorized and someone asks you to repeat item number 47, you can do so instantly and with little effort.

I first discovered the system in an audiobook about ten years ago. Later, I was surprised to find the exact same system in a 19th-century book about memory. It is apparently very common. The system helped me pass college exams with little study time. It is amazingly easy to use.

Derren Brown has made excellent use of the system by applying it in creative ways. On page 102 of his book, for example, he lists his peg words for the 52 cards in a deck -- helpful for both magic tricks and card games. In one interview, he described his plan to memorize every name and phone number in a local phone book where he was performing -- audience members could then ask him what their phone number was, and he would tell them.

His memory tricks sound impossibly difficult, but with the memory system cited above, they really are not too hard. This is only one of many skills Derren Brown uses to perform his tricks, but it is one that you can easily acquire for yourself, and which will immediately impress your friends and family.

For more "Be Like Derren" info, see the list of Recommended Materials.

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