Would You Like a Memory Trick?

“Memory is more indelible than ink.” Anita Loos

I attended a webinar with Ida Shessel, who discussed five elements that increase the likelihood that a memory will be imprinted in the brain. She believes that we can boost learning retention if we incorporate some, if not all, of the following memory imprint elements:


  1. Visual
  2. Rare or unusual
  3. Linked or associated to something
  4. Movement (that enhances the visual)
  5. Emotional

Ida demonstrated one very powerful way to do this through the link-method, which is an image-based technique for memorizing lists. It uses visualization and association to change abstract facts into mental pictures that are easy to remember. This works because most people’s brains can remember visual images (pictures) much easier than abstract information. It also works because it requires remembering just one thing at a time.


If you can convert information into a list (such as errands, a shopping list, key policy items, core values, flow charts, communication steps, etc.), you can use this technique.

You represent the first item on the list with a silly memorable image. Then you use another silly, memorable image that links the first item on the list to a second item. You continue in this way until you complete the list.

What you are doing in essence is creating a story.

For example, I can still recall the story Ida used when I listened to the webinar yesterday. I was unable to see her PowerPoint, so I may be taking some license with the images that she used, but they’ll be as close as I can come.

She said that she had errands to run: drop her cat at the vet, go grocery shopping, take her car in for repairs, and pick up her cat.

So, first, she had us imagine an unusual cat- maybe the Cheshire Cat in Alice and Wonderland. Then have the cat sit in a watermelon. The watermelon reaches out to an eggplant that looks like the watermelon. The eggplant takes a fork to eat some broccoli. The broccoli runs away to dance with a carrot. The carrot decides she wants to dance with a banana instead. The banana turns sideways and grows wheels, turning into a car. Then imagine the cat sitting on the car.

In this way, she helps us remember to: drop off the cat at the vet; go to the grocery store to pick up watermelon, eggplant, broccoli, carrots and bananas; take the car for repair; and pick up the cat.

Ida embellishes her story much better than I have reproduced it for you, but you can get an idea of how she incorporates the visual, unusual, movement, emotional, and associational memory imprint elements.

Let me attempt this with a training-related list. I’m going to use the link-method to help my participants remember my six-step lesson design process.

You NEED to find a map to plan your trip. The map you find shows two different routes flashing in neon colors, both of which will get you to your desired GOAL. Your GOAL is a park with willow trees that drip with fish. Your OBJECTIVES are to locate the park and take videos of the trees. Your AGENDA at the park will be full of strenuous ACTIVITIES. You will need to hike up a mountain of tutti frutti ice cream and then zipline down to a canyon to get to the trees. You’ll EVALUATE if the trip was worth it if you are able to sell your videos for a lot of money.

The link-method can also include a story:

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