Colorado College Bulletin

Mind Power

Gunther Karsten '85Imagine sitting at a table, memorizing as many decks of cards as you possibly can in an hour. Or memorizing row after row of randomly generated digits, words, lines of poetry, or names and faces of complete strangers?

That's what happens at the World Memory Championship or Memoriad, an annual contest that pits the world's greatest "brain stars" against each other in nine events.

Gunther Karsten '85 -- German Champion (2000, 1999, 1998) recently won the bronze medal at the world Memory Championship.  This CC grad, who played right forward on the soccer team, won gold medals in two of the nine cerebral feats: memorizing 2,187 binary numbers (e.g., 01100001110) in 30 minutes and memorizing 400 spoken digits, each given every two seconds.  

Karsten, holder of two Guinness-World-Records (for memorizing a 60 digit number in 60 sec without any mistake and memorizing a 100 digit number in 1:37.48), has kindly offered to share some of his techniques to boost our brain power.  If you have a particular topic you'd like him to address, write Gunther care of The Bulletin (14 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, CO 80903). This guy's s-m-a-r-t!

Remembering people's names can be very difficult for many of us. There are various processes, though, to help remember names, Like all memory "tricks," they have to be practiced repeatedly before any great degree of proficiency can be achieved.

First, make sure you hear the name clearly.  Then repeat it to yourself several times.

Make a mental note if you have another friend who shares the same name.  If it's a name you've never heard of before, say so.  "What an interesting name," or "I have never heard this name.  Where does it come from?"  

Try to use the name in your first few words of conversation, and consciously listen to yourself saying the name. "So, Bill, what did you think of the Bills this year? Did their quarterback fit the bill, Bill?"

Find out as many details about the person as you can. What are their interests? Where do they live? What do they do for a living? The odds are that if they are interested in something off the wall, you will remember them quite easily.

When you get home, make a few quick notes. Jot down where you met and what you discussed. Anything to get them fixed in your mind.

There are various ways to quickly make a mental note of the person and their name.

Pick out a physical characteristic that strikes you as their most dominant feature. Now make a picture of this person, with this feature grossly exaggerated, wearing a notice round their neck with their name written on it in large letters.

Quickly make an association with some aspect of their name (some are obviously a lot easier than others) and compose a mental picture of the person incorporating this feature. For example, someone named Bill Brown could have a bill like a bird instead of a nose and mouth. The more outlandish the picture, the more memorable it is.

Another method is to think of someone else you know with the same name and make a mental association between the two people. 

Try to make a mental picture seconds after an introduction.  If this is difficult, practice "people watching" for a week or two.  Look at faces and concentrate on noses, for example. Note the different sizes, shapes, surfaces.  Then concentrate on eyes, mouths, ears, chins.  After some weeks you will find it easy to note unusual things in faces.  Mental associations will help you remember names, even after a long time.

If you cannot recall the name, don't pretend!  Just admit it and ask for the name again. "I remember you collect seashells and lived in France, but could you tell me your name again?"

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