Advanced Memory: The PAO System

Newton Sneezing on a Sandwich

Are you ready to take your memory to the next level? Meet the PAO memory system, a powerful technique that has been used by memory athletes worldwide to achieve extraordinary feats of recall. PAO stands for Person-Action-Object and it’s a powerful method that utilizes the natural human ability to remember people, actions and objects, to help commit information to memory. Whether you are a student looking to improve your study habits, a professional wanting to boost your productivity, or an aspiring memory athlete, the PAO system is a must-have tool in your arsenal. This powerful technique can help you to remember anything from names and faces, to shopping lists and appointments. Let’s dive into the world of PAO and unlock the full potential of your memory.

Upgrading to a PAO System

I used to rely solely on the Major System to remember numbers and playing cards. While the Major System is a useful tool on its own, I realized that it wouldn’t be sufficient for competing in memory competitions.

However, as I developed my use of the PAO memory system, I incorporated elements of the Major System to make it even more effective. By including the Major System, I can use the consonant sounds as a clue when I am struggling to recall information.

For example, if I were to stumble upon the number 04, I know that the person, action, and object associated with it will all have the sounds “s” and “n.” With this information, I may be able to deduce that the image is Isaac Newton sneezing on a sandwich.


Why use a PAO System?

It’s true that the PAO memory system does require some initial effort to set up and master. However, once it is learned, the benefits are well worth the investment. The way that information is condensed into a single scene can turn multiple digits into one memorable image.

For example, by using my PAO chart, the number 713904 becomes a vivid image of Catwoman mopping a sarcophagus. When combined with the use of a Memory Palace, it becomes an incredibly powerful tool for memorization. So, while there may be more work upfront, it’s a technique that can give you a significant head start in remembering information.

How the PAO System Works

I will be using a two-digit PAO system, meaning that every set of digits from 00 to 99 has a person, action, and object attached to it. When we read off a number, such as 713904, we first break it down into a series of two-digit numbers, in this case: 71-39-04. The first two digits correspond to the person, the second two to the action, and the last two to the object.

As an example, if you refer to the chart below, you will see that 71 is associated with Catwoman, cutting, and cat. In this case, we only need the person, Catwoman, from this selection. Similarly, 39 is associated with Miss Piggy, mopping, and map. Since it is the second set of digits, we need the action, mopping. Lastly, 04 is associated with Salman Rushdie, serenading, and sarcophagus. Since it is the final set of digits, we will take the object, sarcophagus.

It’s essential to visualize these vignettes as vividly as possible and to place the story inside a Memory Palace, which is another technique that can be used to enhance the effectiveness of the PAO system.

I have posted my PAO chart below as a starting point, and I may make some changes as I work through the system. I’m also creating flashcards for each of the PAOs, and I will update this article when they are ready.

Enjoy exploring this powerful memory technique!

Simon Cowell Sucking a Squirrel
Simon Cowell Sucking a Squirrel
00Sylvester Stalonesassingsausages
Steven Tylerstranglingstork
02Isaac Newtonsneezingsandwich
03Supermansmokingsea monster
04Salman Rushdieserenadingsarcophagus
05Shia Labeoufsalutingsalamander
06Swedish Chefshootingshark
07Simon Cowellsuckingsquirrel
08Sigmund Freudsiftingsaffron
09Scotty Pippensipping spiders
10Tony Sopranotazingtoaster
11Tony Tigertighteningtits
12Trevor Noahtuningtuna
13Toni Morrisontemptingtomato
14Tony Robbinstracingtree
15Tommy Leetiltingtelevision
16Tommy Chongteachingt-shirt
17Tia Carreraticklingtaco
18Tina Feytransferringtaffy
19Tom Pettytappingtable
21Nikola Teslanotarizingnuts
22Nick Noltenaggingnanobots
23Nelson Mandelanumbingnamplates
24Nancy Reagannursingnurse
25Neil ArmstrongnailingNile
26Noam Chomskynavigatingnachos
27Nick Krollnickingnecks
28Ned FlandersneighingNewfies
29Natalie PortmannappingNorth Pole
30Marge Simpsonmoisteningmusic
31Mr. Tmottling meat
32Minnie (Mouse)manglingmoon
33Marvin the Martianmimingmuumuu
34Mr. Rogersmarkingmermaid
35Mario Lemeuxmilkingmelon
36Macho (Man)mashingmushroom
37Mark Cubanmakingmacaroni
38Morgan Freemanmoving (*too close to transferring?)muffin
39Miss Piggymoppingmap
40Richard Simmonsracingraisins
41Raymond Holtrattlingrutabega
42Richard Nixonransackingrainbow
43Ralph Machiorememberingram
44Road Runnerreadingrailroad
45Rob Lowerolling(bread) roll
46Richard Bransonrechargingradish
47Russell Crowerockingraccoon
48Roger Federerrefusingruffians
49Russell Petersrappingraven
50Lisa Simpsonlisteninglizard
51Leon Trotskylitigatinglitter
52Link (Zelda)lungingLincoln
53Lightning McQueenlamentinglama
54Leia Organalordinglure
55Louis L'Amourlayinglollipop
56Lon Chaneylatchingleech
57Lara Croftlickinglockbox
58Laurence Fishburnelaughingleaf
59Louis Primaleapingleopard
60Charlie Sheenchest compressionscheese
61Chris Tuckershittingshingles
62Chuck Norrischunkingchainsaw
63Charles Mansonshimmyingchum
64ChercheeringChristmas tree
65Charles Lucky Lucianoshoulderingchallis
66Chester Cheetahcha-cha-ingchakra (floating eye)
67Chaka Khanshakingcheque
68Chris Farleyshufflingchef
69Charlie Chaplinshapingchaps
72Candy, Johncanjuringcandy cane
73Karl Marxcummingcamel
74Keanu Reevescarryingcrab
75Kenny Logginskillingcoyote
76Carol Channingcrushingketchup
77Captain CavemankickingKitkat
78Kung Fu Pandacoughingknife
80Frank Sinatrafistingfossil
81Father Timefightingfetus
82Fiona (from Shrek)faintingfawn
83Freddie Mercuryfumigatingfoam
84Franklin Rooseveltfartingferret
85The Flashfilmingflamingo
86Frederick Chopinfishingfish
87Fidel Castrofuckingficus
88Fred Flinstoneoffendingfife
90Patrick Starpassingpussy
91Pete Townsendpettingpatella
92Pam Andersonpaintingpenus
93Pac Manpumpingpumpkin
94Professor Xpiercingparrot
95(Emperor) Palpatinepeelingpelican
96Prince Charmingpushingpachyderm
97Penelope Cruzpackingpike
98PT Barnumpeeingpufferfish

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