Practicing my PAO Table

Captain Caveman Kicking a Kitkat

Over the past five days, I’ve been memorizing my person-action-object table. I spent the first three days placing each PAO in its own loci. I did about thirty numbers each day.

That process went smoothly. On average, it only took about ten to fifteen minutes to encode and recall thirty PAO. Whenever I had a quiet moment, I’d run through the PAO to reinforce my memory. I’d try to identify them in different ways. Sometimes I’d imagine that I spelled the words with the numbers. Other times, the numbers would pop up as I thought of the words. I’d try to visualize the images as clearly as possible.

Next, it seemed important to recall the numbers out of order. I used a random number generator (here) to create 162 digit numbers for practice. I broke these numbers down into 27 lines. Each line had 6 numbers, which I broke down into pairs. From there, I worked out each PAO, like this:
82 86 52
Fiona Fishing Lincoln (Princess Fiona went fishing for a Lincoln)
I didn’t try to memorize the lines. I’m familiar with placing the scenes in a memory palace, but that wasn’t the point of the practice. The goal of these sessions is to make the PAO table more automatic and help with faster recall. I will worry about the memory palace later.

The first set of numbers that I sorted through were:
Time: 11:55

That time indicates how long it took to recall the numbers, not memorize them. Not very impressive, is it? I followed this with a second-round that took even longer: a whopping 12:55.

I continued to go through random sets, but no more than once per hour. Spaced repetition is the most effective method for memorization. It seemed to work. My times throughout the two days improved.

Time: 10:04

The next one went up to 11:21, then 10:50. After that, I started making better progress.

Time: 9:00

Time: 8:50

Time: 7:16

I’m happy with that, for now. When I get under 5:00, I’ll start placing the numbers in memory palaces. But, for a week’s worth of casual practice, I’d say it was productive.

Dylan Callens

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Dylan Callens is a writer and educator living in Sudbury, Ontario. 

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