Building a memory palace in minutes: equivalent memory performance using virtual versus conventional environments with the Method of Loci

Acta Psychol (Amst). 2012 Nov;141(3):380-90. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2012.09.002. Epub 2012 Oct 23.


The Method of Loci (MOL) is an ancient mnemonic strategy used to enhance serial recall. Traditionally, the MOL is carried out by imagining navigating a familiar environment and "placing" the to-be-remembered items in specific locations. For retrieval, the mnemonist re-imagines walking through the environment, "looking" for those items in order. Here we test a novel MOL method, where participants use a briefly studied virtual environment as the basis for the MOL and applied the strategy to 10 lists of 11 unrelated words. When our virtual environments were used, the MOL was as effective, compared to an uninstructed control group, as the traditional MOL where highly familiar environments were used. Thus, at least for naïve participants, a highly detailed environment does not support substantially better memory for verbal serial lists.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Linguistics
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Mental Recall*
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Young Adult