What are your thoughts on Involuntary Method of Loci Memorization (IMLM) please?

I’m very grateful for the few but very interesting comments that have been made at this blog from people from all around the world describing their own interesting experiences which are similar to things that I have described (thank you again Dayna, Luis, Nick, Gentoooo… :-)). Clearly I am not the only person in the world who experiences synaesthesia-like linkages between thinking about concepts and memories of spatial locations. This much is true, but I’m still curious about how common such experiences are. Perhaps this stuff is so ordinary that it is barely worth studying, but if that is true, I’ve got to wonder why in all my reading, including a lot of reading of stuff written by scientists and psychologists, I’ve not seen such an experience described or named anywhere. In the last three months I’ve had quite a few thousands of views of this blog from all over the globe, but very little feedback from my readers, which seems like a lost opportunity, and that is why I’d appreciate it is you could spend some time letting me know what your experience is regarding mental associations between visual memories and conceptual thinking. Do you automatically visualize specific old memories of scenes when you think of particular concepts? When you revisit a particular place, do you automatically think of the concept that you learned about when you were at that location years ago? Do you experience involuntary method of loci memorization (IMLM) (as described below)?

IMLM is the name that I’ve given for a phenomenon which I and some of my close relatives experience. I am wondering whether I am the first person to have ever written a published description of this type of experience, which I believe is related to synaesthesia. The basis of this memory phenomenon appears to be the long-term incidental/accidental formation of a stable neurological association between the visual image of a scene of an exact location where one was at and information absorbed through interested, attentive reading or through interested, attentive listening at a time when one was present at and looking at that exact location. If one revisits that exact location and looks at the same scene, the memory of the information absorbed at that location is automatically and involuntarily recalled, and unless one makes a conscious effort to consciously remember or record the linkage between the scene and the concept, the thought of that concept will vanish from the mind as abruptly as it arrived, when you move away from that exact location. It is as though the thought of that concept is switched on and off by some external agent (but please be reassured that I don’t suffer from any delusions about “thought control”). There does not need to be any logical link between the place or the scene and the concept. Recall of the concept can happen years later when the place is revisited. In my case the form in which the information is recalled is in conceptual form – I do not “hear” in my mind’s ear the sound of the original radio broadcast, and I do not “read” in my mind’s eye information read at that location. I just remember the gist of what was learned at that location, but I have a close relative who has reported a particular pop song being automatically recalled through this kind of phenomenon, so for other people IMLM might involve or trigger memories of music or other memories of sounds instead of concepts, or in addition to concepts.

How would you describe your experience or opinion of involuntary method of loci memorization (IMLM), in a comment?

1. I’ve never heard of anything like this and have never experienced it.

2. I’m not sure if I’ve ever experienced this, I’d have to check.

3. I think I might know someone else who has experienced this – I’d have to check.

4. I have never experienced this, probably because I am never exposed to the types of situations that bring it about (I never read books or listen to talk radio in novel, outdoor locations).

5. I rarely experience this, probably because I am hardly ever exposed to the types of situations that bring it about.

6. I have experienced this ocassionally.

7. I sometimes experience this type of thing.

8. I often experience this type of thing.

9. I have experienced this and I think it is perfectly normal and common, nothing out of the ordinary.

10. I and other people I know have experienced this and I think it is perfectly normal, nothing out of the ordinary.

11. I often experience this type of thing, and I have blood a relative or relatives who also experience it.

12. I often experience this type of thing, and I am also a synaesthete.

13. I often experience this type of thing, and I am definitely not a synaesthete.

14. I often experience this type of thing, and I am also a super-recognizer.

15. I often experience this type of thing, and I am not a super-recognizer.

16. I often experience this type of thing and I also have special abilities in memory.

17. I often experience this type of thing and I have no apparent special abilities in memory.

18. I experience something similar but not exactly the same.


Involuntary Method of Loci Memorization (IMLM) – what the heck is that?  https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/involuntary-method-of-loci-memorization-imlm-%E2%80%93-what-the-heck-is-that/

Concept -> scene synaesthesia: my experiences and others’ experiences  https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/concept-scene-synaesthesia-my-experiences-and-others-experiences/

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Method of loci’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 May 2012, 09:28 UTC, <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Method_of_loci&oldid=494440410> [accessed 28 May 2012]

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  • kkz  On December 30, 2015 at 7:00 am

    12, but I have it the other way. When I think of a concept I get a glimpse of a scene. I have a list of over 200 concepts that have a scene linked to them. The concepts also get linked into scenes of some of the 3D games I used to play.
    I have a longer description of this on reddit at https://redd.it/2okgmg

    I also have emotion->color (which seems to be quite rare) and numbers->personalities synesthesia.

    I’d really like to discuss about this with you via email.

  • C. Wright  On December 30, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Thank you so much kkz for your comment at my blog and your interesting descriptions of your own experiences at imgur and Reddit. Sorry, I don’t communicate via email in connection with this blog, so discussions will have to be via comments. I don’t necessarily have to publish all comments.

    Interesting that your synaesthesia linking concepts with visual memories of scenes only goes one way. for me it is definitely a two-way thing. Maybe my brain is more out-of-control than yours!

    I’m not at all surprised that your brain appears to treat scenes from 3D games in the same way as scenes from real life.

    I have yet to read thru all your material, but some questions come to mind. Do you fell that the experience of the memory of the scenes is purely a visual experience, or do you feel that there is a body-centred sense of space as well? Do you think the scenes are memories at all, or do they seem more like mental reconstructions of places? What do you think of the commonly-stated idea that synaesthesia is a “mixing of the senses” or a sensory experience? How do you regard synaesthesia; just an interesting experience, a thing that can be used as a memory tool, a fundamental part of the way the mind works or a useful phenomemon that gives clues to the way the mind works, or none of the above?

    Emotion-colour syn could be rare, or more possibly infrequently experienced among many syns. I find it hard to make a demarcation between music-colour syn and emotion-colour syn, as the experience of music seems to be all about evoking emotions and feelings, even ones not often experienced outside of the experience of listening to music. My numbers up to 12 or so have personalities and ages and genders and colours, which I guess is a cluster of experiences pretty common among synaesthetes.

  • kkz  On December 30, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    It’s hard to answer to the first question. I don’t feel my body at the location, but I can feel a direction I am looking at. It’s more like looking thru a camera. There’s also a feeling of a time. In the second imgur image I have told the times I experience when thinking of the concepts. There are probably more, but I know at least one concept that started existing (in real world, not in my mind) in 2014 that is linked into a place I visited the last time in 2009. The scenes don’t change in my mind when they change in the real world: one day I visited one of the locations that has a concept linked to them and a house had been built on the exact location. The link between the concept and the scene did not change at all. Also, the connections are quite weak in a way, so if I think of the link between the concept and place too much my normal memory kind of takes over. The link between Facebook and a forest near my house no longer exists because that was the first link I discovered and I used to think about it a lot.

    Regarding the second question, of course the scenes are at least on some level created from my memories, but they don’t seem to be pure memories. There is snow on the ground 1/3 of the year where I live but none of the scenes have snow in them, they all have a clear summer day. Maybe it’s because that’s the default way I think of a scene. Also, the scene has nothing moving, no cars or people. It’s hard to distinguish any individual objects from the location, it’s kind of like how I experience scenes in dreams.

    Yes, I think synesthesia is a mixing of the senses (but not only limited to senses of course). I think it’s kind of a bug in humans but because it causes no harm it hasn’t disappeared. Some people say it happens because the areas of the brain that are close to each other have too many connections, but that doesn’t make sense on my case with the emotion-color synesthesia. This http://fulcherlab.academic.wlu.edu/files/2014/01/Brain-lobes.png image shows that vision and emotions are on the opposite sides of the brain. Some people say that at first everyone has synesthesia but then it fades away as we get older. I’m quite skeptical with this because when I was in kindergarten they had this poster with letters that have colors and personalities (the way they smile and so on) on the wall. I looked at it quite a lot and could not relate to it at all. I have some early memories from when I was three years old and don’t remember any mixing of my senses.

    I can’t use my synesthesia as a memory tool, so I view it as something that just shows how capable the brain is.

    The last chapter of your comment reminds me how at first I used to think that I have music-color synesthesia because I listen to a lot of music and see colors while doing so. I forgot to mention that I don’t see the colors in my mind, I see them physically. I’ve found only two persons who see them the same way as I do, which is more than people I’ve found with IMLM.

    For me, only 1-9 have personalities and the rest are just combinations. I knew about this type of synesthesia for about a year before I realized that I have it myself, no wonder why many synesthetes don’t even know they have synesthesia. The personality isn’t linked to the shape of the number, but to the concept of it. So in every language I speak the word two is a shy girl. Same way with the IMLM: let’s say a person is the concept that gets linked into a location. I might not remember the person’s name or the way he/she looks, but I remember the idea of the person. That’s what invokes the scene.

  • Ethan  On May 31, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    I hope you see this despite the thread being so old, but I’ve been struggling with this for a little while now. I say ‘struggling’ because in my perspective, the scenes become an active perspective in which I’m almost constantly peering into. For as long as I can remember I’ve had this form of visual-mental connection and can recall memories such in the way you’ve described. For about a year ago, however, these scenes have begun to linger in my mind for extensive periods of time. It’s as if my thoughts have their own scene actively coexisting with what I see in reality, and it feels almost as if I’m there rather than where I actually am. These active IMLMs can can get changed arbitrarily by something like dreams or be preserved for extensive periods of time if I continue a certain chain of thoughts closely enough for awhile. If they do get preserved, they spread out, and my thought-scene pool expands. Perhaps it has to do with my daily concern and attention to these scenes that maintains them, but I’m looking for some way to control them to my advantage rather than let them overwhelm me.

  • greenearrings  On June 7, 2018 at 4:08 am

    Sorry to repond to your intersting comment so late, Ethan. I’ve pretty-much abandoned this blog but I’m glad some still find interst in its content. I’m not sure what to make of your description of your experiences, but I’d be wary of any change in the way this kind of thing works. One thing that characterizes synaesthesia is the stability of the way it works, but on the other hand, many synaesthetes report changes as a result of pharmaceuticals, stress, etc. My experience if evoked mental images is that they are so fleeting that I can easily forget they happened, but of course we all have some degree of control over our memories, and that is what the evoked images are – memories. I’ve often wondered if my fleeting visual memories could be controlled

  • greenearrings  On June 7, 2018 at 4:21 am

    …whether the result would be a savant-like ability to reproduce complex scenes like the astounding talent of Stephen Wiltshire, who has autism. I don’t know whether you think your experiences are in any way similar to the way such a savant must think. Another person with exceptional memory ability that your account sounds similar to is the first described case of HSAM or hyperthymesia, which is superior autobiographical memory. Her name I think is Jill Price and there are articles about her and also a case study in a neuroscience journal. She experiencesher memories as something like watching another screen in addition to current reality, as I recall. If your experiences ever seem to be hallucinations or “aura” type experiences as those that may precede epilepsy or migraine, you must consult your doctor sooner rather than later. As aleady stated, I’d be wary of any change to the nature of your experience. Take care!

    • Ethan  On July 5, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      Thanks for the reply and sorry for the even further delayed response; I’ve begun to develop the ability to switch my mode of thinking into a more natural way that makes the active IMLMs much more fleeting like you described and less of an overarching presence among my thoughts. Strangely, even in my dreams I am often aware of where my mind is projecting its thoughts upon, and the less fixated I am on these mental scenes, the more they tend to shuffle and flow naturally. Perhaps this conundrum of mine was brought to light as my awareness of my mind increased as I aged, so naturally the next step would be to learn how to tame that awareness in order to achieve a better IMLM flow, so to speak. Thanks for the heads up, I’ll definitely be looking into Jill Price and her experiences, as these IMLMs of mine have allowed me to recall my memories at a higher rate than ever before.

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