THE LINK SYSTEM
Having established what I hope was not a too disturbing
picture of the way in which your memory has been limited up
to now, we move on to the first method of improving its
The method is known as the Link method, and is the most
basic of all the systems—the ideas and methods that you use
when applying this system will prove invaluable in mastering
the more sophisticated systems.
'Link' can be considered to be the key word in memory,
another word for it being 'association'. Before going into the
details of the link system, I shall say something about the
principle ofassociation and its connection with the entire field
As I mentioned in the introduction, psychologists have come
to the conclusion that we remember things by joining a certain
part of them with other things. For example, on returning to
an old home or your old school, you may have realised that
seeing a certain picture on the wall, or a certain piece of
furniture, etc., made you 'suddenly remember' things that you
would otherwise, have entirely forgotten.
Your mind was linking all the ideas and memories that had
been associated with the object at which you were looking.
This principle applies, no matter how complicated the
memory situation is. Even when remembering complicated
mathematical formulas or very abstract ideas, there is a link in
the background which triggers the memory you want. It is this
basic concept that we shall make use of throughout the book,
using methods that enable the mind to link or associate far
more readily than it would otherwise have been able to.
Without further ado let us apply the link method ofremem-
bering to a simple shopping list. In a rushed moment, and with
no paper or writing instruments nearby, you have been asked
to buy the following items:
4. Drinking glasses
7. Washing up liquid
Most people when given a list quickly like this manage to
remember six or seven of the items. If you haven't already
spent some time trying to remember the list, close your eyes
nowwithout looking at the listagain, and see how manyyou can
recall, giving yourself extra credit if you remember the correct
The link method makes it all so much easier! Instead of
frantically trying to remember everything randomly, you must
quickly and decisively link the objects with each other.
In die list that we have set out to learn this can be done as
follows: Bananas and Soap are both items commonly used in
jokes about people falling on their behinds! Immediately
imagine yourselftherefore stepping on a banana peel with your
right foot and a bar of soap with your left foot, causing you to
What happens when someone falls down?—He breaks
things! Rather than making our memory device into a medical
catalogue, we remember the next two items on our list by
picturing eggs in our right hand and glasses in our left hand,
both of which get broken during the fall.
Our first four items are now firmly linked together. How do
we link the rest? Again the task is quite easy; bandages are
used for cuts which are caused by broken glass.
Our next item, matches, can be linked with the idea of a
bandage if we think of one of those long rolled bandages, the
end of which has been set alight and is slowly burning.
Having created a mental fire we had better put it out! And
what better device than a fire extinguisher, or a container of
washing up liquid which we mentally 'put' in the fire extin-
The next item on our list, toothpaste, can easily be linked
with die washing up liquid as they both come from containers
whichhaveto be squeezed. Simply imagine a fire-extinguisher-
soap-container beginning to squirt toothpaste instead of soap.
We can move rapidly onto the next item by picturing the
toothpaste no longer being squirted at the fire, but being badly
aimed and covering our freshly polished shoes which were
about to step on a rotten tomato anyway!
And there we have it: our list often items neatly associated:
we slip on the bananas and soap, break the eggs and drinking
glasses, and need bandages which are set alight by matches.
The resulting fire is then put out by washing up liquid which is
similar to squeezing toothpaste which goes all over our clean
shoes which were about to squash a tomato!
The system is easy, but you might have already thought 'Ah
yes, it might work for that list, but what happens when I have
to memorise my own?*.
In fact it will be just as easy for you to make up your own,
and eventually even easier, if you follow these simple rules:
1. Exaggerate your associations
2. Move your associations.
3. Substitute your associations.
4. Be Absurd!
Items are remembered far more easily if they are pictured
in your mind's eye as being much greater than they really are.
For example when you pictured yourself slipping on the
banana peel and the bar ofsoap, your remembering task would
have been made easier ifyou imagined a banana peel the size of
a ski, and a bar of soap as large as a boulder.
2. Move Your Associations
Whenever you are establishing links include if possible,
movement or action. By doing this you create images which are";
far more alive. The movement in your image helps to nudge
the picture back into consciousness. Imagine for example how
much more difficult our shopping list would have been to
memorise if we had not used the idea of falling, breaking,
bleeding, burning, squirting, and squashing! Action and move-
ment always make remembering not only easier, but also more
3. Substitute Your Associations
The art of remembering well relies on a number of factors,
and it is advisable, especially in associations which you might
feel are a little weak, to bring all your weapons to the fore. By
substituting one thing for another you can often very strongly
reinforce a link that might have been not quite strong enough.
An example ofthis was our substitution ofthe fire extinguisher
for the washing-up liquid container. The substitution itself
made the association and the movement links more complete,
and thus more readily recalled.
4. Be Absurd!
Remembering is one area where you can really 'let yourself
go'! There is no point at all in being conservative about the
links you form—in fact the more conservative and retiring you
are, the weaker your associations will be, and the worse your
Whenever you are trying to associate anything with anything
else, think up the most extraordinary and outrageous combina-
tion you can, and you will find it will last much longer. In day-
to-day living you will find the same principle works. It is
never the humdrum, mundane, ordinary events that catch
one's attention; it is the exciting, new and unusual events
which do so.
And even if somebody does mention the uninteresting or
boring, doesn't he always commence his statement with 'It was
the most extraordinarily boring ...' or 'The most deadly
dull ...'? In other words it is those events which stand out
which are remembered (even ifthey stand out because oftheir
As a final note, and in a hushed breath, I feel obliged to
mention that associations using some form of vulgar or sexual
imagery are for many people among the strongest form. In
view of this, and if a sexual image seems appropriate, do not
hesitate to use it. Just be sure your imagination doesn't run
away with itself!