Learn How to Memorize the Order of Black & Red in a Deck of Playing Cards (Easy)
This is the first memory technique that I learned, and the one that introduced me to memory techniques. I’ve found that it’s easy to teach in 15 minutes, and most people enjoy learning it.
If you teach it to someone, please leave a comment below and let me know your experience. There are many variations of this technique. I’m just showing one way to do it that I think is relatively easy for beginners.
I learned about this technique from the book, Mind Performance Hacks by Ron Hale-Evans.
The Memory Technique
This technique can be used to memorize any type of binary data. The order of red and black in a deck of playing cards is a fun way to introduce people to it, but the technique can also be used to memorize a limited number of binary numbers. A person might be able to memorize 60 binary digits on a first or second attempt, since this version of the technique uses 6 digits/cards per location and 10 locations in a memory palace.
The Memory Palace
The first thing to do is create a “memory palace” — also known as “mind palace” if you’ve seen the TV show, Sherlock. You can do this on the spot with the Nook & Cranny Method. Just look around the room that you are in and choose 10 locations in the room in order. The way I do it is to start at the door and go clockwise around the room:
- near left corner
- left wall
- far left corner
- far wall
- far right corner
- right wall
- near right corner
- doorway (where you are standing when forming the journey)
You will store the information in these locations of the memory palace.
Encoding the Information
If you have three pieces of information and two possibilities for each piece of information (zero or one, black or red) there are only eight possible combinations. Below are the eight combinations with their names. Ones represent black cards and zeros represent red cards. You can reverse it if you prefer as long as you’re consistent.
- 100 = Bottom
- 110 = Lower
- 010 = Middle
- 011 = Upper
- 001 = Top
- 101 = Outer
- 111 = All
- 000 = None
Fanning Through the Cards
Hold the cards facing you and go through them from top to bottom. In the example below, the cards are read from right to left: Outer and Top.
If you are memorizing binary numbers, those cards are equivalent to 101 and 001 — Outer (O) and Top (T) 1.
Now pick two persons, animals or objects that begin with those letters. For the letter “O” I might choose something like Oscar the Grouch, an opera singer, an onion, or Oprah Winfrey. For the letter “T” I might choose tango dancers, a television, or a tangerine. The images should be visualized.
Placing The Images
The next step is to place the images in your memory palace. For Outer and Top (the first six cards in the image above), I chose images of “Oscar” (Outer) and “Television” (Top).
To preserve the sequence of the images, always place them in a consistent order such as: left-to-right and/or top-to-bottom. To remember that Oscar the Grouch comes before the Television, he should be visualized to the left of the Television or on top of it.
The image of Oscar and the Television gets placed in the first location of your memory palace. In the example memory palace above, the first location of the palace is the near left corner of whatever room you happen to be in. The locations in the memory palace are placed as if you were standing in the doorway.
The Actions: Funny, Obscene, Shocking
The weirder a mnemonic image, the more memorable it will be. Things that are funny, obscene, shocking are memorable. You don’t have to tell anyone what your images were, so be creative. 🙂
- Be consistent: one image per chunk of data, and two images per location.
- Remember to preserve the order by arranging the images from left to right, top to bottom, or other method that makes sense to you.
- Visualize the images. These techniques work because visual memory is very strong.
- Be aware of the direction that you start in. I recommend having the deck facing you, and starting with the the cards closest to you.
- Mentat Wiki: Memorizing Color Order
- Mentat Wiki: Nook & Cranny Method
- Memory Techniques Forum
- Memory Techniques Wiki
- 101 and 001 could be read as Outer and Top or Outer and Bottom, depending on your perspective. It doesn’t matter which way you read it, as long as you’re consistent. ↩