Mnemonic Images for Colors

My memory system has images for colors that match up with my single-digit number images. I finally had a chance to put them to use in a limited way today while studying for California drivers license test, which requires you to know curb colors.

Here are the images I’ve assigned and why:

  • White = 0 = soccer ball. Round –> moon –> white.
  • Yellow = 1 = candle.  Yellow candlelight.
  • Blue = 2 = swan. Blue rhymes with two.
  • Green = 3 = butterfly or handcuffs.  Three rhymes with tree, which is green.
  • Black = 4 = flag or sailboat.  Black flag.
  • Brown = 5 = seahorse.  (UPDATE: later changed to a hook.) Seahorses are brownish.
  • Pink = 6 = elephant.  Pink elephant.
  • Orange = 7 = boomerang.  Orange-painted boomerang, orange desert rocks.
  • Purple = 8 = snowman.  I think of the purple color at dusk in winter in Massachusetts.
  • Red = 9 = red balloon on a string.
  • Gray = 04 = Osiris. Zero is white and four is black, so 04 is gray.


If I need more colors, I’m thinking that I could mix colors/numbers.  E.g., 004 could be light gray and 044 could be dark gray, or 13 could be yellow-green. If one needed even more precise colors for something art-related (like painting scenes from memory), maybe pigments could be assigned to double digit numbers, like Prussian blue, cobalt blue, ultramarine, cerulean, alizarin crimson, cadmium red, etc.

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    • I think a number code for colors could be confusing. Why not go with an additional image that would always represent this color (purple=Barney, green=martian, red=stop sign, etc.)? You could add this image in a position reserved for color (e.g., tied to a string and floating above the number images like a balloon).

    • If I weren’t still trying to finish creating 2,800 other images I might try separate images.

      I think I’m going to memorize colors so infrequently that it probably won’t matter. If I get confused, I’m thinking I could add an image modifier to it like a paintbrush. E.g., 8 and purple in the same place could be snowman (8) and snowman + paintbrush (purple). Or snowman painting a snowman.

      A soccer ball spinning on a paintbrush could distinguish the color from the number.

      I was also thinking that each association is like a hook. The more associations/experiences attached to something, the more hooks for memorization. I’m trying to create a lot of chains of association into my brain so I have more options. Eventually, my 3-digit numbers might have more than one thing attached to them.

      I don’t know for sure if this is the best way — still experimenting… 🙂

    • I saw a video of a TV show with Ronnie White where he memorized a photo. He was able to recall colors of various objects in the photo.

      Here’s an interesting piece from MentatWiki dealing with Scott Hagwood memorizing colors in playing the game Simon (a free iPad app, btw).:

      Scott Hagwood, the first Grandmaster of Memory from the US, used [the Roman Room method] to play the longest game of Simon on record: 31 sequences of light and sound. (The previous record was 14 sequences.)

      Hagwood’s method is described in the article “Simon Made Simple” by John Grossmann, in the July 2004 Games magazine, page 4:

      To handle Simon’s vexing array of yellow, red, blue, and green flashes, Hagwood employs what’s called the “RomanRoom method,” using familiar objects in the rooms of his house to help him remember Simon’s pulsing patterns. “Counting walls, corners, floor, and ceiling, every room has 10 places I can ‘put’ stuff,” he says. For example, if Simon initially flashes yellow, he might think of the sun, and starting in the corner to the left of the door to his den, imagine the sun melting the stereo speaker that sits there. If the next color is green, he pictures green balls bouncing (again, imagining movement helps) on the TV screen on the wall to his left. When he has used all the objects in the den, Hagwood moves to the living room, hanging more colors on easily retrievable mental hooks.

    • Interesting… I tried it once last summer but was trying to create a long number out of the colors, each button having a number. I wasn’t fast enough to do it effectively though.

    • Be sure to go to YouTube and see Ramon Campayo putting on a demonstration recalling the sequence of sets of different colored balls (160 total). It is in Spanish but the audio is not necessary.

    • Do you know the URL? I found some great videos of him, but not that one…

    • Too many people create images for every single number. That means you’ll have 1000 images for 1000 numbers, 5000 images for 5000 numbers… This seems to me a waste of time and energy.

      Using my system means you’ll have ONLY 3 images for any number between 1000 and 9999. And you’ll have ONLY 4 images for any number from 10,000 to 99,999. Check this out.

      After 99, no more peg images for individual numbers. Instead, I created one image for the 100 group (100-199), then one image for the 200 group (200-299) and so on. Then I created one image for the 1000 group (1000-1999) and for the 2000 group and so on.

      So, for all numbers in the one hundreds (100-199) I’ll have 2 images: one for the one hundred group and then for the last 2 digits I use the standard peg images (from the 1-99 group).

      For all numbers in the thousands, I’ll have 3 images (thousand group, hundred group, standard peg).

      For example: for the 100 group I use Danny Devito as the Penguin from the Batman movie. So that any number from 100-199 will have an image of the Penguin. The Penguin will tell me that the number I’m trying to recall will have the digit 1 in the hundreds column. For the last 2 digits I use a standard peg image. Therefore, 122 = Penguin/Mother Teresa (22 = nun) (which is then associated with whatever you want to remember). 162 = Penguin/chain (62 = chain)

      Same thing for the thousands. Each thousand group gets ONE image. For the 4000 group, I use Superman (there are at least 4 actors to choose from). So for 4162 = Superman (gives me 4000)/Penguin (gives me 100)/chain (gives me 62).

      4122 = Superman (gives me 4000)/Penguin (gives me 100)/Mother Teresa (gives me 22).

      9 images for each group (hundreds, thousands, ten thousands).

      The beauty of this system is that it makes no difference what story you create. You can NEVER mix up the numbers they represent, since each image stands for ONLY ONE place (thousands column, hundreds column, tens/ones column).
      This is especially effective when you want to remember phone numbers (or any kind of number). When you recall the images and want to translate them back into the number, each image can represent ONLY ONE place in the line. When you see King Kong (or whoever else you use for the 300 group) you AUTOMATICALLY KNOW that the 3 belongs in the hundreds column of the number you’re trying to recall. And anytime you see your standard peg images, you KNOW that they belong in the last two places (ones and tens columns).

      For phone numbers, I use only one image all the time to remember that the number I’m trying to recall is the area code and another image to remember the exchange. Example: for the area code 312, I make up the standard combination that I would use for 312 = King Kong (300)/Tin man (12 = t,n). Then I combine these two with Green Lantern, so that when I recall the imagery/story and see Green Lantern with King Kong and the Tin Man, I know this number MUST BE THE AREA CODE because the only time I use Green Lantern is to remind me that the number is an area code. For the exchange (the 3 numbers following the area code) I use another image all the time, so that I always know which group of 3 is the area code and which is the exchange.

      The little story or general image you create doesn’t have to be linear. You can put the Tin Man first, King Kong second, and Green Lantern third. When you “translate” or “reconstitute” the imagery back into a number, you ALWAYS put Tin Man at the end (the last 2 digits) because the Tin Man is ALWAYS your standard peg image for the last 2 digits of ANY number. You MUST put a 3 in front of the 12 because King Kong is ALWAYS your standard image for the three hundred group (any number from 300-399). In other words, you MUST end up with 312 all the time, no matter where in the story you place your images. And when you see King Kong and the Tin Man associated with Green Lantern, you KNOW that 312 MUST BE the area code.

      Using images in this way means that you NEVER have to remember a word for each number or a separate image for ALL numbers. You don’t have to translate the number into the phonetic alphabet, and then try to remember which word you used. Each place in the number (ones, tens, hundreds, thousands) will automatically conjure up the standard image you use for that place.

      For the number 7249385142, I’d first split it up. You can split it up many ways, but here’s what happens when you split it up into 2 groups of 5.

      72493 = Darth Vader (the 70,000 group); the Wolf Man (the 2000 group); Spider Man (the 400 group); an atomic bomb (93 in the phonetic alphabet gives me “b” and “m”, from which I get “bomb”.

      85142 = Jim Carrey in THE MASK (the 80,000 group); Doctor Octopus (the 5000 group); the Penguin (100 group); falling rain (42 = r, n = rain).

      On my left, I make up a story about Darth Vader, the Wolf Man, Spidey, and an atomic bomb.

      On my right, I make up a story about The Mask character, Doc Oct, the Penguin, and make rain fall on them.

      Putting them together gives me 7249385142. All from just 8 striking images. No doubt it could be done with fewer number of images with another system. (You could use one image for every 2 digits and create a chain, meaning only 5 images, but action figures seem to me better because they’re so vivid and they MOVE. Besides, when you practice, 5 images aren’t really that much faster to assemble than 8 images.)

      The point is to assign images to GROUPS, not to every single number in the world. The only time you don’t need a group image is for the numbers 1-99, if you’ve memorized (very easily) the standard peg words/images.

    • I like the system Josh, Having a color for the those numbers could help add a multidimensional sense to memorizing numbers. One could code one’s associations with the right color and sort of like Luria’s subject, mimicking synesthesia effect of improving memory. I think it could be useful even if one never gets into the shades of grey (forgive the pun). Just for 0-9 it could be useful if one always automatically thought of these colors when one saw the numbers 0-9.

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