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The Roman Room Mnemonic

The Roman Room technique is an ancient and effective way of remembering unstructured information where the relationship of items of information to other items of information is not important. It functions by imagining a room (e.g. your sitting room or bedroom). Within that room are objects. The technique works by associating images with those objects. To recall information, simply take a tour around the room in your mind, visualising the known objects and their associated images.

The Roman Room technique serves as one of the bases of the extremely effective language mnemonic systems described elsewhere within Mind Tools.

Mind Tools Mnemonic Grades:

Ease of Use              - easy
Effectiveness            - effective
Power                    - quite powerful
Learning investment      - moderate
Who should use           - people needing to store unstructured information
                          on a topic.

How to use the Roman Room System

Imagine a room that you know well: perhaps this is your sitting room, a bedroom, an office, or a classroom. Within this room there are features and objects in known positions. The basis of the Roman Room system is that things to be remembered are associated with these objects, so that by recalling the objects within the room all the associated objects can also be remembered.
For example, I can imagine my sitting room as a basis for the technique. In my sitting room I can visualise the following objects:

table, lamp, sofa, large bookcase, small bookcase, CD rack, tape racks, stereo system, telephone, television, video, chair, mirror, black & white photographs, etc.

I may want to remember a list of World War I war poets:

Rupert Brooke, G.K. Chesterton, Walter de la Mare, Robert Graves, Rudyard Kipling, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, W.B. Yates

I could visualise walking through my front door, which has a picture on it of a scene from the Battle of the Somme, with an image of a man sitting in a trench writing in a dirty exercise book.

I walk into the sitting room, and look at the table. On the top is RUPERT the Bear sitting in a small BROOK (we do not need to worry about where the water goes in our imagination!) This codes for Rupert Brooke.

Someone seems to have done some moving: a CHEST has been left on the sofa. Some jeans (Alphabet System: G=Jeans) are hanging out of one draw, and some cake has been left on the top (K=Cake). This codes for G K Chesterton.

The lamp has a small statuette of a brick WALl over which a female horse (MARE) is about to jumping. This codes for Walter de la Mare.


Expanding the Roman Room System

The technique can be expanded in one way, by going into more detail, and keying images to smaller objects. Alternatively you can open doors from the room you are using into other rooms, and use their objects to expand the volume of information stored. When you have more experience you may find that you can build extensions to your rooms in your imagination, and populate them with objects that would logically be there.

Other rooms can be used to store other categories of information.

Moreover, there is no need to restrict this information to rooms: you could use a view or a town you know well, and populate it with memory images.

For information on making the images used more effective, see the section on using mnemonics more effectively.

The Roman Room technique is similar to the Journey method, in that it works by pegging images coding for information to known images, in this case to objects in a room or several rooms.

The Roman Room technique is most effective for storing lists of unlinked information, whereas the journey method is most effective for storing lists of related items.

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Donah Shine

Head Master

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Dallas TX 75209

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