MIT 2000 LECTURE 1–ORAL SOCIETIES– Jan 14 th
USA Memory Championship video memory athlete, memory training (Nelson) th
The training he used relates back to something from Simonides of Ceos, 5 century BC.
At the banquet hall that collapsed, the man was able to remember the names of the people
that were there and put himself into the different rooms and visualize himself in those
rooms so that he was able to remember who was there.
Peter of Ravena called this Memory Palace (spatial and visualization helps with
Memory: Spatial, Visual
Joshua Foer: Einstein moonwalking –A study where a person was shown 5000 faces.
The next day they were shown a picture of someone who was included in the 5000
shown, and another of a random never seen face. Person was able to guess the face they
saw the day before 90% of the time
(We are good as humans at remembering faces, however not good at remembering names
Epic Poems of Rajasthan (Part of India)
1) Oral Tradition
2) Bhopas type of poet, musician, develop ‘epic poems’
3) Epic Poems 100 000 stanzas, developed for over 400 years
These Epic Poems have travelled on through the years as an oral tradition by these
Bhopas through memorization.
It was seen as a sacred thing to memorize these poems and tell me to people, seen to
have healing powers.
Challenge to the Oral Tradition
They decided it made sense to teach these Bhopas how to read instead of remaining
illiterate, so that it would be easier for them to memorize these long poems.
It turned out that the ones that remained illiterate could remember better than those who
learned to read and write them.
Literacy can undermine and weaken the oral tradition
few places still remain true to the oral traditions, however many parts of Europe and
western culture has changed traditions drastically
Oral Society 1) Words as evanescent ‘events’ they are fleeting instantaneous words, there are
many words and things going on that can not be taken into your mind and
2) Power of spoken word
language as mode of action
4)Cognitive Structure/way of thinking
Oral Society and Recall
1) How do spoken words become memorable thoughts?
2) Mnemonics and Formulas
Rhymes, proverbs, alliteration, symmetry in a phrase, repetition
3) Serious thought linked to memory systems
4) Experience intellectualized mnemonically
5) ‘Know what you can recall”
1) Rich in metaphor –multisensory, very visual things so you can remember
2) Homer –Is a blind poet who developed these epic poems either song or spoken, up
to 20 hours at a time, all by memory. He would go to festivals to perform them–
was illiterate, 9 century BCE, lliad/Odyssey. He remembered them and only
later were they carried on and written down
3) Jongleur (Middle Ages itinerant minstrel)
Memorize hundreds of lines of poems/texts. Trained memory/worldly mind
Today: We all become reliant on our writing, on our gadgets to text. We do not
realize that we do not rely on memory anymore. We don’t trust our memory. If
we are to present in fron