Learn Sherlock’s Trick: The Method of Loci

method of loci

In the Sherlock television series, the titular character uses the “mind palace” technique to recall events. In the books, Arthur Conan Doyle referred to it as the “brain attic”.

Both methods actually have more ancient origins. They are what’s known as the method of loci. So what is this, and how can you use it?

The Origins of the Method

There have been mentions of the method throughout history. However, most scholars believe that a Greek poet named Simonides of Ceos invented the technique.

The story goes that Simonides attended a banquet with a host of other people. Unfortunately, the hall’s roof collapsed, crushing many of the diners. Simonides had to remember where each person sat to confirm whether they had died. He mentally retraced his steps through the hall to determine each diner’s location, thus creating the method

The event supposedly took place over 2,500 years ago.

What is the Method of Loci?

As Simonides’ efforts imply, the method of loci involves linking your memories to a locational stimulus. Each visual links to the last, creating a chain of images that help you recall lists or events.

To create your “memory palace”, think of several locations that you know well. For example, you could use each room in your house. Travel through the rooms, remembering the order as you go. These are your loci.

Now let’s assume you want to remember the items on a list. Place one item in each of the locations you memorized. You can exaggerate the items as much as you want, as the key is visualizing the item in its loci.

When you get to the grocery store, trace your steps through your memory palace. You should still visualize the items you placed in each loci, allowing you to remember the items on your list.

You can construct memory palaces from any locations you like. Furthermore, you can use the method to remember events, people, names, and anything else that you struggle to recall.


You can improve both short and long-term memory using this method. Once you’ve built your mind palace, it’s just a case of filling it with what you need to remember.