The Link System: Storytelling With a Twist

The Link System is a technique that creates visual associations between two or more items in a series.

If you recall from Chapter 1, I discussed the concept of elaborative encoding, which all visual memory techniques are built upon.

In case you don’t remember, or skipped Chapter 1, elaborative encoding is a mnemonic in which information that is going to be remembered is associated to pre-existing memories and knowledge.

A “link” is a way to easily connect items that may not be related, so they can be associated in a memorable way.

The Link System, just like the Peg System, leverages visual associations to turn abstract concepts into mental pictures.

However, the Link System requires absolutely no rote memorization, so it’s one of the most widely used techniques.

All it takes is a bit of creativity and five minutes to warm up to the technique.

Once you get the hang of it, creating links becomes second nature and you will significantly increase your memory retention 10 fold.

How the Link System Works

The Link System works by visualizing and associating crazy images to abstract and normal items you want to memorize.
Chapter 2: How to Visualize Images to Make them Unforgettable covers all of the rules and techniques you need to understand to turn abstract concepts into concrete images.

Once you have a visual representation for an item you want to remember, you link it to the next item in your series.

A link is simply an interaction between the two items that creates a short story.

There are two different ways to link images together.

1. Linking in Parallel

Let’s use carrots, soup, and water as an example to illustrate what a link is.

A large fluffy rabbit is standing at your feet.

In its mouth is a bright orange carrot.

The rabbit hops off and jumps into a large bowl of onion soup.

It lays on its back and starts to swim around happily.

Link System 1

The rabbit smells really bad, so it stands under a shower to clean off.

Water goes everywhere and makes a big mess.

This story illustrates one method that can be used to connect seemingly impossible to connect images: use a third party character.

In this scenario, the rabbit itself is the link.

The rabbit, which has nothing to do with carrots (other than rabbits like carrots) interacts with the carrot, the soup and then the water creating an extremely weird, memorable story.

What you can do with links like this is move the rabbit around and have him interact with every item you need to remember.

The rabbit acts as the link between all of the items in your list and you just have to remember the story.

2. Linking in Series

Now, let’s see another example for axe, ketchup, and balloons.

A large, muscular lumberjack picks up his huge axe and crushes a human-size pouch of ketchup.

The axe pierces the ketchup pouch and ketchup squirts all over a child’s birthday party.

Link System 2

The kids scream and let go of all of their balloons, watching them as they fly into the sky.

Do you see the difference between these two examples?

Don’t worry if you don’t, the difference is quite subtle.

In our first example, the rabbit was interacting with every image in the series.

In this example, the previous image is interacting with the current image.

We have no third party character.

In the second example, the third image is not connected in any way to the first image.

So what’s the link?

Well, we have two.

The first link is the interaction between the lumberjack and the ketchup.

The act of smashing the ketchup links the two images together.

The second link are the screaming kids letting go of the balloons.

Notice that the balloons are in the scene of the second image, so they make the story seamless.

Using the Link System

So when is it best to link in parallel vs link in series?

There is no correct answer.

It’s all about personal preference.

As you experiment with the Link System you will likely find that even in small lists of ten or less you will link in both parallel and series depending on how the story goes.

It might make the most sense to continue including a character in a series of images, but at some point you might reach a great transition where you move the focus on the story onto a different object.

There is no limit to the number of links you can have.

However, as your lists get long, if you forget a link in the story it can be hard to remember the remaining story.

Link System 3

Now it’s your turn.

Take a look around you and pick five random items.

Create a mental story linking each of the items together using one of the two methods discussed above.

It might be weird at first, trying to turn normal objects and abstract concepts into memorable images, but you get used to it very quick.

As you can imagine, this method is very good for lists.

In addition to lists, the Link System can be used for any type of reading material like technical articles, poems, lyrics, stories, and toasts.

However, it’s difficult to use this method to remember lists when you need to know what number in the list an item is.

If you were memorizing the first fifteen presidents, you would have to count each link in your story to find the fifteenth.

Link System 4

If you need to memorize items in a sequence and recall specific items…there is a better way.

You just finished Chapter 3. Congratulations! If you need to memorize items in a specific sequence the Journey Method is the perfect system to use. It’s an extremely powerful system that allows you to remember thousands of items in a row.

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