Memory Techniques are methods of recalling large amounts of data. Memory techniques in magic and mentalism are used both openly, as in a memory demonstration, as well as secretly, as in the case of a memorized deck.
Memory techniques are unusual in that, unlike many methods in magic, the specific techniques can be found by anyone in a wide variety of publicly-available media. They continue to be used in magic for a number of reasons. The actual use of memory techniques is still uncommon enough for them to create impressive results, secretly or openly. Properly used in secret, memory techniques allow part of an effect to take place inside the performer's head, making the secret more difficult to discover.
Since memory techniques are a mental process, they are easily adapted to many styles of performing, from close-up to stage magic. Some memory routines use no props at all, thus making the same routine versatile enough for any size venue. Many other memory routines employ props that can easily adapted to fit the scale of the performance.
Memory demonstrations are any performance in which the focus is on the performer's ability to remember a larger amount of information than the average person in their audience. While the audience may not be aware of the particular technique used, they are aware of the performer's use of their memory.
Popular memory demonstrations used by magicians include memorizing and recalling:
- ...the contents of a magazine
- ...the names of audience members
- ...the order of a legitimately shuffled deck of cards
- ...the day of the week for any given date
- ...large amounts of information on a specific topic, such as the names of the U.S. states, their capitals, and their populations
- ...a large list created by the audience, usually with 20-30 items
- ...a legitimately shuffled deck of cards, sufficient to name the card(s) previously removed from it
Secret Uses of Memory Techniques
In this category, the audience is usually unaware of the use of memory techniques. Probably the largest general category in this technique would be the use of a memorized deck. To avoid revealing any secrets, specific routines secretly using memory techniques will not be listed.
False Memory Demonstrations
Besides being a method, memory techniques can also be used as a presentation for a routine. There are numerous routines that appear to the audience to use a trained memory, but actually employ alternative techniques. As with the secret uses of memory techniques, specific routines secretly using memory techniques will not be listed.
Proponents of Memory Techniques in Magic
(Listed in alphabetical order by last name)
William Larsen, Sr.
Jack Kent Tillar
- Accelerated Learning: Memory Improvement and Learning Information
- Grey Matters Blog
- Human Memory
- Memory Effects (list of where to find memory-related routines)
- The Memory Page
- Mentat Wiki (Wiki focused on thought-improvement techniques)
- Mind Tools: Memory Improvement Techniques
- The Zipcode Man
- NakedScience.com Memory course and science articles by Michael Curtis