The Making of a Memory Master: An Interview with Joshua Foer

BY Aisha Turner  May 10, 2011 at 3:32 PM EDT



While writing an article for Slate on the ancient art of memory, journalist Joshua Foer decided to put his own brain to the test. He launched into a year of mental training and rigorous brain exercises, and even entered the 2006 USA Memory Championship.

To the surprise of many, including himself, he won.

He beat out five other contestants for the title — memorizing poems, shopping lists, and playing cards in increasingly intense rounds of competition. In one round, he had to memorize the names, phone numbers, and biographical details of five different strangers. In another, he memorized a full deck of cards. He describes his experience in his recent book, “Moonwalking with Einstein.”

Hari Sreenivasan caught up with Foer recently in our newsroom to discuss the culture and biology of memory and to give us some tools on how to memorize long lists, quickly.

Don’t miss our bonus extra below: Hari challenges the journalist-turned mental athlete to a shopping list brain battle.

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