This section is from the book "Applications of Psychology to the Problems of Personal and Business Efficiency", by Warren Hilton. Also available from Amazon: Psychology and Achievement - Applied Psychology 12 Volume Set.
Do you find it difficult to remember names? It is because you do not link them in your mind with enough associations. Every time a man is introduced to you, look about you. Who is present? Take note of as many and as great a variety of surrounding facts and circumstances as possible. Think of the man's name, and take another look at his face, his dress, his physique. Think of his name, and at the same time his voice and manner. Think of his name, and mark the place where you are now for the first time meeting him. Think of his name in conjunction with the name and personality of the friend who presented him.
Memory is not a distant faculty of mind in the sense that one man is generously endowed in that respect while another is deficient. Memory, as meaning the power of voluntary recall, is wholly a question of trained habits of mental operation.
Your memory is just as good as mine or any other man's. It is your indifference to what you would call "irrelevant facts" that is at fault. Therefore, cultivate habits of observation. Fortify the observed facts you wish to recall with a multitude of outside associations. Never rest with a mere halfway knowledge of things.
To assist you in training yourself in those habits of observation that make a good memory of outside facts, we append the following exercises: a. Walk slowly through a room with which you are not familiar. Then make a list of all the contents of the room you can recall. Do this every day for a week, using a different room each time. Do it not half-heartedly, but as if your life depended on your ability to remember. At the end of the week you will be surprised at the improvement you have made.
b. As you walk along the street, observe all that occurs in a space of one block, things heard as well as things seen. Two hours later make a list of all) you can recall. Do this twice a day for ten days. Then compare results.
c. Make a practice of recounting each night the incidents of the day. The prospect of having this to do will cause you unconsciously to observe more attentively.
This is the method by which Thur-low Weed acquired his phenomenal memory. As a young man with political ambitions he had been much troubled by his inability to recall names and faces. So he began the practice each night of telling his wife the most minute details of incidents that had occurred during the day. He kept this up for fifty years, and it so trained his powers of observation that he became as well known for his unfailing memory as for his political adroitness.
d. Glance once at an outline map of some State. Put it out of sight and draw one as nearly like it as you can. Then compare it with the original. Do this frequently.
e. Have some one read you a sentence out of a book and you then repeat it. Do this daily, gradually increasing the length of the quotation from short sentences to whole paragraphs. Try to find out what is the extreme limit of your ability in this respect compared with that of other members of your family.