PAOX as a way to remember 20 words in one visualization

Typically PAO is used to remember one person using one action with one object. You can add to the formula to remember more. I put my limit around 9 words per visualization: otherwise, chunking gets harder. You might add more.

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The touch

Typically PAO is something standalone, like an American president embracing  a guitar or a minotaur playing on an AK47 gun.  It is a cool way to encode between 3 and 5 words. With some experience and effort, you may occasionally have 7 words in the visualization.

Notice that your typical PAO is very basic. It is like something you buy in a gift shop and put in a corner of a bookshelf. When you visit a museum, some sculptures are just like PAO. Others are more complex. They have an element of touch. The object is touching another object, or it is touching another person doing something. Or maybe the person is standing on an important object.

The element of touch is required. Otherwise, we would not get one statue, we would get several. There is usually no point in making one statue of elements that are not touching physically or via negative space (so that we fill in the matter in our mind).

Give it a target

Objects interact more often than people. If you do an action with one object, the action may affect another object. You can write with it, break, bend, and so on. The range of actions is traded for a wonderful extra object. Since an action usually encodes 1-2 simple words and an object easily encodes 3 complex words, this is an upgrade.

Most of the sentences we use have two objects: our tool and our target. We use our tools to shape the targets. This is a basic human activity, and it happens all the time.

So why do by default we use PAO and not PaOO? Chunking gets harder. We have roughly a 3×3 matrix. 3 words for a person and an action, and 3 words per object. This can be further combined with the methods below to generate up to 20 words per visualization, and yet two moderately simple visualizations may be easier to maintain than one very complex figure.

Put it on a pedestal

The easiest way to add something to a PAO is placing PAO on something. This something will usually be more memorable than the PAO itself.

Not all combinations of touching make sense. You can always put your PAO on a chair, but this chair is not memorable. If you put your PAO on a globe or a car, the pedestal will be memorable.

Usually, the PAO is doing something with his hands, but the visualization can do things with the feet too. If you have some dance training, this is where you can use it.

Or maybe you can put the PAO on some sort of geometric diagram, like a face of the clock to specify a certain hour. You can also put the PAO on a map for a specific place. Usually not both, but you can have a group of people holding hands and standing on different pedestals.

People interact

In many masterpieces, the characters interact. A mother with her son and two lovers are the most common combination. A chase,  a competition, or a ring is also pretty common. But there are other less common combinations you can use. For example, you can take Ceasar and have him assaulted by a gang wielding all sorts of equipment, not just senators with knives. You might sacrifice the element of action to make a more convincing architectural group, but you get multiple people and objects.

When people interact, the interactions need to be simple. Complex interactions may make the visualization very slow both for the creation and revisiting.

Usually, this sort of visualization comes naturally when there is an interaction like struggle, empathy or support between people, ideas, and organizations. You can even visualize simple hierarchies like pyramids of cheerleaders or circ the solei performance.

Since it is PAO, and revisiting should be fast, the position needs to be static and yet memorable. The details should be large. It is easier to place an emoji than modify ever slightly the faces of the figures involved.


An easy way to add another word to the person is to put a cape on the person and a logo on the cape. Additionally or alternatively you can add a large chain on the person’s neck with a huge medal. Now place whatever you want on the cape and on the medal. And you can also place a mask with some simple meaning, usually emotionally charged.

As easy as that, I added three independent words to the person. I do not recommend more than 3 accessories per person, as it gets hard to overview them. You can be very creative or very logical with accessories. On a belt, you can put a weapon. And you can put a dog in a pouch. Whatever you need to encode. Just keep the accessories big. A scarf is fine, but a ring might be too small to be memorable.


OK, let us see what we get using only the methods above. Two people holding hands, with three accessories each standing on relatively simple pedestals. Each person performs an action with another hand on a target. What do we get? 2*((2+3+1) +2*3) = 24 words per visualization without even trying very hard. Clearly, some of the positions should be empty, but 20 words per visualization can be reasonably expected.

Usually, I recommend simple PAOs and mindmaps for 20 words. A pair of people holding hands do not look well in a corner, and probably should be put near a wall.  I do not expect you to use many visualizations of this sort, but if you do – they will be memorable.

Historical context

The memory structures of Jordano Bruno did not have a person and action and an object. Instead, it had 7 items – people or objects – following the planets in the sky. For an astrologer, remembering sky constellations was as easy as it is for us to remember the three arms on a clock telling time. So not only was he able to provide 7 objects encoding 3 words each, but also a number between 1 and 12 per object.

Clearly, we could put something like 7 concentric circles on a floor in the middle of a large hall in our mental palace and make the PAOs move within. However, we are not sufficiently experienced with astrology. The training required would be very long.

Memory sports

In memory sports, fixed tables of PAO are used to encode numbers. I emphasize. While for texts we use any sort of PAO we find useful, memory sports have limited PAO tables. Usually 2 numbers per person, 1 per action, 2 per object. The challenge is placing these not very unique PAOs very fast in reusable mental palaces in a way that makes them memorable.

To make things fast, the memory masters use repeatable templates. To make them memorable they have to break rules occasionally. Making the PAOs touch or perform actions with each other is a simple way to break the sequence and generate something memorable.


You can make your PAOs more complex, by making them interact with each other or objects. This way each visualization can encode 20 words. Chunking up 20 words per visualization can be a challenge. These visualizations should not be modified after placement. While usually, mindmaps are better for 20 words, the more complex PAOs can break the pattern and make more memorable visualizations. Placing PAOs on pedestals in the center of the mental halls may offer additional options not avaialble otherwise.

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