The most useful format of visualization in PAO, which means a person performing an action with an object. While memory champions use PAO mainly to remember long sequences of numbers or cards, we can use it in speedreading to remember any chunks between three and five words, more if we use more complex PAOX. This is a very comfortable way to remember a lot of information very fast. Another useful variation of PAO is OAP, or reversed PAO. Here I will explain why it is useful and how it can be constructed.
Being struck by lightning
While usually we describe a person performing an active action on something, our language also has a passive voice when something is applied to a person. For example, a person can be struck by lightning or bitten by a snake. Usually, it is recommended to avoid passive voice, so typically people write around 90% of sentences in active voice and 10% in passive voice. Experts go as far as limiting passive voice to 5% of the text. Active sentences, on the other hand, are generally clearer, more direct, and seem stronger. And yet we can and should use passive voice if the situation is right.
Please notice that an object can be struck by lightning just like a person. In this case, we can still use inverse PAO, only the person is actually an object. For example, if the Eifel tower is struck by lightning, the tower is “a person”.
A different set of actions
The inverse PAO or OAP enables a different set of actions. This set of actions is smaller, and it is less than ideal for encoding numbers. Most of these actions are somewhat negative, like being tied by a rope or struck by some object. We can also be blessed by something, which I visualize like light pouring on a person. Things that we do not choose actively tend to be more positive.
Quite often we might skip visualizing the action entirely. For example, a hero might experience thirst. In my visualization, it becomes an empty cup positioned on a person, where the visualization of the person conveys the level of distress, for example through red eyes and cracking lips.
Direct mention in the text
Possibly it is easiest to use inverse PAO when something in the text we read is written in a passive voice. A hero experiencing something is a very direct example. In this case, we understand very well what happens to our person, but do not really understand who is responsible for this. We cannot reverse the roles and apply a regular PAO so we use OAP.
Quite often we actually have a choice. For example, if I close my eyes and then I am suddenly kissed and I have no idea who did it. I can either, use some anemic anonymous visualization of a person that kissed me, or simply visualize lips on my cheeks.
On the other hand, if a medicine is applied to a person, it might be easy to visualize a nurse administering the medicine, but better to visualize the medicine itself as the object being applied to the person. For example, if a person gets a shot of Voltaren, it can be easier simply to reuse the visualization of the recognizable gel being applied through an injector.
Not all inverse visualizations are physical. Some legal documents mention for example remedies in case of injustice. It makes little sense to imagine who should apply those remedies. Typically I visualize some sort of cash stacks with wings sitting on someone’s head. The sort of cack stack corresponds to the kind of remedy, up to a boatload if applicable – and yes, I visualize an actual small motor boat with swan wings filled with cache on someone’s head.
As far as I am concerned, when no action is involved in the visualization, it is better to use inverse PAO. When I see a regular PAO I expect to see some action, I actively look for it in my memory so that I do not miss a thing. But what if we have just two words in our visualization? Then there is no space left for an action. Using an inverse PAO, I signal to my own mind not to look for any further action and use the visualization as-is.
Speed up chunking
An object can be visualized significantly more detailed and complex than a person. When speedreading and chunking keywords, we may find that we need to encode something very complex way before handling the simple part. Then we start with visualizing an object, and only then make it affect a person, or if we do not have the relevant person, we can simply put the object in our mental palace instead of a PAO. This facilitates chunking. When we start chunking from something simple, which is the way most texts are built, we start with an action or a person. When the first thing in our chunk is complex, we start with an object.
Placement in mental palaces
Typically we put PAO visualizations in the four corners of each room of a mental palace. This does no mean we are limited to PAO. We can put in the corners of the mental palace OAP visualizations, or simply objects. Additionally, we can place objects near the walls of a mental palace where we would not usually put a PAO. This means that inverse PAO offers more flexibility in placement.
For example, in inverse PAO we can imagine the person lying on his back and the object on his chest. Such visualizations more effectively belong to wall areas rather than corners. If we finish filling up a mental palace and discover that we want to add just one more thing, this could be a great option.
Inverse PAOs are weaker
While I advocated for OAP where applicable, by no means do I recommend replacing regular PAOs. The simple effective action is the most memorable element of the visualization. OAP actions are not very memorable. We are quite likely to forget the OAPs unless OAP is an absolute outlier in our mental palace.
A one-off visualization actually makes the entire memory structure more unique and hence more memorizable. The focus here is using OAP only when PAO is less relevant, in about 5% of visualizations we have.
There might be subjects, typically in law and medicine, where inverse PAO is more normal than regular PAO, but these subjects are rare and by default more complex. If this is the case, it is recommended to strengthen the visualization using dual coding, for example using both creative visualization and a logical flowchart.