Have you looked at the phrase in the box on top of this page? If you have, read it again to make sure that you know what it says. Now turn your head away from the book and repeat the phrase. Check it again to see if you have it right! Some of you will probably think it's a bit silly for me to ask you to keep making sure of a simple phrase like that, but it's important for you to be absolutely aware of what it says.
Now—if you've looked at it closely at least three times; what does it say!? Does it say, "Paris in the spring"? I guess that most of you are nodding, "Yes, of course, that's what it says." Well, at the risk of being repetitious, check it again, will you?
Have you looked at it again? If you still think it reads, "Paris in the spring," your observation is not as keen as it should be. If you will check it once more, and this time point to each word as you read the phrase, you will be amazed to discover that it reads, "Paris in the the spring"! There is one "the" too many in the phrase!
Now you see why I asked you to look at it repeatedly. I wanted to prove that you could look at it any number of times and still not notice the extra "the". If you did notice it right away, don't feel too elated. I honestly didn't know whether this little stunt would be as effective when it appeared on top of a page of print, as when used by itself. You see, I've tested hundreds of people with this, and only one or two spotted it quickly. Prove it to yourself by printing it just exactly as I have it, on a 3x5 index card, or on a piece of paper of similar size. The little x under the word, "spring" is just misdirection. It tends to draw the readers' eyes down to it, and their minds jump ahead on the phrase itself, because it is such a familiar one. Make one and try it with your friends. I've had people look at it as many as ten or fifteen times, and they were willing to bet anything that they knew just what it said. You can ask them to read out loud directly from the card, and they still say, "Paris in the spring"!
I am discussing this only to show that the sense of observation could stand a little sharpening, for most of us. As I said earlier in the book, although my systems actually force you to observe if you apply them—your sense of observation can be strengthened with a little practice. If you're interested in helping your memory, don't sell observation short. You just can't remember anything that you do not observe to begin with. Educator Eustace H. Miles said about the same thing, "What one has never properly realized, one cannot properly be said to remember either." If you haven't observed, then you haven't realized, and what you haven't realized you can't forget, since you never really remembered it in the first place.
If you want to take the time, it is a simple matter to strengthen your sense of observation. You can start right now! You're probably reading this at home, sitting in a room that should be thoroughly familiar to you. Take a piece of paper, and without looking around you, list everything in the room. Don't leave out anything you can think of, and try to describe the entire room in detail. List every ashtray, every piece of furniture, pictures, doodads, etc. Now, look around the room and check your list. Notice all the things you did not put down on your list, or never really observed, although you have seen them countless times. Observe them now! Step out of the room and test yourself once more. Your list should be longer this time. You might try the same thing with other rooms in your home. If you keep at this, your observation will be keener no matter where you happen to be.
You've all heard, I'm sure, of the little experiment that a college professor tried with his students. He had a violent murder scene enacted in front of them, without letting them know that it was just an act. All of the students were told that they must act as witnesses, and were told to describe, in detail, what they saw. Of course, all the descriptions varied, even down to what the murderer looked like. All the students in the class had seen the same thing, but their observation and their memories were faulty.
This was proven again quite recently by popular entertainer, Steve Allen, on his TV show, "Tonight." Some members of his cast suddenly burst in front of the cameras, enacting a wild, violent scene. Some shots were fired (blanks, of course), clothes were torn, and so on. The whole thing lasted perhaps a minute. Then Mr. Allen had three members of the audience come up to attempt to answer some pertinent questions about the scene. He asked how many shots were fired, who was shooting at whom, color of clothing, etc. All the answers varied and nobody seemed quite sure of anything. As a matter of fact, when Steve asked Skitch Henderson (who had fired the shots) how many shots he had fired—Skitch wasn't too sure himself.
Of course, you can't go around looking for violent scenes to observe—but, you can practice in this way:—Think of someone whom you know very well. Try to picture his or her face; now see if you can describe the face on paper. List everything you can possibly remember. Go into detail —list color of hair and eyes, complexion, any or all outstanding features, whether or not they wear glasses, what type of glasses, type of nose, ears, eyes, mouth, forehead, approximate height and weight, hairline, on which side is the hair parted, is it parted at all, etc., etc. The next time you see this person, check yourself. Note the things you didn't observe and those you observed incorrectly. Then try it again! You will improve rapidly.
A good way to practice this is in a subway or bus, or any public conveyance. Look at one person for a moment, close your eyes and try to mentally describe every detail of this person's face. Pretend that you are a witness at a criminal investigation, and your description is of utmost importance. Then look at the person again (don't stare, or you will be in a criminal investigation) and check yourself. You'll find your observation getting finer each time you try it.
One last suggestion as to a form of practice. Look at any shop window display. Try to observe everything in it (without using the Peg or Link systems). Then list all the items without looking at the display. You can wait until you're home to do this; then go back to check, when you can. Note the items you left out and try it again. When you think you've become proficient at it, try remembering the prices of the items also.
Each time you do any of these exercises, your sense of observation will become noticeably sharper. Although all this is not absolutely necessary for the acquiring of a trained memory, it is a simple matter to strengthen your observation. If you take the little time to practice, you will soon begin to observe better, automatically.
Before reading any further, I would suggest that you memorize the Peg Words from 51 to 75. I might also suggest that for the time being, you use the words that I give you. You could, of course, make up your own words, as long as they stay in the phonetic alphabet system. These would probably serve you just as well, but you might pick some words that would conflict with some of the words that you will eventually learn for other purposes. So, wait until you've finished the book, and then change words to your
| 51. lot
|| 56. leech
|| 61. sheet
|| 66. choo choo
|| 71. cot |
| 52. lion
|| 57. log
|| 62. chain
|| 67. chalk
|| 72. coin|
| 53. loom
|| 58. lava
|| 63. chum
|| 68. chef
|| 73. comb|
| 54. lure
|| 59. lip
|| 64. cherry
|| 69. ship
|| 74. car|
| 55. lily
|| 60. cheese
|| 65. jail
|| 70. case
|| 75. coal|
For "lot", picture an empty lot. For "loom", you might find it easier to picture a spinning wheel. "Lure" is bait for fishing; you might picture a worm. For "chum", you can picture a particularly close friend; if you do, use the same friend each time. "Choo choo" is a train, of course. For "chef", picture a chef's hat. For "case", see a large wooden packing crate, or a suitcase.
It Pays to Remember Speeches, Articles, Scripts and Anecdotes