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A full audience at the Royal Albert Hall in London

6. Sensory immersion

Part of a short series on memory design

Denise Hampson
Tuesday 28th June 2022

We create stronger memories of an experience if more of our senses are triggered at the same time while setting down that memory. It's because there's more rich information at more of our senses to catch our attention and make its way into our memory.

Experiences that trigger sounds or smells as well as visual cues are particularly potent. Certain sounds, music, smells and foods easily transport us back in time, even decades. I bet you have a favourite dish, or a song from your teenage years that bring out feelings of nostalgia for you. What was your favourite meal when you were a child? What was the first record you ever bought?

To enhance this multi-sensory, memory-making effect, anything that can shut off the reality of the outside world will make the experience richer and the memory stronger still.

The Wagner Festspielhaus in Germany is a 19th century festival theatre designed and built by Richard Wagner himself, dedicated only to the performance of his own works and designed to offer the most immersive experience for his audiences.

The seating is in tiers with an unobstructed view of the stage, with the audience looking in one direction and with the orchestra hidden out of sight beneath the stage in what they call an “orchestergrab” (literally meaning an orchestra grave!)

That kind of layout might sound familiar to you now but that’s because modern cinemas and theatres have borrowed from the same blueprint, designed specifically to eliminate outside distractions and enhance the immersion.