The man who broke records by winning 74 games and $2.5 million on 'Jeopardy' says everyone gets the same thing wrong about human memory

Ken Jennings JeopardyGetty Images/Handout‘The complexity can just keep increasing and increasing,’ says Ken Jennings, pictured.

If there’s one thing most “Jeopardy” champions have in common, it’s that they find everything — even the stuff you consider weird and boring — interesting.

That’s according to Ken Jennings, who broke records back in 2004 when he won 74 “Jeopardy” games in a row, ultimately walking away with over $US2.5 million in prize money.

Jennings explained that having a “wide-ranging curiosity” is key to remembering obscure facts.

In fact, while most people think memory has a limited capacity, Jennings argued that our memory is continually expanding to make room for the stuff that fascinates us.

Here’s Jennings:

“People wrongly think there’s a [memory] capacity and you can fill it up like a gas tank or an attic. That’s not true at all. The complexity can just keep increasing and increasing.

“But what drives it — and this is what people get wrong — is interest, not effort. It’s not the number of hours you spend studying; it really is going to be how engaged you are in the thing.”

Today, Jennings is a freelance writer; he’s written several books for kids and adults and is currently finishing up another. He recently partnered with employee-learning platform Bridge by Instructure to create an online course about memory skills.

On his personal website, Jennings writes: “I apparently have a pretty good memory for things I’m interested in — like everybody else I guess, but maybe I’m just interested in more subjects than is normal.”

As an undergrad, he led Brigham Young University’s Quiz Bowl team, and wrote and edited questions for National Academic Quiz Tournaments.

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, I’m not one of these people, with one of these ‘Rain Man’ type memories that you see on ‘Jeopardy,'” Jennings told Business Insider, referring to the 1988 movie featuring a savant character with an incredible memory.

He went on:

“The people you see on ‘Jeopardy’ are not savants, either. They are just normal people who are less specialised than us.

“We all get into our little career niches and our little hobby niches, but the people you see on ‘Jeopardy’ are trivia buffs, which means they think everything’s interesting.

“If you can convince yourself of that by having a wide-ranging curiosity, then really you become one of them. That’s all it takes.”

NOW WATCH: A national memory champion reveals an easy way to remember a speech

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