Introduction to a mnemonic



The purpose of this article is to introduce and possibly awake your interest in such thing as a mnemonic. Mnemonic is any learning technique that aids memory. It has the set of methods and tricks that will help you memorize a lot of information in the proper sequence. For example, 100 random words (numbers) can be memorized consecutively with an interval in 6 seconds. Some people manage to remember a few thousand digits after pi. In addition it helps to learn a foreign language. You probably ask: "Why do we need this mnemonic?” I say: you can use it as a hobby to amaze your friends, as well you could improve your memory skills, participate in various competitions and much more, it offers endless possibilities. Therefore, I would like to introduce some most popular techniques (devices) that are used around the world.

Here are some of the most popular mnemonic techniques:

Classify lists on the basis of some common characteristic. Remembering the key element of the group is a key to remembering all the items. An example would be grouping minerals by metals or stones.

Set what you need to remember to a common rhyme. One example is: "In fourteen hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue."

Acronyms and Acrostics
Use acronyms to help you remember lists of words. The first letter from each word in a list forms a key word, name, or sentence. One example is in music, "every good boy does fine" are the lines on the treble clef (EGBDF). FACE stands for the spaces on the treble clef. Acronyms are now part of our language. Consider IBM, AT&T, CIA, MGM, USU, and FBI.

Visual Association
Association involves linking two ideas. When you are memorizing lists of words, you can link words by using images. The PEG system allows you to remember sequences of ten unrelated items in the appropriate order. It requires you to first remember 10 "peg words".
one = bun
two = shoe
three= tree
four = door
five = hive
six = sticks
seven = heaven
eight = gate
nine = vine
ten = hen

If you have ten words that you need to remember you visualize each word interacting with the "peg word" that you already know.

Greek and Roman orators who had to remember long speeches used the method of "loci" to trigger their memories. In using the method of loci, visualize a room or route that is familiar to you. Then place each item you wish to remember in a location along that route and "pick it up" as you take a mental walk around that room.

This is especially helpful in giving speeches or having to remember lists of important points in a correct sequence. For example, if you wish to memorize the presidents of the United States in order, you might deposit a dramatic image of each president in strategic locations around your house.

Remember that mnemonic devices increase your ability to recall information. They should be abandoned as soon as you know the material so well you do not need them. Mnemonics also have certain drawbacks. They do not help you to understand the material, they can be time consuming to learn, and under stress you may forget the mnemonic, therefore, being unable to retrieve the information you need.

Perhaps the oldest mnemonic device is "METHOD OF PLACE". This method is said to have first been used around 500 B.C. by the Greek orators. There are several important steps involved in using this method.
• First, the learner must use a well-known street, building, room or "layout" where there are as many distinctive locations as there are items in the list to be remembered. The list of these locations is memorized in a particular order.
• Next the learner must make up a vivid, concrete image of each of the items in the list to be remembered.
• Then associate each item in some vivid, concrete way with the "mental snapshot" of these distinctive locations in their proper order.

A second mnemonic device is the PEGSYSTEM. In this system, items that are to be learned are hooked by vivid mental images onto the "pegs" that have already been learned in a certain order. This system is especially useful when something is to be learned in order or in steps. Here is a list of peg words from one to ten.

One is a bun Six is sticks.
Two is a shoe. Seven is heaven.
Three is a tree Eight is a gate.
Four is a door. Nine is a mine.
Five is a hive. Ten is a hen.

All the peg words are concrete nouns that can easily be associated mentally with the items to be learned.

A similar system involves visualizing the numbers themselves as pictures.
1 is a pen.
2 is a swan.
3 is a bird in flight.
4 is a sailboat.
5 is a hook.
6 is a golf club.
7 is a cliff.
8 is a snow man.
9 is a lollipop.
10 are a bat and ball.

Figure out why each of these numbers looks like the word and you can easily remember 10 things by associating them with the picture.
A third memory device is the use of ACRONYMS. This is the most popular mnemonic used spontaneously by college students. There are two steps involved in using this memory device. First write down the first letter of each word after arranging the words in the order that you want to remember them. Now choose words that start with the same letters and also seem to go together to form a memorable sentence or phrase.

Of course, there are certain limitations to the use of acronyms. If your list is too long it will be difficult to make a meaningful sentence. If several of the words to be memorized (in a particular order) start with the same letter, you will simply have to remember which one came first. Also visual imagery is not used for forming associations between the letters and the words because the words that should be remembered are already familiar as a group (first nine presidents of the United States).

Another memory technique is the LINK SYSTEM. Instead of associating the item to be remembered with a "layout" or a "peg" we link them with each other. The link system is used to remember whatever needs to be remembered is sequence only. For example,

grocery store - image #1
bread - image #2
milk - image #3
hamburger - image #4

Remember to use concrete images, adding lots of color, detail, and action. Visualize the grocery store with a huge loaf of bread on the roof. See the image in your head. Then make up an image for bread and milk. For example, visualize yourself dumping a gallon of milk over a loaf of bread. See the action in your head. Now, do the same for milk and hamburger. You might visualize a cow with a picture of a burger and a glass of milk tattooed to its side since both of these items come from a cow. Visualize the cow. Now if you trigger your memories by actually going to the grocery store, you will be able to remember this sequence using your linked visualizations.

Well-known mnemonists

I also would like to tell you about a well-known mnemonist - Dominic O'Brien, he was six-time world champion in memorization competitions. O'Brien is not welcome in many casinos around the world. set a world record in particular he memorized a deck of 52 cards in 41.43 seconds. The field of use Dominic’s memory is wide: he participates in the TV shows, demonstrating live his amazing abilities, for example, he can learn about 400 foreign words per hour, etc. As a matter of fact, as a child Dominic was a bad student, because he used to had a weak memory. He was not born a genius he is just an ordinary man, who had trained his memory.


I hope I awoke your initial interest in the mnemonic, and you will continue to learn more about it on your own. The key to good memorization is review. Spend time creating your mnemonic, but spend more time reviewing it, practicing it, saying it out loud, and quizzing yourself. Good luck!
Sparks 3 february 2012, 21:40
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