Mnemonic Methods

A mnemonic device, sometimes called a memory device, is a learning technique that will aid in information retention or retrieval. These devices use elaborate encoding, retrieval cues, and imagery as tools to ingrain certain information in a fashion the will allow for efficient storage and remembering.

Mnemonics help aid original information by associating things with something that is more meaningful or accessible, which will then provide better retention of the new information. Some of the most common mnemonics are typically used for lists and in auditory form, like memorable phrases, acronyms, or short poems.

Mnemonics are also used for other information and in kinesthetic or visual forms. The use of mnemonics is based upon the observation that the brain can more easily remember humorous, sexual, physical, surprising, personal, spatial, or otherwise memorable information instead of impersonal or abstract forms of information. Mnemonic comes from the Ancient Greek word mnemonikos, which means “of memory, or relating to memory.” It is related to the word Mnemosyne, which is the name of the Goddess of memory in Greek mythology.

Ancient Romans and Greeks distinguished between two memory types: artificial memory and natural memory. The latter is born in you and is something that everybody uses instinctively. The former is one that has to be developed and trained through practice and learning of several different mnemonic techniques. These mnemonic systems are strategies or

techniques that are consciously used to make your memory work better. They will help you use information that you already have in your long-term memory to make memorization easier. The basic word mnemonics was used to give devices that aided memory in order to enable the mind to remember an idea that was relatively unfamiliar, especially a group of ideas that were dissociated, by connecting them in some way. Greek philosophers and sophists cultivated mnemonic devices and are frequently referred to by Aristotle and Plato.

The Roman and Greek system of mnemonics were based on using mental pictures, signs, or places that were known as topical mnemonics. The most common method they used was to pick a large house in which the furniture, statues, windows, walls, apartments, and so on were all associated with certain ideas, events,

phrases, or names through symbolic pictures. In order to recall these, the person only has to search over the areas of the house until they discover the associations they had placed on items. Using their system, if they wanted to remember a historic date, people would localize it into an imaginary town that was divided into a certain number of districts. Each district had ten houses, and each house had ten rooms, and every room had 100 quadrates or memory places.

This meant that if they wanted to remember 1436, the date of the invention of printing, they would place an imaginary book, or some symbol of printing, into the 36th quadrate in the fourth room of the first house.


Through academic studies, researchers have proven that mnemonics are effective. In one experiment, participants of various ages that used mnemonic techniques to learn vocabulary were able to outperform the control groups that used free-learning styles and contextual learning. Mnemonics often vary in effectiveness for different groups that range from young children to the elderly. These strategies will require time and resources from the educator to come up with effective effective and creative devices.

The easiest and most creative mnemonic devices typically are more effective when it comes to teaching. Mnemonic devices have to be used at the right time in the classroom in order to get the best effectiveness. Researchers found that mnemonics were more effective for people who tended to struggle with long-term memory, such as the elderly. Five years following a training study in mnemonics, the research team followed up with 122 adults 60 and over. The delay recalls of a word list was studied before and right after the mnemonic training, and then during the five years of follow up. Overall,

Overall, they didn’t see a big difference between the word recall before the training and that at the follow-up. However, the gains in scores immediately after training and using the mnemonic predicted how they would perform at the follow-up. Those that said they used the mnemonic device show a higher performance, and they had scores higher than their pre-training scores. This shows that there are long-term benefits to mnemonic training for some older adults, especially those that continued to use mnemonic devices. In humans, the aging process affects the hippocampus and medial temporal lobe, which is where the episodic memory is synthesized.

The episodic memory holds the information about features, objects, or items with spatiotemporal contexts. Mnemonics mainly help with remembering physical or spatial information instead of abstract forms. Its effect could vary based on the subject’s age and how well their hippocampus and medial temporal lobe function. Now that you understand how effective this tool can be for students and what mnemonic devices are, let’s look at some different techniques and then subject specific mnemonic techniques.

Keyword Method

This is a mnemonic system that helps you to remember definitions, foreign language vocabulary, and more. You can link any two pieces of information together in your memory with this technique. You use the keyword method by combining the creation of another word using visualization. First, you convert the sound of the word into one or more concepts that you are able to visualize. Then you associate those concepts with an image that represents the real meaning of the word. One great example is that students who are learning geometry will sometimes confuse the radius

And diameter of a circle. Visualizing a picture of a radish swinging from the center of a circle is a keyword method to help them remember the difference. By memorizing this silly image, you would never forget that the radius is the line from the center point of the circle to the edge, and the diameter is straight across the circle. Whenever you hear the word radius, the sound of the word will trigger the thoughts of the radish. You will instantly picture the radish swinging from the center of the circle. Major System

With this mnemonic technique, you replace the consonant sounds in a word with numbers. This is helpful in remembered long numbers through words or sentences. Using this technique, you can represent words using numeric sequences. Since it’s a lot easier to remember words than numbers, this is a great system to use when you want to easily remember a sequence of numbers, such a date or telephone numbers. Once you have the number that you want to remember, you can come up with corresponding words that you will then turn into a story. You should make sure that the story is unusual

unusual so that it really sticks. In order to come up with the numerical representation of a word, there are a few rules that you will have to follow. You need to make sure that you can remember those rules in order to translate your story quickly back into the numbers you need. You shouldn’t underestimate this task. Double letters are disregarded. So ss is 0. Vowels and the letter x, y, h, and w are not used. Consonants are substituted according to the table.

0 – S, Z 1 –T, D, TH 2 – N 3 – M 4 – R 5 – L 6 – J, CH, SH 7 – C, K, G, Q, CK 8 – V, F, PH 9 – P, B Now let’s work out an example. We’ll use the word astronaut. Astronaut vowel ignored aStronaut S = 0 0 asTronaut T = 1  01 astRonaut R = 4  014 astrOnaut vowel ignored astroNaut N = 2 0142 astronAut vowel ignored astronaUt vowel ignored astronauT T = 1  01421 This means that the major code for astronaut is 01421. In order to help you remember the sounds of the substitutions try to remember the sentence below. Once you have used the Major System code for it you will find that you go from 0 to 9,

and you will have a pretty good way to remember the digits and sounds in the correct order. “HouSToN May ReaLLy CHeCK iF Bowie is Major Tom.” There are a lot of different areas in your life where numbers are important. The Major System is able to help you remember these numbers better. Here are a few areas where this can be helpful: Dates and birthdays. Phone numbers. Credit card pin numbers. Magic tricks that use numbers, such as reproducing unusual figures of pi.