What are mnemonics?
A mnemonic technique is any technique that aids or improves your memory. By applying mnemonic techniques you can memorize large amounts of information. People with exceptional memories generally use the mnemonic techniques that are covered here as opposed to having some sort of innate ability like photographic memory. Mnemonic techniques can be used by anyone at any age — young or old, to improve their memory.
Mnemonic techniques don’t make remembering easier — just more effective. It still takes effort. You must be prepared to expend the necessary effort (regardless of memory technique) in order to learn the material you want. Also, these techniques will not give you an infallible memory — but they will improve your ability to recall the information you have memorized using these techniques.
Mnemonic techniques allow you to organize and structure how you store information so that it is easier to retrieve in the future when you need it. Even though you will be able to retain more knowledge, your mind will not become cluttered with too much information. In fact, if the information is well organized it will be easier to find the information you need when you need it.
Mnemonics techniques are generally categorized as visual mnemonics or verbal mnemonics.
When I first discovered mnemonics through the comprehensive book Your Memory : How It Works and How to Improve It I was amazed at how effective the techniques are. With just a bit of effort needed to learn the techniques, which are simple to apply, I was quickly able to remember information such as friend’s phone numbers, people’s names, lists, and countless other things. Years later, even after my friends have moved, I can still remember their old phone numbers.
What can mnemonics be used for
Mnemonics are often used to perform amazing feats of memory such as memorizing the order of several decks of cards shuffled together, the digits of pi to thousands of decimal places, or long lists of words. While these feats may be learned to impress your friends or gain access to the Guinness book of world records, none of these examples are very practical. Here are some more common tasks that you can use mnemonics for:
- Learn foreign languages
- Overcome absentmindedness
- Remembering errands
- Remember people’s names
- Remember numbers (phone numbers, dates, etc)
- Memorize lines for a play
- Memorizing orders if your work in a restaurant
- Memorize details about products if your are a salesperson
Mnemonics have also been developed in areas of military training such as Morse code, signal flags, and orders to sentries. Many mnemonic systems have even been used to help people with brain damage. How mnemonics help you depends on your personal situation.
How do mnemonics work?
Mnemonics assist your memory by imposing meaning, structure, and organization on material that is does not inherently have it. This usually involves adding something to the material to make it more memorable. Mnemonics are not always necessary for material that already has these qualities.
Mnemonics use the basic principles already discussed in the learning skills section but structures them into a highly effective system for memorizing. Mnemonics supplement these learning strategies, not replace them. You will still benefit from all the other learning techniques, strategies, and systems discussed in the learning skills section.
For a practical guide to improving your memory, please take a look at my review of Ron White’s Memory in a Month course
More InformationVisual Mnemonics
Limitations of Mnemonics
Applications of Mnemonic Systems
Related PagesIncrease Your Memory With Mnemonics
Overcome Absent Mindedness