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  7. Peg Mnemonic System


The peg system helps you remember information in a way similar to the loci mnemonic system but instead of using a series of locations as memory cues, a predefined list of images corresponding to numbers or letters is used.

The main advantage of the peg system is that it allows the recall of any word at a given numerical location. This gives you access to the information you want to remember either in order or out of order. The disadvantage is that you have to memorize a set of peg images ahead of time.

Memorizing information with the Peg mnemonic system

Before you can use the Peg system you need to remember at least one of the sets of images presented below from the numeric or alphabet mnemonic systems.

Once you have memorized a list of peg images you simply associate each item you need to remember with each peg image. Be sure to follow the principles of visualization when making the associations.

Recalling information

The Peg system lends itself to recalling items in any order. For example, if you want to recall the seventh item on your list, recall the image you associated with the number 7 (or the letter ‘G’ if you are using the alphabet Peg system). Once you have recalled the peg image you will have access to the information you have associated with it.

Numeric Peg mnemonic system

There are various techniques for associating images with numbers. In the table below I present four different sets of images associated with the numbers 1 to 10. The first two sets associate images with numbers by using items that are easy to picture and that rhyme with the number. The third set of images use items that look similar to the number they represent. The fourth set of images uses items that have a similar meaning with the number they are associated with.

The lists presented below can be used but there is no reason why you can’t create your own lists of images. Just be sure that you can easily associate the number with the image.

To memorize one of the lists, the image for the corresponding number should be memorized and visualized as clearly and specifically as possible with as much detail as possible.

Digit Number Rhyming 1 Rhyming 2 Look alike Similar Meaning
1 One bun gun pencil me (there is only one ‘me’)
2 Two shoe glue swan Pair of dice
3 Three tree bee pitchfork pitchfork (three prongs)
4 Four door core triangle Dog (four legs)
5 Five hive Knife sickle hand (five fingers)
6 Six sticks picks ostrich Ant (six legs)
7 Seven heaven oven street light Rainbow (7 colors)
8 Eight gate plate hourglass Stop sign (eight sides)
9 Nine wine line tennis racket baseball (nine players on a team, nine innings)
10 Ten hen pen knife and plate Dime (10 cents)

Alphabet peg mnemonic system

The alphabet peg system works similar to the number peg system only it uses the alphabet to associate peg images. Unlike the numeric peg system, the alphabet peg system does not lend itself to specific numbered item recall as do numbered pegs (unless you know the numerical location of each letter of the alphabet).

The following table presents two sets of images that can be used for the alphabet peg system. The first set of images present items that rhyme with the corresponding letter and the second set of images present items that start with the corresponding letter.

As with the numeric peg system, to memorize one of the lists, the image for the corresponding letter should be memorized and visualized as clearly and specifically as possible with as much detail as possible (for more information, see the page on creating effective visual imagery).

Letter Rhyming First Letter
A hay ape
B bee boy
C sea cat
D deed dog
E eve egg
F effort fig
G jeep goat
H age hat
I eye ice
J jay jack
K key kite
L elk log
M hem man
N hen nut
O hoe owl
P pea pig
Q cue quilt
R oar rock
S essay sock
T tea toy
U ewe umbrella
V veal vane
W double you wig
X axe X ray
Y wire yak
Z zebra zoo

Advantages of the Peg mnemonic system

The Peg mnemonic system provides a systematic method of recall. This allows you to recognize if you have forgotten a word. Furthermore, forgetting a word does not interfere with the recall of subsequent words (as in the link or story mnemonic systems)

Improving on the system

The Peg system has some limitations but there are ways of dealing with these limitations to improve on the system.

One of the drawbacks of the Peg system is that you have a limited number of images to work with. There are a few ways to deal with this limitation. The first is to use one set of images from the numeric Peg system for the first 10 numbers, a second set of images from the numeric Peg system for the next 10 numbers, and so on. This won’t give you an unlimited number of pegs but it will increase the number of things you can remember. Using the numeric images provided above you can memorize up to 40 items.

A second way to deal with the limited number of peg images is to combine the images for single digit numbers to make multi digit numbers. For example, ‘bun-bun’ or ‘bun-gun’ can be used to represent eleven. Unfortunately, this approach can increase the likelihood of interference.

Another approach to increase the items you can memorize is to combine the Peg system with other systems. For example, for each letter of the alphabet in the peg system use the loci system to create a scene of 10 items where the theme of the scene is related to the letter. For example, the letter ‘a’ could be associated with ‘airplane’ and a 10 item loci scene related to an airplane could follow from this. The letter ‘b’ could be associated with ‘boat’ and so on. This system would allow for the learning of up to 260 items.

If you want to memorize even more items I recommend using the phonetic mnemonic system.

Applications of the Peg system

The Peg system can be used for the same things as the link and story mnemonic systems, including:

  • Learning lists
  • Remembering naturally ordered information
  • Memorizing speeches
  • Remembering information when it is inconvenient to write it down
  • Keeping track of repetitive activities such as laps of a track or swimming pool, or repetitions of scales when practicing a musical instrument.

You can also use the concrete images associated with the numbers to memorize long numbers by connecting them using the link mnemonic system.

Related Pages

Link Mnemonic System
Story Mnemonic System
Loci System
Peg Mnemonic System
Phonetic Mnemonic System
Phonetic Mnemonic Tool