Have you heard of mnemonic devices for memory? While you may not be familiar with the term, I bet you have come across the concept. These are memory techniques that help you to remember words, phrases, dates, historical events and more. Essentially, they’re tricks that help to retain information and stimulate recall. They’ve been used for centuries, and it’s likely you may even use some of them. The fact is they work. That’s why we keep returning to them again and again. Let’s take a look at some of the most useful ones and examine how mnemonic devices can help with memorization.
Chunking helps you to manage large amounts of information into smaller batches you can work with more easily. Short-term memory only allows us to retain about seven pieces of information for any length of time. Thus, it makes sense to “chunk” or cluster big amounts of data into smaller bunches for organization. You can do that by placing things into categories or by finding creative ways to separate them. Telephone numbers are a good example because these 10 digits tend to be separated into segments of three, three and four. That’s far easier to recall than a line of 10 numbers.
Have you ever put information to a tune in order to help you remember it? I bet you have, and that’s because it works. Songs stick in your head. Just think of the jingles you hear on TV or radio. This is a particularly useful strategy when you have long lists to remember. Just think of the ABC Song, for example. That’s a far easier way to remember the letters than by simply trying to memorize the 26 letters all at once.
Another nifty technique is to make rhymes out of the information you wish to recall. The acoustic encoding of our brains makes it easier to retain lines of prose that end in the same sound. This type of encoding allows us to store and retrieve the information far more readily. I bet you learned, “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” back in elementary school, and it’s probably stuck with you to this day.
An acronym is a mental stimulation strategy that uses the first letter of words or phrases to form a sentence. Doing so helps you to call those particular answers to mind when you need them. For example, one common acrostic is, “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.” This has been used for decades to help children remember the names of the planets. The first letter of each word in the sentence corresponds to the planet names in order from the sun.
These are some of the most common mnemonic devices that can help with memorization. There are lots more. You can start practicing these as you encounter information you want to remember. Try them out and see which work best for you.