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Mnemonics: memorize effectively and remember more

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Mnemonics: memorize effectively and remember more

If you've ever heard of mnemonics, you might think of memory artists who can memorize an insane number of facts and use them in competitions. But mnemonics can also help us in everyday life when we need to remember things - be it for the next lecture, to remember your cell phone number or for a test at school. Because even in our technologically advanced world, it's still important to remember certain things.

In this article, we'll take a look at several techniques for you and show you how they can help you or your kids memorize more effectively.

Mnemonics - What is it?

Maybe you stumbled a bit over the bulky term while reading and wondered if it shouldn't be called "Memotechnik" after all. In fact, you read this term from time to time, but the correct term is mnemonics. This term comes from the Greek "mneme", which means memory or recollection.

Even the ancient Greeks discovered that they could remember things better if they were linked to specific places. Speakers in ancient Rome also worked with this principle when they had a free Lecture wanted to hold. They transformed their speech into imagined images, for example by imagining walking through a building while speaking. If certain contents of the speech were linked to prominent locations in the building, the sections automatically came to mind while they continued to walk mentally.

The psychology behind mnemonics

But why does that work? Well, our brain has a huge capacity that we actually never fully use. Moreover, our memory is designed for efficiency: We forget everything that is not relevant to us so as not to block our memories with unnecessary information.

On the other hand, we remember new information that is classified as relevant. And this works all the better, the more connections we can make to the new information. This can mean that the new information is linked to already stored content, or that the new information is linked to each other. And exactly these connections are created by mnemonics.

mnemonics definition

Mnemonics: Which method suits you?

You probably already use one or the other mnemonics in your everyday life, even if you are not really aware of it yet. In order for you to be able to use the different methods in a more targeted way or even to choose the right technique for a specific task, we will present a few variants of the mnemonics below.

Associative links

This mnemonics technique is about linking terms with pictures to create a little story. You can use this method, for example, to memorize a list of numbers or words.

An example from everyday life would be the typical shopping list. Let's say you want to buy bananas, milk, washing-up liquid and cat food. Now you have to find a catchy picture for each term. Then you link the pictures together so that they are related to each other.

In order not to forget any article, your story could look something like this: You imagine a monkey stuffing a banana into its mouth. The monkey gets thirsty and drinks a glass of milk. This leads you to the rinsing agent, because afterwards the glass has to be rinsed. While rinsing, your cat jumps into the middle of the sink and splashes you from top to bottom. This reminds you that you urgently need to feed the cat with cat food.

If you remember the anchor "monkey with banana", you can later recall the whole story and thus remember all the terms. The story and thus the word chain could be extended at will.

The Loci Method

This is probably the oldest mnemonic technique, which was already used by the ancient Greeks. Imagine a familiar path where there are some distinctive points. This could be, for example, your way to work or the way to the nearest bakery. Maybe your points look something like this: Front door, street corner, traffic light, bakery.

If we stay with the shopping example, you can connect your list to your waypoints like this or something similar: There's a banana hanging on the front door. There's a puddle of milk on the street corner. There is a bottle of dishwashing liquid at the traffic light. There's cat food on display at the bakery. When you want to recall your list, mentally walk your way to the bakery. When you reach the prominent points, you remember the terms from your list.

Number Shape Systems

Remembering numbers such as a pin or a cell phone number is not that easy for our brain. Numbers are quite abstract and therefore not very catchy. That's why it's helpful to think about what symbol each digit reminds you of. For example, 0 could stand for an egg, 1 for a candle, 2 for a swan, 3 for a trident, 4 for a table, and so on. If you want to remember a certain number, you can link the symbols to a story.

You can also use this mnemonics technique, for example, if you want to remember certain year numbers. Then you can simply link the event with your number symbols. For example, if you want to remember that the French Revolution began in 1789, your little story could look like this: Let's say the 1 becomes a candle, the 7 becomes a fishing rod, the 8 becomes a snowman, and the 9 becomes a tadpole. Then you can imagine a France flag with a candle on it. A fishing rod appears from above and tries to catch the candle. A snowman holds the fishing rod, and a tadpole falls on his head from above.

Another variant is to combine the loci technique with the number symbols. Then you link the prominent waypoints with your symbols and mentally walk the route as described above.

ABC method

This mnemonics technique can be used to learn different information in a specific order. First, for each letter of the alphabet, think of a term that starts with that letter (or as many letters as you want to learn information about).

The result is a list that resembles the number symbols. It might look something like this: A stands for monkey, B for bread, C for clown, D for can, E for elephant, and so on.

Now you can connect your information with the individual letters. The advantage of this is that you can recall your facts in the correct order, similar to the loci method. For example, if you want to give a lecture on the milestones of medicine, you can imagine a rabid monkey (rabies vaccination), an x-ray of a loaf of bread (x-rays), a clown having blood drawn (discovery of blood types), and so on.

Memory Palace Technique

This is a mnemonics technique that can theoretically store an unlimited amount of information. However, it is also somewhat more complex than the methods presented so far.

To use a memory palace, you must first build one. That means you imagine your mental palace in detail. What rooms are there? What furniture is in the rooms, what colors do the walls and things have? How extensive your palace will be is up to you. Of course, you can also design only two or three rooms.

Once you have built your palace, mentally walk through it again and again. Before you use this technique, you should have memorized your rooms and their contents. Once you have everything well internalized, you can use your palace in a similar way to the loci method. Put the information you want to remember in different places in your palace. Imagine how you put certain terms on this or that table or on a certain chest of drawers. Then, as you mentally walk through the building, you can recall the information.

Exercise as a success factor

Regardless of which mnemonics you choose to use, practice is a key factor, just as it is with traditional memory training. If you use one of these methods more often, you'll find that it gets easier and easier over time.

We also recommend that you use your own images and associations. The first thing that comes to mind is what your brain can best store. It can also be helpful if you not only form a pictorial idea of things, but also involve other senses. For example, imagine the sound or smell that your association makes. Admittedly, this may be a little difficult at first, but you can practice this too.

Conclusion: With mnemonics to a better memory

The use of mnemonics can help us to memorize certain things - and thus make us a little less dependent on technical support. Mnemonics can be a great help when learning specific facts, for example at school or university. And by the way, mnemonics promotes your creativity and your own ability to remember and is therefore the perfect training for your grey cells.

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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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