Mnemonics

'Mnemonic' is just another word for a memory tool. They are techniques for encoding difficult to remember information in a way that is much easier to remember.

Our brains evolved over millions of years to code and interpret complex stimuli such as images, colours, structures, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, positions, emotions and language, and the good news is our memories store all of these very effectively. Unfortunately, a lot of the information we have to remember in modern life is presented very differently - as words printed on a page. While writing is a great tool for conveying complex arguments, our brains do not easily encode written information, making it difficult to remember.

Use Your Whole Mind to Remember

By representing the information you want to remember as vivid mental images, you can reliably code both information and the structure of information. And because the images are vivid, they are easy to recall when you need them.

You can do the following things to make your mnemonics more memorable:

- Use positive, pleasant images - our brains often block out unpleasant ones
- Use vivid, colourful images - these are easier to remember than drab, dull ones
- Use all your senses to code information - mnemonic with sounds, smells, tastes, touch, movements and feelings as well as pictures will be even easier to remember.
- Give your image three dimensions, movement and space to make it more vivid.
- Exaggerate! – enhance both the size and shape of important parts of the image
- Use humour - funny or unusual things are easier to remember than normal ones.

Designing Mnemonics: Imagination, Association and Location

The three fundamental principles of mnemonics are imagination, association and location. Working together, these principles create powerful mnemonic systems.

1. Imagination: is what you use to create mnemonics that are potent for you. The more strongly you imagine and visualize a situation, the more effectively it will stick in your mind for later recall.

2. Association: this is the method by which you link a thing to be remembered to a way of remembering it. You can create associations by:

- Placing things on top of each other
- Merging images together
- Wrapping them around each other
- Using motion – crash things together or have them rotate around each
- Linking them using the same colour, smell, shape, or feeling

3. Location: gives you a context into which you can place information so that it hangs together, and a way of separating one mnemonic from another.

On the following pages are some of the techniques you can use that make use of all these principles.

 

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