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The memory aid of using mnemonics

The above mentioned principles of association are applied in practical terms in ‘mnemonics’, which is a term that denotes a memory aid. The word comes from the Greek ‘mnemonikós’, which refers to the mind; and has been derived from Mnemosyne Greek goddess of memory. -

A definition given is that ‘A mnemonic is device that allows for classification, organization, storage and recollection of information into and out of long-term memory.’ This is based on the principle that the human mind easily remembers non-linear, personal, violent, strange, sexual, or entertaining information rather than something random and arbitrary.

Mnemonics is a scientifically proven learning strategy based on the fundamentals of how memory works. It is geared specifically for memory improvement. It modifies the to-be-learnt information and links it to information that the student already knows in such a manner that it becomes easy to remember. Sophisticated mnemonic techniques exist, but simpler techniques provide instant help to improving your memory. Mnemonics have been used to memorise famous and not- so- famous names, languages, places, animals, letters of the alphabet and spellings, among other things. Some basic mnemonic techniques are Acronym mnemonics; Acrostic mnemonics; Rhyme; Rhythm, music and song; and Visualization or Link method.

Acronyms: This method is one that is often and commonly used in schools, as a simple learning technique. For example: VIBGYOR

Acrostics: You may have already come across this mnemonic method, where the first letter of the word used to form a phrase or sentence (that helps you to remember the items in order).

Rhyme: This is another method which forms a part of mnemonics.

Rhythm, Music and Songs: This works on the basis of the right brain’s ability to remember numerous songs with ease. It helps in memorising alphabets, definitions, quotations and short answers.

The Visualization or Link method: This involves linking two ideas or information bits using images and enables you to remember sequences of unrelated items in the right order.

We will deal with the Link method in detail in the following chapter and with other advanced mnemonic tools in later chapters.

The benefits of using techniques like mnemonics is that not only do they serve as memory aids but they also lend to higher creativity and problem solving skills. The idea behind deploying techniques such as this for memory enhancement is that through learning and practice, one’s ‘natural’ or inborn mental capabilities get enhanced and improved with the help of these so called ‘artificial’ or external methods.

"The quality of imagination is to flow. It cannot be contained. It is limitless."

- Unknown

According to an ancient Greek scholar, “Memory is an admirable gift of nature by which we recall past things, we embrace present things and we contemplate future things through their likeness to past things.” Needless to say, any methods or strategies that are devised to aid memory, such as mnemonics, will be of importance then.

THE LINK METHOD

The link method is the fundamental method of memorising. A linked list associates one item to the next. Your brain itself registers the information in the form of links. This is a powerful method of learning, easy to use and can be applied by anyone anywhere.

Here, I will tell you of the conscious techniques of information association. In this method, positional ordering is achieved by linking the various items that you need to remember with one another. Associate the first item with the goal/reason of the list that you need to memorise. Then you need to form a chain by associating the first item with the second and the second with the third and so on. You can use this method in different fields like study (long theories, formulae, calculations etc), in daily routine of life for memorising a shopping list or appointments etc. This is especially helpful where it is not enough to just remember the facts but also it is necessary to remember them in the right order, such as while delivering a public speech.

Suppose you have to memorise the series of these 10 objects: TV, bottle, telephone, shoes, table, pencil, fan, bed, book and car. You can memorise the series with 100% accuracy with the help of the link method. Remember that you have to take into consideration the principles of memory (association, imagination and oddity) while using this linking system. What is important here is the images that are visualized and the links between the images, and if the images and links are odd; the better it is for recall.

Let’s start by linking the objects in your imagination.

1 As we switch on the TV, a bottle comes out from the screen.

2 The bottle dials a number on a telephone.

3 The telephone is placed inside shoes.

4 Shoes are hitting and breaking the table.

5 The table is being written on by a pencil.

6 The pencil has, fixed on one end of it, a fan.

7 The fan has a bed attached to it.

8 The bed is placed between the pages of a book

9 The book is driving a car.

Now recall all the items.

………………………..

………………………..

………………………..

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I hope you have filled the series correctly. The above associations and visualizations were not free for you to make. You were working with the instructions written above. If you make your own associations then these will work more effectively for you.

Apply all the memory principles (association, imagination, oddity) to memorise the following list of items.

Yellow Fort

Black Snake

L.G. TV

Black Honda City

Spider man

Red Cap

White Elephant

Atlas Cycle

Silver Aeroplane

Blue kite

Green Ship

Red Shark Fish

Hotel Taj

Dinosaur

Samsung Fridge

Brown Rat

Blue line Bus

Train

Lake

Amitabh Bachchan

Cricket

A.C.

Red Briefcase

Frog

Blue Parrot

Water Tank

Golden Phone

Black Cat

Parker Pen

Table

Jug

Helicopter

Nokia Mobile

Boxing

Rope

Hen

Crocodile

Motorcycle

Bulb

Computer

Bajaj Three wheeler

Diamond

Birthday party

Cow

Tie

Now you must recall the series in both forward and reverse order.

Forward order:

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Reverse order:

…………………………… …………………………… ……………………………

…………………………… …………………………… ……………………………

…………………………… …………………………… ……………………………

…………………………… …………………………… ……………………………

…………………………… …………………………… ……………………………

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.

If you find that you have made some mistake, repeat the exercise till you are correct. What you must be careful about when using this technique is that you remember all the elements that form the chain, for even if one link is missing, then the total chain may be forgotten.

“In the lexicon of youth, which Fate reserves for a bright manhood, there is no such word as ‘fail’!”

- Bulwer-Lytton

APPLICATION OF THE LINK METHOD

The link method finds easy applications in everyday life, when you have to remember the things you have to do during the day and also remember a list of things to buy from a shop. You may need to retain this list in your mind if you are out jogging or have no other means of remembering the information.

Here is an example: You are about to sleep off at night and there is a list of things to do for the next day in a specific order. You have to get a leaking tap fixed, go for a dentist appointment, after which you need to pick up the letters from the post office and then pay your shopkeeper and after that buy a cake and return.

Use the link system to help you memorise the above. To begin with, pick up a single word to indicate a given task. For example: tap, dentures (teeth), letter, money, cake.

Imagine that you are getting ready in the morning, and the bathroom is filled with water. You will remember the leaking tap immediately. On the water, dentures are floating, and this will remind you of your dentist appointment. The dentures have a letter stuck between the teeth and there you are, the post office will be obvious to you to visit. The letter is green in colour, and has a long chain of rupee notes hanging from it. The last note is on fire, being burned by the candles on a cake. So you will remember the money to be paid and the cake to be bought.

When you step into the bathroom in the morning, all the visualised chain of things to be done will spring to mind as you imagine the bathroom filling with water immediately. You will run out to call up the plumber and the work will begin to get done for the day.

You can memorise any kind of list using this method. Suppose you have to memorise the exports and imports of India.

This is the list:

Tea and coffee

Tobacco

Nuts and seeds

Fruits

Textile

Cotton Products

Meats

Dairy Products

Iron Ore

Gems and Jewellery

Make a chain of it:

Tea and coffee are poured together on tobacco

The tobacco is stuck with nuts and seeds

The nuts and seeds are eating oranges and bananas(fruits)

The oranges and bananas are wearing clothes (textiles)

…………

…………

…………

………….

………….

………….

Continue to write in a similar way for all 10 items and learn the association. Soon you will have the list of exports and imports of India in your memory, listed in such a way that you will have no problems in recalling this whenever you want. You will experience neither stress nor strain and will just enjoy the learning process.

“All truth goes through three steps: First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Finally, it is accepted as self-evident.”        

- Anonymous

ATTENTION AND OBSERVATION:

“The true art of memory is the art of attention.”

- Samuel Johnson

Memory is dependent upon two things. These are attention and observation.

Attention: Attention plays an important role in memory. There is a great deal of information in our surroundings which is converted into messages by our senses. These messages are sent to the brain. However, the brain cannot process all the informational messages at the same time. Your mind selects them in the order of preference. It depends upon your interests, the type of information, your state of mind, your aims and profiles etc. However, for your success, it is required that you give preference to that information which is related to your aim. So you have to pay attention to the required information by conscious thinking. After some time this will become a habit for you. You will not be distracted by other immaterial information. You will consciously concentrate on that information that gives you the greatest mileage in terms of what you are looking for.

Pay attention to the information which you want to remember. Notice it with intent and tell yourself consciously, “I must remember it.” Highlight it by using markers and symbols. This way you turn your selective attention to that which matters and do not bother about the rest. It is called separating the grain (important) from the chaff (unimportant).

In this you have to become like Arjun in Mahabharta, who gave his undivided attention to the eye of the fish, and therefore hit the target. In the same way, keeping your target in mind, give your absolute attention to what you need to know and focus on, so that you may learn and retain it.

Observation:

Observation also helps in memory. If you move with awareness and observe all that is going on around you; you are more attuned to remembering things. This will not happen if you go around in a dream or daze. The messages that are sent to your brain from a state of heightened awareness are absorbed with greater ease. For example, you have to remember a certain incident that takes place in a particular country at a point in time. If you observe the colours and dress, the type of location, the language spoken, how the people address each other, what actually happens during the incident, etc., it will be faster and easier for you to recall. This is because of the observations you made and stored in your memory in relation to what you had to remember.

Adding ‘Spice’:

In order to increase your powers of Attention and Observation, you need to spice up your memory. This you can do by keeping the following principles in mind.

These principles state that you must make use of all your senses to enable you to retain information. You must also involve your feelings and actions in the information you are committing to memory, for this involvement helps you to retain and recall better. By emphasizing colours, exaggerating images, and making frequent use of the opposite sex while remembering, you will enhance and spice up your memory.

Senses:

Try to use more than one sense during the learning process. When you learn information by reading, you are using only one sense. If you learn it by reading and speaking aloud; you are now opening three ways (reading, speaking aloud and listening) for reception. This three-way reception method will improve the input to your long-term memory. Do remember that you need not speak aloud every bit of your required learning, since this would tire you out unnecessarily. Speak aloud only the important parts. These are the essentials that need to be ingrained in your memory.

Focus your eyes on an object and then in your imagination try to see it, hear it, smell it and even try to taste it. It will create a better impression in your mind and will not be easily forgotten. The more the senses are involved during the learning process, the greater is the retention.

When trying to develop your memory, it is essential to make your senses sensitive, by regularly training the following:

Vision

Hearing

Smell

Taste

Touch

Kinesthesia- your awareness of bodily position and movement in space.

You can remember more by using as many as possible of your senses in the learning process.

b) Feelings

Try to use emotions in the images. These emotions help in recalling and provide better retention. When your senses send you information, make attempts to feel it. This is because our emotional memory is the strongest one. Couple your feelings with the situations as they come. Some of the feelings are given below. You can use any one or many of them at the same time.

Love

Hate

Pain

Relaxation

Happiness

Sorrow

Excitement

Anger

Fear

Action:

The use of actions in your images improves the possibilities of linking the information to each other with higher speed and accuracy. It also improves the retention and recall of that information. Movement in three-dimensional images, where you visualise things, will make the images outstanding and unforgettable. Some examples of such actions are given below.

Talking

Dancing

Fighting

Singing

Jumping

Rolling

Flying

Weeping

Eating

Laughing

Walking

Running

Exploding

Colour:

The colour red will instantly draw your attention. You will notice the person wearing a red dress, but someone in a cream or pale blue outfit may go unnoticed. One is always drawn towards bright, cheerful colours. This is because the right part of brain is sensitive to colours. You can remember coloured and shining objects better than colourless or dull ones. So by using colours in the study material, you increase your ability to remember and retain. Keep in mind the following points:

Use of deep, dark colours is better than the use of light colours.

Use of red colour is the best because your eyes pay more attention to it.

The brighter the colour, the better is the memory of the colour.

If information is more complex and large then go ahead and use all the colours of rainbow.

e) Exaggeration

In all your images if you exaggerate things, then it becomes more attractive information for your brain. Through this, the information will be easily registered in your memory and will be retained for a longer time. If you see a twenty feet long rat or a multi-headed monster, you will be unable to forget such sights, for these are not normal. Apply this characteristic of the brain, which is its inability to forget exaggerated things, to what you need to learn. In this way you make good use of the characteristic. When exaggerating, you may do any or all of the following. You may exaggerate the objects with reference to their:

Size

Shape

Number

Sound

Smell

Taste

Emotions

Use of Opposite Gender pictures:

Use opposite gender pictures in your imagination. If you are a man, then you are advised to use the pictures of women in your association. The opposite holds true for women. This is because the opposite gender is of greater interest to anyone, and the use of this psychology is made to enable the person to retain the information better by creating interest for him/her.

The factors that affect memory are your powers of attention, observation and how you spice up these powers. It depends on how you use all your senses and feelings; and how you use action, colour, and exaggeration along with opposite gender pictures in your images. Eventually it boils down to developing a method of memorising that is meaningful for you.

THE SELF-MEANING SYSTEM

“You are your greatest asset. Put your time, effort and money into training, grooming, and encouraging your greatest asset.”

-  Tom Hopkins

You have to memorise two words: ‘‘Gmtp dfmthdck’ and ‘Black Sunrise’. Which one will be easy for you to remember? Obviously, the second one is easier. It possesses a higher level of meaning for you, whereas the word ‘‘Gmtp dfmthdck’ is totally meaningless! Although both have the same number of characters, the first word is extremely difficult for you to learn and remember.

By the same reason it is difficult for you to memorise foreign names rather than those of your own country. Why is it so? If you are living in U.S.A., then it is difficult for you to memorise an Indian name. If you are living in India, then the name of someone from U.S.A. is difficult for you to memorise. The same information is easy for one and difficult for another. This is because everybody is familiar with the information around him/her.

In simple words, that which is already in your knowledge is easy to memorise and anything that is new is difficult. Now, what do you have to do to remember new things? Every thing is new for you in its first encounter with you. Alphabets which you are reading now were new for you when you were in your nursery class. Recall the first year of your school. Your class teacher had tried to feed English alphabets into your memory. To help you remember easily, he tried to make letter ‘A’ meaningful for you by using the association with your previous knowledge, e.g. ‘A’ stands for apple (by giving you the picture of an apple). Letter ‘A’, was totally meaningless for you, but this picture of apple had some meaning for you—perhaps a round ball with a sweet taste. With many repetitions you tried to associate it with the letter ‘A’ through visualization, associating it with the picture of an apple. After sometime, ‘A’ became a part of your knowledge. And now letter ‘A’ holds meaning for you, for it denotes the apple. Then the same process was repeated by your teacher with all the alphabets. You succeeded in mastering the English alphabet and the language through this process. The proof of this success is that you are able to read this book.

If the method of converting meaningless information into that which is meaningful can work for you when you were a four-year old child, then why not today? It will work today as well— you will see the results in the next chapter.

So the conclusion from the above explanation is that if you wish to remember anything better, the information should be meaningful, and this is possible only if it is known or familiar. This requires that if you get new information; change it to old and known things. For example, if the word ‘Netherlands’ is new for you, it can be changed into the words ‘Net-Her-Land’. Since ‘Net’, ‘her’, and ‘land’ are words that you are familiar with, this will enable you to remember the unfamiliar word. Soon the word ‘Netherland’ will become part of your memory bank and you will no longer need to break it up to remember it.

In the same way the word ‘Goitre’ may be new for you. Change it into an old known word, ‘Guitar’! Now it becomes meaningful for you and is therefore easy to remember and recall.

‘Self-meaning’ means that which is already known to you and is easy to understand and easy to visualize for you. Every bit of new information in this world can be changed into old and previously known information to make it more meaningful, whether it is a word, a thought, formula, number, or anything else for that matter!

Three methods for converting a new word into meaningful words:

a) Hearing method

b) Substitute method

c) Bifurcation method

a) Hearing method

This is one of the best and fastest methods for making the information more meaningful. Speak the word slowly and listen to it carefully. Break it down into its phonic, i.e. its sound parts. Now try to find out the known word from the sound.

A few examples are given below:

Athens when spoken slowly produced the sound ‘eight hens’. And it is more meaningful because it is easy to visualize.

Bulgaria when speak slowly produced the sound ‘bull gear’, i.e. a bull with gears.

b) Substitute method

You can choose the substitute word in place of tough or new information. For example, for ‘air’, you can choose the word ‘fan’. This is because ‘fan’ is an object and can be visualized, but ‘air’ cannot. Similarly, for ‘reading’, you can choose ‘a picture book’ as a substitute.

c) Bifurcation method

You can break any new word by dividing it in two or more words which you already know, and this makes it easy to learn. A few examples are shown below:

Photosynthesis

Photo -Syn - Thesis

Together

To - Get - Her

Why this method is called the Self Meaning System (SMS)?

This is to do with what denotes meaning to the self or the individual. Every one is different in this world. A word which is meaningful for me may be tough for you and vice versa. So you have to find your own meaning from a meaningless word. You can apply SMS to memorise any kind of information— whether it is a speech, names and faces, telephone numbers or your study material.

In the following chapters, I have given a few applications of ‘SMS’. My purpose in this book is to explain how to memorise different types of information. It may be a possibility that some of these are not important for you, but you have to go through the various learning techniques. It will enable you to excel in learning the ways and means to become a memory king or queen.

Use of SMS (Self-Meaning System)

For memorising a list of the things which are not easy to visualize we have to apply SMS in order to covert it into pictures or into meaningful information. The following list of words will clarify the concept for you. This is the list we have:

WORDS

AFTER SMS

Sophia

Sofa

Cuba

Cube

Punjab

Punch job

Chandigarh

Chand –I-Ghar

Dogmatize

Dog in matiz car

Cherishing

Cherry is singing

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