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What Are Mnemonic Devices? (with Examples)Mnemonic devices are techniques used to aid memory retention and recall. They are tools or strategies that can help individuals remember information more effectively by creating associations between new information and pre-existing knowledge or by using mental imagery to make the information more memorable.
Table of Contents
- Examples of Common Mnemonic Devices
- Seven Types of Mnemonic Device
- (1) Visualization
- (2) Acronyms
- (3) Acrostics
- (4) The Method of Loci
- (5) Story Telling
- (6) Songs and Rhymes
- (7) Chunking
- More about Mnemonic Devices
- Why Mnemonic Devices Are Important
- Printable Test
Examples of Common Mnemonic DevicesA common mnemonic device is the word "HOMES," which is used to remember the names of the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).
Each letter in "HOMES" triggers the brain to recall the name of the lake. This is an example of a mnemonic device in the form of an acronym.
Another common mnemonic device is the sentence "My very educated mother just served us nine pumpkins," which is used to remember the order of the planets in the solar system (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Nepture, and the dwarf planet Pluto).
The first letter of each word in the mnemonic triggers the brain to recall the name of the planet. This is an example of an acrostic mnemonic device.
Seven Types of Mnemonic DeviceHere are seven useful mnemonic devices. These are commonly used to remember lists and foreign vocabulary.
(1) VisualizationOur brains remember images better than words, so creating a visual cue is a great way to remember something. Here are two examples:
Visualization Example 1The French word for "bread" is "pain" (pronounced pan). If you visualize some bread in a pan when you're learning "pain," it will help you recall it when needed.
Visualization Example 2In Serbo-Croat, the word for "fish" is "riba." If you visualise the ribs of a fish, it will help you recall this word when you're next in a Yugoslav restaurant.
(2) AcronymsAn acronym is an abbreviation spoken like a word (e.g., SCUBA is an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). Using an acronym is a common way to help with memory recollection. Here are two examples:
Acronyms Example 1The acronym FUDGEBOW helps with remembering German prepositions that take the accusative case.
|W||wider||against, contrary to|
Acronyms Example 2The acronym BOSMAS is used in the UK to remember the order of operations in Mathematics.
(3) AcrosticsAn acrostic is a mnemonic device that takes the first letters of things you need to remember and uses those letters to make a more memorable phrase or sentence. For example, "Easter Bunnies Get Dizzy At Easter" can be used to remember the guitar strings from bottom to top (EBGDAE). Here are two more examples:
Acrostics ExampleThis acrostic saying is used to remember the value of the Roman numerals.
- "I Value Xylophones Like Cows Do Milk."
Acrostics ExampleThis acrostic saying is used to remember the names and order of the wrist bones (carpal bones).
- "So Long To Pinky, Here Comes The Thumb"
(4) The Method of LociAlso called "The Journey Method," this mnemonic device has been used for thousands of years (it was used by the ancient Greeks). It is a form of the visualization method.
Method of Loci ExampleLet's imagine you are a stand-up comedian. You need to remember these things to remind you of your jokes:
- Step 1: Choose a place you are familiar with (e.g., your house).
- Step 2: Plot a route around your house and place the things along the route, telling a little story for each. For example:
- A horse was blocking the front door.
- A dog was waiting for his dinner in the kitchen.
- Step 3: To remember the list of things in order, mentally walk around the route again, visualizing the things and recalling the short stories.
(5) Story TellingStory telling is a highly effective mnemonic device. Here is an example to remind you how to tie the bowline knot.
- "The rabbit comes out the hole, around the back of the tree, and back down the hole."
- There is "a rat" in separate. (This "story" reminds us how to spell "separate.")
- Miss Pell does not misspell. (This "story" reminds us how to spell "misspell.")
(6) Songs and RhymesLearning, or creating, a rhyme or a song is another useful technique for remembering things. Here is a well-known rhyme to help with spelling.
- I before E, except after C and when sounding like A as in neighbour and weigh.
Song ExampleHere is a 1.5-minute, popular song to help learn the colours of the rainbow:
(7) ChunkingThis mnemonic device divides long pieces of information into smaller, easy-to-remember chunks. The way we say and remember telephone numbers is a good example of chunking:
- 1-812-555-0344 is much easier to remember than 18125550344
- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
More about Mnemonic DevicesMnemonic devices are not all about learning words or lists. Any technique you use to help you remember something else can be classified as a mnemonic device. For example, the song "Nellie the Elephant" is used by medical professionals to show first aiders the pace for administering the chest pumps during CPR.
Also, mnemonic devices can be invented by you and mixed up. This example uses a mix of story telling and acronyms.
- "SEAN got three AAAs" (This mnemonic is used to remember the names of the continents: South America, Europe, Asia, and North America and then Australia, Antarctica, and Africa.)
Go! Play! Have fun! Remember stuff!
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