Mnemonics: Memory Improvement Techniques

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It’s a common situation – you’ve just met someone new, and then a few minutes later you can’t even remember their name! Names, numbers, equations, facts, dates, events, class assignments… the list goes on and on – with so much to remember in college is it really possible to remember everything?

In fact, it is! Just like your muscles, that grow and strengthen when exercised, the more you exercise your brain, the more information you’ll be able to retain and remember.


Mnemonic’ is a fancy way for saying “memory tool.” Mnemonics are studying and learning techniques for remembering data and information that would otherwise be quite difficult to remember. The primary concept of mnemonics is to encode information such a way that it is much easier to remember.

Our primitive brains evolved to interpret and code colors, structures, images, patterns, smells, tastes, emotions, language and other stimuli. Our brains store all these codes and stimuli very effectively. However, a lot of information in our modern world is presented in more complex formats that our brains cannot easily encode.

Coding Information Using Mental Images

Learning to code information using vivid mental images will enable you to code not only the information but also the structure of the information. And because the images are vivid, they are easy to recall at a future time.

To make your mnemonics more effective you can employ the following techniques:

  • When employing association always use positive, pleasant images as the brain has a tendency to block unpleasant images.
  • use images that are bright and vivid. These images are more readily remembered and recalled than ugly, boring images.
  • Make your image three dimensional and give it movement. This will make it more memorable.
  • Use all of your senses-sound, smell, taste, touch, as well as other feelings-to code information or enhance an image.
  • Make your image unique. Make it funny or peculiar in some way that makes it especially memorable.
  • Employ rhymes as they are very difficult to forget.
  • Employ symbols. Symbols can help code very complex messages quickly and in such a way that they are easy to remember.

Designing Mnemonics: Imagination, Association and Location

There are three basic principles that govern the use of mnemonics. There are imagination, association and location. Employing each of these principles individual or together you can create powerful mnemonic memory systems.


Imagination is the key to developing powerful associations needed to generate effective mnemonics. The more powerfully you’re able to imagine and visualize an image or situation, the better you’ll be able to use the image or situation to recall associated information.


Imagination by itself is not enough to establish an effective mnemonic system. Association is the method by which what you’re trying to remember is linked with the way you’re trying to remember it. The following are some of the most effective ways of creating associations between your imagination and what you’re trying to remember.

  • Placing things on top of each other.
  • Combining images together.
  • Crashing things together.
  • Wrapping things around each other.
  • Rotating things around each other or having them dancing together.
  • Linking things using the same color, smell, shape, or feeling.


Location is also an important element of an effective mnemonic recall system. Location provides a coherent context for storing information in a way that it stays together as well as a means for separating one mnemonic system from another. For example, by placing one mnemonic in a particular town, I can differentiate it from another mnemonic set in a different town.

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