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What is a Mnemonic Device?

Simply put, a mnemonic device is a memory aid. Chances are, you’re pretty familiar already with some of them. So much so that you may not even realize that your memory tricks are mnemonic devices! Things such as the alphabet song, nursery rhymes, and multiplication fact songs are all examples.

Mnemonic devices are truly used in all walks of life. In fact, these are also used to help those suffering from the early stages of dementia. People with mild cognitive impairment saw 33% better results on a memory assessment after learning how to effectively use mnemonic devices, according to LiveScience.

There are so many different types of mnemonic devices, some of them even date back to ancient Greece! What are the different types of mnemonic devices and how do I apply them? 

Acronyms

mnemonic device

Acronyms are abbreviations that use the initial letters of a term to create another, shorter word. You can find them everywhere from t-shirts to your Facebook home feed. 

Here are just some of the most prominent acronyms in the English language:

Acronym

Full Meaning

NASA
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
POTUS
President of the United States
SCOTUS
Supreme Court of the United States
ASAP
As Soon As Possible
AWOL
Absent Without Leave
Navy SEAL
Sea Air Land
OSHA
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
SWAT
Special Weapons and Tactics
GIF
Graphics Interchange Format
RADAR
Radio Detection and Ranging
SONAR
Sound Navigation and Ranging

That’s not all! The United States government uses acronyms for most of their departments, even the ones outside of those listed above. Check more acronyms and abbreviations out at Acronyms List

Chunking

mnemonic device

Chunking is a way of breaking down larger pieces of information into smaller ones to make them more easily remembered. 

For a fully healthy mind, meaning there’s a lack of cognitive impairments or learning disabilities, the short-term memory can only retain seven things at a time, according to Psych Central.

An example of chunking is making a grocery list. Are you someone who categorizes their shopping list by department? This is using a mnemonic device! You are taking one large list and categorizing it into a few tinier ones in order to be able to better remember it. 

Rhyming

mnemonic devices

Growing up, many of us who love Music would often hear; “You can remember all of those lyrics but you can’t remember this or that!” Well, there’s a reason. The mnemonic device of rhyming uses acoustic encoding. 

Acoustic encoding is the process of remembering and understanding what you’re hearing using repetition of words, putting the information to a song or making up a rhyme uses acoustic encoding. 

Many children’s programs use rhyming to promote education. 

Here are some of the most popular and important rhymes for English speakers to know and how they’re used;

SAYING

MEANING

Whatever it may be, if you’re unsure the safest bet is probably to just throw it in the garbage. Words such as perceive and receive deviate from the normal standard of “I” coming before “E”

 

SAYING

MEANING

Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey
When screwing something on, even a bottle cap, pay attention to how you turn your hand while doing it. You turn right to make it tighter and left to open it.
When in Doubt, Throw it Out
Maybe there’s no expiration date or maybe there’s a funky smell coming from it. Whatever it may be, if you’re unsure the safest bet is probably to just throw it in the garbage.
30 Days has September, April, June, and November
This technique is used to remember which months are a day shorter than all of the others.
Leaves of Three, Let it Be
This saying is in respects to the skin-irritating plant, poison ivy. It’s intended to help American’s decipher between poison ivy and other similar looking plants.
“I” before “E”, Except After “C”
This grammar trick is used to help English speakers remember how to spell some tricky words. Words such as perceive and receive deviate from the normal standard of “I” coming before “E”


Imagery as Mnemonic Device

mnemonic devices

Very similar to its roots in literature, imagery is used to memorize a smaller piece of info, says Psych Central. You would imagine an image in your head to define the word. 

Let’s create a mnemonic device for remembering Queen Nefertiti and her religious rebellion. Since Queen Nefertiti worshipped the sun god, you could say –  

“She would never be caught drinking any type of tea except sun tea.” 

We incorporated the syllables of her name with never, tea, and tea while also making sure there was a bit about the sun since that’s important to Nefertiti’s story. 

You can also use imagery to help remember names. For example, if you need to remember your new co-worker, Penelope. If Penelope has a cheery and fun personality, you may remember her name by referring to her as “Peppy Penelope” in your head. 

Chaining

mnemonic devices

Chaining is the process of developing a story or image that connects together the pieces of information that you’d need to remember, according to VeryWell Health. This mnemonic device is often used to help children and dementia patients remember all of the steps to something. 

Let’s think about an older gentleman who can’t remember what he needs to leave the house with. The story you compose for him may look like; 

Eugene’s wallet got up and went to the sink to brush his dentures. At the sink his dentures left him a friendly note to say “don’t forget to take your medications!” but when Eugene opens the cabinet his wallet is shocked to find his keys!

The Method of Loci (lo-sigh)

mnemonic device

This method is first attributed to the Greek poet, Simonides of Ceos in 477 BC, and is widely thought to be the first mnemonic device. 

With this practice, the learner should close their eyes and visualize being in a room or any familiar place and mentally associate facts of information with specific landmarks, objects, or locations on the way. 

The idea is that the learner will be able to remember what they have learned while they walk through the room again in their mind. These objects, locations, and landmarks are supposed to trigger the information associated with them when you “walk past” them again! 

Test your English skill level at Test Your Language and then head to Cudoo for state-of-the-art English courses you can take right from the comfort of your couch!

These are just some of the examples of mnemonic devices. What are your tips for remembering things? Let us know in the comments below!

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