A mnemonic is a memory tool, that is a way of improving your memory. A mnemonic helps you remember words or information that is otherwise difficult to recall. An example is the rhyme ’30 days have September, April, June and November’. The basic principle behind mnemonics is that they use as many different brain functions as possible to help you remember. These functions can include visualizing and linking words together.
Imagine that you’ve just met Mr. Tóibín and you need to remember his name. It’s not a name you’re familiar with, so you need to find a way to make it more memorable. First you try to find a word or words that are similar to the name. In this case you think of ‘toy’ and ‘bin’. To make the name easier to remember, you now need to apply higher-level elaboration. You can do this by visualisation. You could imagine someone throwing a toy into a bin. To make the image more vivid, imagine you are a child and it is your favourite toy train. How do you feel as it is thrown away? Visualise the scene, using as many senses as possible. This technique is particularly useful for memorising meaningless words, such as names, and has also shown to be good for learning foreign language vocabulary.
You can use the link system to help remember a list of items in order. You simply link the first item on the list with the second item, then the second item with the third, and so on. As with all mnemonics, you should use strong images to create the links. Some people can remember very long lists using this system.
Supposing you have to remember a list of things to do. You can use the story system to help remember the tasks in sequence. You invent a story involving the items on your list. So if you have to buy stamps, then take some books back to the library, and then phone your bank manager, you make up a story that links the tasks together. So first you visualise buying some stamps and sticking them on the cover of a library book. Then you imagine taking the book to the library. The librarian is very annoyed that you have put stamps on the book. Then, whilst you are still in the library, you phone your bank manager on your mobile phone. You start a loud conversation and the librarian throws you out of the library.
This is another technique for remembering lists, such as shopping lists. First you have to think of images for the numbers 1 to 10. For example you could use a pencil as the image for 1, a swan for number 2 etc. You then remember your list by ‘pegging’ the items from the list on the images for the numbers. So if the first thing on your shopping list is a loaf of bread, you imagine a large loaf of bread stuck on top of a pencil. Once you have learnt the images for each number, you can use these mnemonics every time you need to remember a list.