Academic success is still largely contingent on the ability to memorize. This is quite clear both during and after high school. A little research will make clear that the study of memory is the real deal. There are ways to improve your memory that have the potential to drastically change student’s life for the better. In fact, as a college and student loan planner it’s something I’m eager to share with younger students in the hope they will learn and apply the strategies early, saving thousands of hours of study over a lifetime. I know I wish I would have been taught these “hacks” in public school.
What is the study of mnemonics?
This post is to introduce you to mnemonics, otherwise known as the study of systems for improving your memory. I’ve linked to the Wikipedia article on the subject, and I would encourage you to give it a read. In its essence, mnemonics teaches information is best retained when stored visually using mental imagery. It’s as simple as that.
Want to know the power of these strategies? Try this example.
Take this brief example. I ask you to remember a list of random items: pencil, avocado, Chevy truck, grass, and parade. Chances are, you will not remember these items (and certainly not in order) for a long time because they have no meaning to you. By applying mnemonics through mental imagery, you will have a better chance of retaining the information for as long as you need it.
To begin, picture a pencil in your mind’s eye. But not just an ordinary pencil…it’s a pencil drawing a tattoo on an avocado (note: bizarre images are easier to remember)! The avocado laughs because the tattoo “needle” doesn’t hurt – it tickles! Now, you see a Chevy Truck running over an avocado. Picture it clearly in your mind: the Chevy is so new the grill sparkles as the green avocado guts squirt across the road. The avocado groans; its tattoo is ruined! Finally, imagine a broom made of fresh, green grass coming along to sweep away the avocado parts strung all over the road. The crime scene is now sparkling clean, just in time for the parade to roll into town. But wait, the parade is not a human one, it’s full of cute rabbits hopping, twirling batons.
It’s easier to remember now, right?
Before you decide I’m off my rocker, go back over the list in your mind. It’s easier to remember now, right? This is a basic application of a mnemonic technique called the link system, and you could as easily use it to learn a list of 100 random objects.
Congratulations, you have now applied your first mnemonic technique to aid your memory! From here, the techniques get more complex and powerful. Although I can’t cover all of them in this post (for fear of it becoming entirely too long) specific strategies to improve your memory include:
I have linked these items to websites where you can learn more. Another way to master mnemonics is to read The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne and Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer (this reads more like a story than non-fiction). Both books take a deep dive into the memory-improving techniques mentioned above.