Mnemonic

Mnemonic

Overview
A mnemonic or mnemonic device, is any learning technique that aids memory
Memory
In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing memory....

. To improve long term memory, mnemonic systems are used to make memorization easier. Commonly encountered mnemonics are often verbal, such as a very short poem or a special word used to help a person remember something, particularly lists, but a mnemonic may instead be visual, kinesthetic or auditory. Mnemonics rely on associations between easy-to-remember constructs which can be related back to the data that are to be remembered.
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Encyclopedia
A mnemonic or mnemonic device, is any learning technique that aids memory
Memory
In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing memory....

. To improve long term memory, mnemonic systems are used to make memorization easier. Commonly encountered mnemonics are often verbal, such as a very short poem or a special word used to help a person remember something, particularly lists, but a mnemonic may instead be visual, kinesthetic or auditory. Mnemonics rely on associations between easy-to-remember constructs which can be related back to the data that are to be remembered. This is based on the observation that the human mind much more easily remembers spatial, personal, surprising, physical, sexual or humorous or otherwise meaningful information, as compared to retrieving arbitrary sequences.

The word mnemonic is derived from the Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 word μνημονικός mnemonikos ("of memory") and is related to Mnemosyne
Mnemosyne
Mnemosyne , source of the word mnemonic, was the personification of memory in Greek mythology. This titaness was the daughter of Gaia and Uranus and the mother of the nine Muses by Zeus:* Calliope * Clio * Erato...

 ("remembrance"), the name of the goddess of memory
Memory
In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing memory....

 in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

. Both of these words refer back to μνημα mnema ("remembrance"). Mnemonics in antiquity were most often considered in the context of what is today known as the Art of Memory
Art of memory
The Art of Memory or Ars Memorativa is a general term used to designate a loosely associated group of mnemonic principles and techniques used to organize memory impressions, improve recall, and assist in the combination and 'invention' of ideas. It is sometimes referred to as mnemotechnics...

.

The major assumption in antiquity was that there are two sorts of memory: the "natural" memory and the "artificial" memory. The former is inborn, and is the one that everyone uses every day. The artificial memory is one that is trained through learning and practicing a variety of mnemonic techniques. The latter can be used to perform feats of memory that are quite extraordinary, impossible for most people to carry out using the natural memory alone.

First letter mnemonics


One common mnemonic for remembering lists consists of an easily remembered acronym, or phrase with an acronym that is associated with the list items. The idea lends itself well to memorizing hard-to-break password
Password
A password is a secret word or string of characters that is used for authentication, to prove identity or gain access to a resource . The password should be kept secret from those not allowed access....

s as well. For example, to remember the colours of the rainbow, use the mnemonic "Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain" or the fictitious name "Roy G. Biv".
Another one is HOMES to help people remember the names of all of the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.)
In electronics, color codes
Electronic color code
The electronic color code is used to indicate the values or ratings of electronic components, very commonly for resistors, but also for capacitors, inductors, and others...

 are used on some components, with each color representing a specific value (0-9). Numerous mnemonics exist to help remember the sequence of numbers where the first letter of each word represents the first letter of the name of the color for that number. One such mnemonic is "Bill Brown Realized Only Yesterday Good Boys Value Good Work", representing the colours black (0), brown (1), red(2), orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, gray and white (9).

Mnemonics for numerical sequences


Mnemonic phrases or poems can be used to encode numeric sequences by various methods, the most common using the number of letters in each word. For example, the first 15 digits of the mathematical constant pi
Pi
' is a mathematical constant that is the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter. is approximately equal to 3.14. Many formulae in mathematics, science, and engineering involve , which makes it one of the most important mathematical constants...

 (3.14159265358979) can be encoded as "How I need a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics". A large number of so-called piems have been devised, some containing thousands of digits; see the article on "Piphilology
Piphilology
Piphilology comprises the creation and use of mnemonic techniques to remember a span of digits of the mathematical constant . The word is a play on Pi itself and the linguistic field of philology....

" for examples in multiple languages.

Arbitrariness of mnemonics


A curious characteristic of many memory systems is that mnemonics work despite being (or possibly because of being) illogical or arbitrary. "Roy" is a legitimate first name, but there is no actual surname "Biv" and of course the middle initial "G" is arbitrary. Why is "Roy G. Biv
Roy G. Biv
ROYGBIV is an acronym for the visible part of the electromagnetic light spectrum:* Red* Orange* Yellow* Green* Blue* Indigo* VioletA rainbow spans a continuous spectrum of colors; the distinct bands are an artifact of human color vision...

" easy to remember in order to memorise the order that the seven colours of the rainbow appear? ROYGBIV can also be expressed as the almost meaningless phrase "Roy Great Britain the Fourth" again referencing "Roy" but using the GB national code for Great Britain and the Roman numerals for 4, viz: IV. The sentence "Richard of York gave battle in vain" is commonly used in the UK, as is "Run over your granny because it's violent". Any two of the three months ending in -ember would fit just as euphoniously as September and November in "Thirty days hath...
Thirty days hath September
Thirty days hath September is a traditional English mnemonic rhyme, of which many variants are commonly used in English-speaking countries to remember the lengths of the months in the Julian and Gregorian calendars....

", yet most people can remember the rhyme correctly for a lifetime after having heard it once, and are never troubled by doubts as to which two of the -ember months have thirty days. A bizarre arbitrary association may stick in the mind better than a logical one.

One reason for the effectiveness of seemingly arbitrary mnemonics is the grouping of information provided by the mnemonic. Just as US phone numbers group 10 digits into three groups, the name "Roy G. Biv" groups seven colors into two short names and an initial. Various studies (most notably The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two
The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two
"The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information" is one of the most highly cited papers in psychology. It was published in 1956 by the cognitive psychologist George A. Miller of Princeton University's Department of Psychology in Psychological...

) have shown that the human brain is capable of remembering only a limited number of arbitrary items in working memory; grouping these items into chunks permits the brain to hold more of them in memory.

Assembly mnemonics



In assembly language
Assembly language
An assembly language is a low-level programming language for computers, microprocessors, microcontrollers, and other programmable devices. It implements a symbolic representation of the machine codes and other constants needed to program a given CPU architecture...

 a mnemonic is a code, usually from 1 to 5 letters, that represents an opcode
Opcode
In computer science engineering, an opcode is the portion of a machine language instruction that specifies the operation to be performed. Their specification and format are laid out in the instruction set architecture of the processor in question...

, a number.

Programming in machine code, by supplying the computer with the numbers of the operations it must perform, can be quite a burden, because for every operation the corresponding number must be looked up or remembered. Looking up all numbers takes a lot of time, and mis-remembering a number may introduce computer bugs.

Therefore a set of mnemonics was devised. Each number was represented by an alphabetic code. So instead of entering the number corresponding to addition to add two numbers one can enter "add".

Although mnemonics differ between different CPU design
CPU design
CPU design is the design engineering task of creating a central processing unit , a component of computer hardware. It is a subfield of electronics engineering and computer engineering.- Overview :CPU design focuses on these areas:...

s some are common, for instance: "sub" (subtract), "div" (divide), "add" (add) and "mul" (multiply).

This type of mnemonic is different from the ones listed above in that instead of a way to make remembering numbers easier, it is a way to make remembering numbers unnecessary (e.g. by relying on the computer's assembler program to do the lookup work.)

In foreign-language acquisition


Mnemonics can be helpful in learning a foreign language, for example by adapting a hard-to-remember foreign word to a pre-existent phrase in the learner's native language - using folk etymology. Linguist Ghil'ad Zuckermann
Ghil'ad Zuckermann
Ghil'ad Zuckermann is an Israeli-Italian-British-Australian linguist, expert of language revival, contact linguistics, lexicology and the study of language, culture and identity...

 has proposed many Anglo
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

-Hebraic
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 lexical mnemonics for English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

-speaking students of Israeli Hebrew. For example, in trying to assist the learner to remember ohel, the Hebrew word for tent, Zuckermann
Ghil'ad Zuckermann
Ghil'ad Zuckermann is an Israeli-Italian-British-Australian linguist, expert of language revival, contact linguistics, lexicology and the study of language, culture and identity...

 proposes the memorable sentence "Oh hell, there's a raccoon in my tent". The memorable sentence "There's a fork in Ma’s leg" may help the learner remember that the Hebrew word for fork is mazleg, and so forth. The notable linguist Michel Thomas
Michel Thomas
Michel Thomas was a polyglot linguist, language teacher and decorated war veteran. He survived imprisonment in several different Nazi concentration camps after serving in the Maquis of the French Resistance and worked with the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps during World War II...

 taught students to remember that estar is the Spanish word for to be by using the phrase "to be a star". These are sometimes known as linkword
Linkword
Linkword is a mnemonic system promoted by Michael Gruneberg since at least the early 1980s for learning languages based on the similarity of the sounds of words. The process involves creating an easily visualized scene that will link the words together...

s.

Mnemonics are also useful for learning elements of a foreign language that do not exist in the native language of the learner. For example, in Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 language acquisition, a student may learn the gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

 of nouns by associating masculine nouns with the color blue and feminine nouns with red. This allows them to create visual images such as a foot stepping on a pie and blue filling squirting out the sides. The Spanish word for "foot" is el pie, a masculine noun, so recollection of the blue filling will cue recall of the gender of the word.

Improving Long Term Memory Through Mnemonics


Mnemonics as we know is a technique or strategy that is used to attempt to improve memory. It attempts to make information that is already stored in long-term memory more elaborate and easier to recall. It organizes new information so that we can retrieve it with other information that is similar to it. Thus meaning, organizing the information we are trying to store with similar things we already have in our memory to make it easier to recall when we need to. One method to remember things in long-term is the method of loci is a mnemonic system where items that we want to be remembered are associated with certain landmarks or locations. For example, if I list the things I do in my day and then associated a list of words that I am trying to remember with each event, it can help me to remember the word. Lets say the first two words are 'tree' and 'seven' and my day begins with me waking up and then I brush my teeth. To remember the words, I would say 'I wake up with a tree' and second, 'I brush my seven teeth'. Notice how the words I want to recall are included with the things I do on a daily basis. This is how the method of Loci works. The second method is called the peg-word method is a mnemonic system where we try to remember items that are associated with a set of mental pegs that you already have in your memory. For example, lets use the numbers 1 to 10. The two words we want to remember are bun and shoe, so we associate the number with the words. It would sound like this, "one-bun, two-shoe' and we would recite that to remember it. Another method to remember things is by narrative stories and songs. You link certain words that you want to remember to a story. Once you make a story with the words, it is easier to recall what the words are. Mnemonics slows the rate at which you hear information and allows you to encode it better.

See also

  • Art of memory
    Art of memory
    The Art of Memory or Ars Memorativa is a general term used to designate a loosely associated group of mnemonic principles and techniques used to organize memory impressions, improve recall, and assist in the combination and 'invention' of ideas. It is sometimes referred to as mnemotechnics...

  • List of mnemonics
  • List of visual mnemonics
  • Memorization
    Memorization
    Memorization is the process of committing something to memory. The act of memorization is often a deliberate mental process undertaken in order to store in memory for later recall items such as experiences, names, appointments, addresses, telephone numbers, lists, stories, poems, pictures, maps,...

  • Memory sport
    Memory sport
    Memory sport, sometimes referred to as competitive memory or the mind sport of memory, is a competition in which participants attempt to memorize the most information that they can then present back, under certain guidelines...

  • Method of loci
    Method of loci
    The method of loci , also called the memory palace, is a mnemonic device introduced in ancient Roman rhetorical treatises . It relies on memorized spatial relationships to establish, order and recollect memorial content...

  • Mnemonic dominic system
    Mnemonic dominic system
    The mnemonic dominic system is a mnemonic system used to remember sequences of digits similar to the mnemonic major system. It was invented and used in competition by several-time memory world champion Dominic O'Brien.-Differences from the major system:...

  • Mnemonic goroawase system
    Mnemonic goroawase system
    Japanese wordplay relies on the nuances of the Japanese language and Japanese script for humorous effect.Japanese double entendres have a rich history in Japanese entertainment, because of the way that Japanese words can be read to have several different meanings and pronunciations...

  • Mnemonic link system
    Mnemonic link system
    A mnemonic link system, sometimes also known as a chain method, is a method of remembering lists, based on creating an association between the elements of that list...

  • Mnemonic major system
    Mnemonic major system
    The Major System is a mnemonic technique used to aid in memorizing numbers....