A new book, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, has been creating some buzz recently. The book (I haven’t read it) is apparently about a journalist’s year of memory training that culminated in him making the finals of the U.S.A. Memory Championships. Clearly...

How the keyword method works

The keyword method has been especially pushed as an effective strategy for learning foreign vocabulary. It is presumably equally valuable for extending your native-language vocabulary and learning technical jargon, and has also been used successfully to teach social...

Find out about the pegword mnemonic

To celebrate Māori Language Week here in Aotearoa (New Zealand), I've put together a pegword set in te reo:

  1. tahi — ahi
  2. rua — ua
  3. toru — tūru
  4. whā — taniwha
  5. rima — rama
  6. ono — hono
  7. whitu —...

There are two well-established strategies for remembering people’s names. The simplest basically involves paying attention. Most of the time our memory for someone’s name fails because we never created an effective memory code for it.

An easy strategy for improving your memory for names


As I said in my discussion of different scripts, Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Here it is (the 3rd column shows the English counterpart):

А  а   a

Б  б   b

В  в   v


In the following case study, I explore in depth the issue of learning the geological time scale — names, dates, and defining events. The emphasis is on developing mnemonics, of course, but an important part of the discussion concerns when and when not to use mnemonics, and how to decide.

The method of loci or place method

This is the classic mnemonic strategy, dating back to the ancient Greeks, and is (as evident from its continued use over 2500 years) an extremely effective strategy for remembering lists.

First of all, you choose a place you know very very well. Perhaps...

Find out about the pegword mnemonic

Here are pegwords I've thought up in the Italian language.

As with the original example, let's try it out with our cranial nerves.

In italiano, sono i nervi cranici:

  1. olfattorio
  2. ottico
  3. oculumotore...

In the mid-seventies, Raugh and Atkinson had remarkable results using the keyword method to teach Russian vocabulary to college students. While later studies have not tended to find such dramatic results, nevertheless, a large number of studies have demonstrated an advantage in using the keyword...

The story method (sometimes called the sentence mnemonic) is the most easily learned list-mnemonic strategy, although it is not as widely known as the other simple methods we’ve talked about so far.

As its name suggests, the story method involves linking words to be learned in a story....