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.

Most mnemonic strategies use visual images. But as I say in The myth of imagery, while there is no doubt that imagery can be an effective tool, there is nothing particularly special about it. The advantage of imagery is that it provides an easy way of connecting information that is not otherwise…

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
The two types of first-letter mnemonics

First-letter mnemonics are, as their name suggests, memory strategies that use the initial letters of words as aids to remembering. This can be an effective technique because initial letters are helpful retrieval cues, as anyone who has endeavored to…

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…

Keyword mnemonic

The one mnemonic strategy that has been investigated quite extensively by researchers is the keyword mnemonic. This has been used successfully in a variety of learning areas, but its chief use has been in the area of learning vocabulary.

The keyword mnemonic is…

Creating a face-name association
  • Select a distinctive feature of the face (nose).
  • Select a word or phrase that sounds like the name (con rat for Conrad).
  • Create an interactive image linking the distinctive feature with the keyword(s) (a man in a prisoner’s uniform —…

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

In 2002, a British study scanned the brains of ten "superior memorizers" — eight leading contenders in the World Memory Championships, and two individuals previously studied for their extraordinary memory accomplishments — all people that had demonstrated truly impressive feats of memory, in…

If you have a numbered list to memorize, the best mnemonic strategy is the pegword mnemonic. This mnemonic uses numbers which have been transformed into visual images. Here's the standard 1-10 set.

I add two more:

To apply the strategy to a list, you visualize…