Have you ever heard of Simon Reinhard? He’s a two-time World Memory Champion, European Memory Champion and German Champion. He also holds the Guinness World Record for memorizing 92 digits in 1 minute (Simon, 2020). But how does he do it? In the age of information, memory techniques are your secret weapon!
Also known as mnemonic devices – from the Greek word mnemon, meaning “to remember”- these strategies can be helpful for a person who wants to improve their ability to remember something – even after a concussion. Mnemonic devices are techniques developed thousands of years ago by the ancient Greeks to help them memorize long speeches, and these tricks were later adopted by the Romans who kept so-called memory slaves “graeculi” (little Greeks), and whose purpose it was to memorize all kinds of things (Kuepper-Tetzel, 2020; Psych Central, 2016).
Even though these techniques can be traced back in time, it might surprise you to know that we all use them, even if we don’t know their names. Mnemonic devices are simply ways of memorizing information by making them “stick” in our brain so that we can recall them more easily later (Psych Central, 2016).
But becoming successful in the use of mnemonics depends on two main factors: first, you have to figure out the right technique, and then you need to take the time to practice.
Effective mnemonic devices also follow three main principles (Kuepper-Tetzel, 2020):
So what are some examples of mnemonic devices commonly used by memory athletes like Reinhard?
With the memory palace, it’s useful to follow these steps:
LET’S TRY IT OUT:
Words to remember: MONKEY, BOOKS, SNOWBALL, BIKE…
You see the door to your home and you think it would be a great idea to replace the doorbell with a MONKEY. You remove the doorbell and place a monkey at the front door. Then you go inside your home, you take off your shoes in the hallway and you place them on top of a huge pile of BOOKS (this way they will be easy to reach). Then you hang your coat on a hanger and notice there is a mountain of SNOWBALLS in the closet. You get hit in face with a snowball, so you close the door and make your way to the living room where you throw your huge BIKE onto the sofa and take a seat on it.
Later, when you want to retrieve this list of seemingly random words, you can go into your memory palace and retrieve the words from the locations in your home where you placed them.
The memory palace organizes the words or material you need to memorize in a systematic order, it allows you to elaborate on the material by adding meaningful or bizarre content, and mental imagery (Kuepper-Tetzel, 2020).
Rhymes are sayings that share a common sound at the end of the phrase or line. These can make remembering information easier because they can be stored in the part of our brains associated with sound or acoustic encoding (Psych Central, 2016).
Maybe you’ve seen this one before: