Skip to content

What are mnemonics?

Mnemonics are memory techniques whose origin goes back to antiquity. There are different techniques, but all have in common that the memory performance is increased by an association of the words, sentences or contexts to be memorized with pictorial ideas. Consistent with the concept of two processing processes (visual and verbal), words evoke visual ideas (consciously and unconsciously) and, conversely, visual ideas evoke words.

In order to enter long-term memory, the material stored in short-term memory must be enriched with associations and remain in the focus of attention for a certain time. The main problem is not storage, but retrieval and availability. Double coding theorists believe that all information is tied to sensory input. What comes in through the visual sense is stored pictorially; what is received through hearing is stored verbally. It is also possible to combine visual and verbal storage; finally, storage can also be through meaning.

Interestingly, the success of mnemonics relies on putting information into a common context that is not in itself logically or naturally related. Vividness of images enhances their memorability. Rhyme and rhythm also have a retention-enhancing effect, thus addressing the acoustic-motor memory in addition to the pictorial one. Color, as long as it is used sparingly and clearly, is useful for mnemonics, especially in grammar.

In the lexis (vocabulary of a technical language) the attention can be directed by colored markings to exceptions, difficulties or characteristics. The influence of emotionally occupied or particularly bizarre memory pictures is not yet clearly clarified, but self-generated pictures have slight advantages over given pictures, since here the own creativity is better spurred. However, this is only true if the quality of the self-generated image metaphors is as high as that of the given ones.