Strategies for Memory Improvement - Mnemonics

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Visual Mnemonics

  • Method of Loci: 
    • To use the method of loci you need to identify a set of familiar places that you can imagine walking through.
    • Convert each item you want to remember into an image and mentally place it one of the locations. 
    • The locations act as retrieval cues because you already know them well. 
  • Spider Diagrams and Mind Maps:
    • These involve making notes of information in the form of drawing, usually a branching pattern, with the main topic in the centre and component elements/ideas radiating outwards.
    • Pictures can be included and different colours can be used, meaning each diagram has its own distinctive visual appearance. This adds a range of visual cues to the verbal information, which aids recall.
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Verbal Mnemonics

  • Acronym:
    • A word or sentence is formed from the initial letters of other words.
    • E.g. BOGOF (buy one get one free)
  • Acrostic:
    • A poem or sentence where the first letter in each line or word comes from the item to be remembered.
    • E.g. My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto).
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Research Studies of Mnemonics

  • Bower and Clarke (1960) found that participants who used narrative stories to help them recall lists of nouns in the correct order remembered 93% compared to only 13% for participants not using narrative stories. This suggests that verbal mnemonics are a powerful aid to memory.
  • Baltes and Kliegl (1992) found that older adults should use verbal mnemonics rather than visual ones, as they increasingly find it harder to produce and recall visual images. This suggests that the ability to use different forms of mnemonics changes throughout an individual's life. 
  • Herrmann (1987) found that interactive imagery, where two items are linked together, was the most effective strategy, but that the verbal mnemonic of creating a narrative story is most effective for recalling lists of items in any order. This implies different mnemonic techniques are more effective with particular types of memory tasks. 
  • Marston and Young (1974) compared visual and verbal mnemonic techniques in remembering word lists. They found that verbal strategies produced equal recall of items classed as 'high imagery' and 'medium imagery', while visual strategies resulted in higher performance for 'high imagery' words, but lower performance for 'medium imagery' words. This suggests that the best strategy to use depends upon the type of information being recalled. 
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Mnemonics Evaluation

  • People differ in their abilities to visualise and therefore the usefulness of visual imagery is dependent on how much an individual is a 'high-imager' or a 'low-imager'.
  • Mnemonics work by allowing the storage of structured information, providing links to existing memories. Information becomes linked in an organised way, whereby retrieval of a familiar item leads to the recall of less familiar items. 
  • Visual imagery mnemonics often only work when trying to learn and recall actual objects rather than abstract concepts and ideas.
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