Improving Retrieval of Memories: Mnemonic Devices

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  • 1:16 Chunking
  • 1:56 Acronyms
  • 2:41 Acrostic Method
  • 3:43 Keyword Technique
  • 5:00 Method of Loci
  • 7:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Wind Goodfriend
When you have to study for a test and you need to remember a large amount of information, what strategies do you use to help your memory? These strategies are called mnemonic devices. This lesson covers several well-known mnemonic devices, such as chunking, the method of loci and the keyword technique.

Introduction

Think back to the last time you were in school and had to study for an important test. In order to prep for the test, did you organize the information in certain ways? Did you try to give yourself tricks for ways to remember the material once the test started? For example, if you have to remember the names of the five Great Lakes in Michigan, you can take the first letter of each lake and spell the word 'HOMES.' Then, when it's time to take the test, all you have to do is remember 'HOMES', and this can be a cue for each lake: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.

The mnemonic device HOMES could help you remember the names of each of the Great Lakes
HOMES

This type of trick to improve memory is called a mnemonic device. In other words, mnemonic devices are methods and strategies for organizing information to improve later recall. The word mnemonic comes from the Greek word for memory, and the ancient Greeks invented some of the ways we still use today to remember things. Let's discuss several different types. After this lesson, you can try some of the devices to help improve your own memory.

Types of Mnemonic Device

The first type of mnemonic device is the one we already discussed to remember the Great Lakes of Michigan. When we need to remember a lot of information, we can combine that information into larger units. For example, instead of remembering all five names for the Great Lakes, we give ourselves the cue of the single word 'HOMES.' If we can just remember this one word on the test when we need it, using our memory becomes a lot easier. This general strategy is called chunking. Chunking refers to combining several pieces of information into larger units to improve memory. There are two different specific types of chunking.

The first type is to take the first letter of each thing you want to remember and make a word out of those letters. That's what we did with the five Great Lakes to spell the word 'HOMES.' This specific type of chunking is called making an acronym. An acronym is a single word in which the letters stand for something else. Another example comes from music. When you want to remember the order of notes needed to read music, the treble clef notes spell the word 'FACE.' A final example also comes from music. If you want to remember the four types of voice needed for a proper singing quartet, you just need to remember the word 'STAB', which stands for Soprano, Tenor, Alto and Bass. Don't get confused and think that 'STAB' means something violent!

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