Memory capacity and retention has less to do with sheer brainpower than it does with the tricks one can employ to get around a poor memory. These tricks, called Mnemonics (pronounced nee-MON-iks), aren’t just tricks – but are more like links, cues, and associations – almost like a hyperlink you can click while surfing the internet. Click a link, and another page pops up on your computer screen; the same goes for your brain.
The word mnemonics actually means, “aiding the memory.” Mnemonics are simple techniques used to help you remember what you want to. Whether they where aware of it or not, many people have been using mnemonics even before they could spell the word. Simple numeric rhymes like “one two, buckle my shoe, three four, shut the door, five six, pick up sticks” have been helping us remember important things since grammar school.
There are several methods within the study of mnemonics that one can employ loosely to help remember things that are important. The simplest of these methods is a system of associations called “peg words.” With peg words, you literally hang your memories on to pegs. By attaching memories to simple peg words, we can help bring forth our desired memories just by thinking of their associated peg words.However, these techniques aren’t exclusive only to grammar school students. In fact, as children we remembered things a lot easier than we do in our adult years – and mnemonics can play an integral role in reviving the memory capacity we commanded as children. In high school algebra, rhymes like “please excuse my dear aunt Sally” were used to remember factorial systems, and “Spring forward, Fall back” has been aiding forgetful adults remember to adjust their clocks according to daylight savings.
To give the readers a taste of what the peg system of mnemonics can do, let’s try a simple exercise. The goal is to remember a list of ten words in order. Although this may sound hard, it becomes infinitely easier by using peg words.
The words you need to recall appear in the list below – hint: the pegs for remembering the words are the numbers one through ten. Slowly read through the list one at a time, and as you do, think of the numbers one, two, three….all the way through ten.
Now cover the list or close your eyes – no peaking! Try to remember the words in order, thinking of the numbers one through ten as you do. You’ll soon notice that going through the list just once prior to quizzing yourselves will suffice. While if you tried to remember the list without attaching peg words – it would definitely take more than a quick once over.
Another benefit of this system is being able to recall any of the words out of order without having to run through the entire list in your mind. If you want to think of the word “gate,” just simply think of the number eight.
I’ve tried to use the pegging technique to study physics and chemistry but it didn’t work for me. I guess the technique only works for things which do not require understanding like history and remembering simple things.