Mnemonic Device

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Mnemonic device is a method that is used to enhance the memory of a person. Mnemonic does not refer to an object but a method or process to aid in the memory capability of a person. The basic principle of mnemonics relies on the associations between the words to be remembered and to the easy-to-remember information and not only to the repetition of words. This is because the human mind can easily remember words with significant meanings. (Britannica, 2007)

Kinds of mnemonic devices

There are many forms of mnemonic devices. One is the use of acronym and acrostics mnemonics. An acronym uses the first letter of a word or group of words to remember it while an acrostic is formed from a sequence of lines from which the appropriate letters are used from a word or phrase. An example of this kind of acronym or acrostics is the arranged names of the planets. The order of the planets is from mercury which is being the nearest to the sun going to Pluto which is the farthest.

To remember the order of the planets, use the acronym MVEMJSUNP.  MVEMJSUNP will mean My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles. Another is the color of the rainbow. To remember the order of color of the rainbow, the acronym ROY G BIV that will stand for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. In music, to easily memorize the order of lines of the treble staff EGBDF, the phrase Every Good Boy Does Fine or Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. (Quest, 2007)

Another form of mnemonic device is the use of rhyme. Rhyme is the likeness of the sound of two or more words. In remembering the number of days of each month, the rhyme 30 Days has September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31, except February. Imagery is another form of mnemonic devices. In this form, an image is being utilized to enhance the memory of a word or group of words. An image is being created that will be associated to a word or phrase. The more vibrant the image you have created, the more likely for a word to be remembered. A good example of this is a picture showing the hydrologic cycle. In this picture or image, one can easily memorize or remember the order of the cycle of water and the processes undergoing it.

The number-letter system is another good choice of memorizing a word or phrase. In the method, a group of number, which is different to memorize, are being assigned to letters. The letter being assigned to a number usually is associated with sound. Some of the list of number-letter system is shown below. (Quest, 2007)

  • = t (there is one downstroke in the letter t)
  • = n (there are two downstrokes in the letter n)
  • = m (there are three downstrokes in the letter m)
  • = r (the last letter in four is r)
  • = l (the Roman number 50 is L)
  • = sh (the word six has begins with an x)
  • = k (the number seven can be turned around to look like part of the letter k)
  • = f (a cursive f looks like an 8)
  • = p (a p flipped looks like a 9)
  • = z, s (think of zero)

The number-letter system is good in memorizing dates, cellular phone numbers as well as telephone numbers. Example of this system is; to memorize or remember the phone number (421) 474-8657.use the word- ReNT … youRCaR…. iF SHeLiKe. Because it is not usual to form a phrase or sentence from a given number series, the system can be inserted with vowels to create a word or phrase. (Quest, 2007)

While a peg-word system is another form of mnemonic device. It is somewhat similar to number-letter system but their main difference is that the numbers are being assigned to a word that is rhyme with the number. There is a list that is used in the peg-word system. The number 1 is associated with the word bun, 2 is shoe, 3 is tree, 4 is door, 5 is hive, 6 is sticks, 7 is heaven, 8 is gate, 9 is line or shine or vine, and 10 is hen. (Quest, 2007)

The Method of Loci

The method of Loci is a kind of mnemonic device that was first used to enhance the memory of a person. It dates back from the Greek civilization. The method of Loci is a special kind of memory enhancement because there is a prerequisite to utilize the said method. The person must be first familiar on a given place. Then assigning the words to be remembered to the objects inside the familiar location will do the association of the words. The history of the method of loci was first observed in early Greek. A Greek orator was scheduled to have a speech at a banquet.

Before his speech, he went out to take delivery of a message whereupon the hall collapsed, leaving no survivors inside. Though the remains of the body of the dead people cannot be recognized anymore, still the orator was able to identify the people who died in the hall. He based it from the location of the people where he had last seen them sitting or standing before he left from the hall. Many Greek orators used the method of Loci in remembering the words of their speeches as well as the organization of their speeches used this method. (Quest, 2007)

Analysis of the Mnemonic Device

To analyze carefully the effectiveness of the mnemonic device, one must first study the components of mnemonic device. First, a mnemonic device has a list of cues. These cues can be memory images of graphical locations. When the lists of cues are being studied, the cues must be assigned to a word, number or images. And the assignment must be one to one relationship. The relationship or the pairing of cues to their corresponding partners must be unambiguous and clear.

The components of mnemonic device clearly shows that to have an effective use of this system in enhancing the memory of a person, there must be a formation of imaginal relationship or association to a known cues and unknown list items.


Many psychologists found out that mnemonic devices are effective in enhancing the memory of a person. In evaluating the effectiveness of mnemonic devices, a person is evaluated if his memory on given information had retained. A person named S, who was observed by A.R. Luria for many years, concluded that the person using mnemonic devices has been successful in retaining his memory. The study showed that S could easily remember volumes of information.

S retains this information by associating these informations in to images that can be easily remembered. The system that is being used by the person was somewhat similar to the method of loci where the method of remembering things is related on the orientation and location of the objects in a given place. When S reads a long series of words, at least each word will be associated with an image.

And because there is a long series of words, S finds a way to remember the series of words by distributing the images in to a mental row or sequence. He often uses a long street in which he is familiar with that roadway. The words will be assigned to the image of the roadway as he walks on to the street. This method made S easily recognize the sequence of the words in series by just walking to the street. (Luria, 1968)

A good characteristic of an effective mnemonic device is the organization of information or thoughts. Making an organization on the words to be memorized is difficult and critical in understanding the information. The main concern of organization of the thoughts depends on the grouping of information to categories and this grouping needs a deep analysis to further understand the organization of the information.

A good organization or grouping of information is necessary because it lessens the words to be associated to the words being remembered. Organization is useful is when a person is required to memorize a 100-digit number. To easily memorize the given number, the person must group the numbers so that it will lessen the problem in memorizing it. Chunking or grouping the numbers in to two or three groups can do this. (Quest, 2007)

Studies showed also that enhancing the memory of a person by associating a word or phrase to an exaggerated, strange, illogical, humorous or sexual connotation are easily to be remembered than normal words. This is because the human minds remember these kinds of words easily because of the interesting nature of the words. These words are usually the talk of the people.

Arbitrariness of mnemonics

Though mnemonic device is considered effective in enhancing the memory of a person, there is somewhat arbitrariness of the system. Some psychologists consider the mnemonic device to be illogical and arbitrary in nature. Example of this arbitrariness is the acronym Roy G Biv. The said acronym is used to remember the order of the color of the rainbow. Roy is a legal name but the surname Biv is not actual or usual and the middle initial B. is arbitrary. There is a rising question why a person can easily remember the acronym Roy G Biv. (Brown, 1977)


  • Britannica, E. (Ed.) (2007). International Publishing.
  • Brown, M. (1977). Memory matters: David & Charles, New abbot.
  • Luria, A. R. (1968). The mind of a mnemonist. Retrieved June 23, 2007, from
  • Quest, T. (2007). Mnemonic Devices [Electronic Version]. Retrieved June 23, 2007 from



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