A mnemonic device, or memory device, is any learning technique that helps information retention or retrieval in human memory for better understanding. Mnemonics make use of the following as specific tools to encode information in a way that allows for efficient storage and retrieval:
- Elaborative encoding
- Retrieval cues
Mnemonics help original information in being associated with something more accessible or meaningful which offers better retention of the information. Commonly encountered mnemonics are the ones used for lists and are in the auditory form, such as:
- Short poems
- Memorable phrases
However, mnemonics can also be used for other types of information. They can be used in kinesthetic or visual forms. Their use is on the basis of the observation that the human mind more easily remembers personal, surprising, spatial, physical, humorous, or otherwise relatable information, instead of more abstract or impersonal forms of information.
The word mnemonic is derived from an Ancient Greek word that means ‘of memory’ or ‘relating to memory’. It is considered to be related to Mnemosyne, the name of the goddess of memory in Greek mythology. Mnemonics in antiquity were often considered in the context of what is known today as the art of memory.
A wide range of mnemonics is used depending upon the purpose. The most commonly used mnemonics are those for
- Numerical sequences
- Medical treatment for patients with memory deficits
- Foreign-language acquisition
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