[[File:Month - Knuckles (en).svg|thumb|right|320px|[[Knuckle mnemonic]] for the number of days in each month of the Gregorian Calendar. Each knuckle represents a 31-day month.]]A mnemonic (, the first "m" is silent) device, or memory device, is any learning technique that aids information retention or retrieval (remembering) in the human memory. Mnemonics make use of elaborative encoding, retrieval cues, and imagery as specific tools to encode any given information in a way that allows for efficient storage and retrieval. Mnemonics aid original information in becoming associated with something more accessible or meaningful—which, in turn, provides better retention of the information. Commonly encountered mnemonics are often used for lists and in auditory system form, such as short poems, , or memorable phrases, but mnemonics can also be used for other types of information and in visual or kinesthetic forms. Their use is based on the observation that the human mind more easily remembers spatial, personal, surprising, physical, sexual, humorous, or otherwise "relatable" information, rather than more abstract or impersonal forms of information.
The word "mnemonic" is derived from the Ancient Greek word μνημονικός ( mnēmonikos), meaning "of memory, or relating to memory" μνημονικός, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus and is related to Mnemosyne ("remembrance"), the name of the goddess of memory in Greek mythology. Both of these words are derived from μνήμη ( mnēmē), "remembrance, memory". μνήμη, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Mnemonics in antiquity were most often considered in the context of what is today known as the art of memory.
Ancient Greeks and Romans distinguished between two types of memory: the "natural" memory and the "artificial" memory. The former is inborn, and is the one that everyone uses instinctively. The latter in contrast has to be trained and developed through the learning and practice of a variety of mnemonic techniques.
Mnemonic systems are techniques or strategies consciously used to improve memory. They help use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorisation an easier task.Carlson, Neil and et al. Psychology the Science of Behavior, p. 245. Pearson Canada, United States of America. .
The Greek and the Roman system of mnemonics was founded on the use of mental places and signs or pictures, known as "topical" mnemonics. The most usual method was to choose a large house, of which the apartments, walls, windows, statues, furniture, etc., were each associated with certain names, phrases, events or ideas, by means of symbolic pictures. To recall these, an individual had only to search over the apartments of the house until discovering the places where images had been placed by the imagination.
In accordance with said system, if it were desired to fix a historic date in memory, it was localised in an imaginary town divided into a certain number of districts, each of with ten houses, each house with ten rooms, and each room with a hundred quadrates or memory-places, partly on the floor, partly on the four walls, partly on the roof. Therefore, if it were desired to fix in the memory the date of the invention of printing (1436), an imaginary book, or some other symbol of printing, would be placed in the thirty-sixth quadrate or memory-place of the fourth room of the first house of the historic district of the town. Except that the rules of mnemonics are referred to by Martianus Capella, nothing further is known regarding the practice until the 13th century.
Among the voluminous writings of Roger Bacon is a tractate De arte memorativa. Ramon Llull devoted special attention to mnemonics in connection with his ars generalis. The first important modification of the method of the Romans was that invented by the German poet Konrad Celtes, who, in his Epitoma in utramque Ciceronis rhetoricam cum arte memorativa nova (1492), used letters of the alphabet for associations, rather than places. About the end of the 15th century, Petrus de Ravenna (b. 1448) provoked such astonishment in Italy by his mnemonic feats that he was believed by many to be a necromancer. His Phoenix artis memoriae (Venice, 1491, 4 vols.) went through as many as nine editions, the seventh being published at Cologne in 1608.
About the end of the 16th century, Lambert Schenkel ( Gazophylacium, 1610), who taught mnemonics in France, Italy and Germany, similarly surprised people with his memory. He was denounced as a sorcerer by the University of Louvain, but in 1593 he published his tractate De memoria at Douai with the sanction of that celebrated theological faculty. The most complete account of his system is given in two works by his pupil Martin Sommer, published in Venice in 1619. In 1618 John Willis (d. 1628?) published Mnemonica; sive ars reminiscendi,English language by Leonard Sowersby, 1661; extracts in Gregor von Feinaigle's New Art of Memory, 3rd ed., 1813. containing a clear statement of the principles of topical or local mnemonics. Giordano Bruno included a memoria technica in his treatise De umbris idearum, as part of his study of the ars generalis of Ramon Llull. Other writers of this period are the Florence Publicius (1482); Johannes Romberch (1533); Hieronimo Morafiot, Ars memoriae (1602);and B. Porta, Ars reminiscendi (1602).
In 1648 Stanislaus Mink von Wennsshein revealed what he called the "most fertile secret" in mnemonics — using consonants for figures, thus expressing numbers by words (vowels being added as required), in order to create associations more readily remembered. The philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz adopted an alphabet very similar to that of Wennsshein for his scheme of a form of writing common to all languages.
Wennsshein's method was adopted with slight changes afterward by the majority of subsequent "original" systems. It was modified and supplemented by Richard Grey (1694-1771), a priest who published a Memoria technica in 1730. The principal part of Grey's method is briefly this: (His method is comparable to the Hebrew system by which letters also stand for numerals, and therefore words for dates.)
To assist in retaining the mnemonical words in the memory, they were formed into memorial lines. Such strange words in difficult hexameter scansion, are by no means easy to memorise. The vowel or consonant, which Grey connected with a particular figure, was chosen arbitrarily.
A later modification was made in 1806 Gregor von Feinaigle, a German monk from Salem near Lake Constance. While living and working in Paris, he expounded a system of mnemonics in which (as in Wennsshein) the numerical figures are represented by letters chosen due to some similarity to the figure or an accidental connection with it. This alphabet was supplemented by a complicated system of localities and signs. Feinaigle, who apparently did not publish any written documentation of this method, travelled to England in 1811. The following year one of his pupils published The New Art of Memory (1812), giving Feinaigle's system. In addition, it contains valuable historical material about previous systems.
Other later published simplified forms, as the more complicated menemonics were generally abandoned. Methods founded chiefly on the so-called laws of association (cf. Mental association) were taught with some success in Germany.A simplified form of Feinaigle's method was published by Aimé Paris ( Principes et applications diverses de la mnémonique, 7th ed., Paris, 1834). The use of symbolic pictures was revived in connection with the latter by Antoni Jaźwińsky of Poland. His system was published by the Polish general J. Bem, under the title Exposé général de la méthode mnémonique polonaise, perfectionnée à Paris (Paris, 1839). Various other modifications of the systems were advocated by subsequent mnemonists right through the 19th century. More complicated systems were proposed in the 20th century, such as the Keesing Memory System, the System of Memory and Mental Training, and the Pelman memory system.
Some common examples for first letter mnemonics:
Another is used for "calculating" the multiples of 9 up to 9 × 10 using one's fingers. Begin by holding out both hands with all fingers stretched out. Now count left to right the number of fingers that indicates the multiple. For example, to figure 9 × 4, count four fingers from the left, ending at your left-hand index finger. Bend this finger down and count the remaining fingers. Fingers to the left of the bent finger represent tens, fingers to the right are ones. There are three fingers to the left and six to the right, which indicates 9 × 4 = 36. This works for 9 × 1 up through 9 × 10.
For example, in trying to assist the learner to remember ohel, the Hebrew language word for tent, the memorable sentence " Oh hell, there's a raccoon in my tent" can be used. Also in Hebrew, a way to remember the word, bayit (bahy- it), meaning house, one can use the sentence "that's a lovely house, I'd like to bayit." The linguist Michel Thomas taught students to remember that estar is the Spanish word for to be by using the phrase "to be a star".
Another Spanish example is by using the mnemonic "Vin Diesel Has Ten Weapons" to teach irregular command verbs in the you form. Spanish verb forms and tenses are regularly seen as the hardest part of learning the language. With a high number of verb tenses, and many verb forms that are not found in English, Spanish verbs can be hard to remember and then conjugate. The use of mnemonics has been proven to help students better learn foreign languages, and this holds true for Spanish verbs. A particularly hard verb tense to remember is command verbs. Command verbs in Spanish are conjugated differently depending on who the command is being given to. The phrase, when pronounced with a Spanish accent, is used to remember "Ven Di Sal Haz Ten Ve Pon Sé", all of the irregular Spanish command verbs in the you form. This mnemonic helps students attempting to memorize different verb tenses. Another technique is for learners of gendered languages to associate their of words with a colour that matches the gender in the target language. An example here is to remember the Spanish word for "foot," pie, pee-ay with the image of a foot stepping on a pie, which then spills blue filling (blue representing the male gender of the noun in this example).
In a study conducted by Doornhein and De Haan, the patients were treated with six different memory strategies including the mnemonics technique. The results concluded that there were significant improvements on the immediate and delayed subtest of the RBMT, delayed recall on the Appointments test, and relatives rating on the MAC from the patients that received mnemonics treatment. However, in the case of stroke patients, the results did not reach statistical significance.das Nair R, Lincoln N, Cognitive rehabilitation for memory deficits following stroke (Review), p.2. 2008 The Cochrane Collaboration. Published by JohnWiley & Sons, Ltd.
Mnemonics vary in effectiveness for several groups ranging from young children to the elderly. Mnemonic learning strategies require time and resources by educators to develop creative and effective devices. The most simple and creative mnemonic devices usually are the most effective for teaching. In the classroom, mnemonic devices must be used at the appropriate time in the instructional sequence to achieve their maximum effectiveness.McAlum, Harry G., and Sharon S. Seay., "The use/application of mnemonics as a pedagogical tool in auditing""Academy of Educational Leadership Journal", May 2010
Mnemonics were seen to be more effective for groups of people who struggled with or had weak long-term memory, like the elderly. Five years after a mnemonic training study, a research team followed-up 112 community-dwelling older adults, 60 years of age and over. Delayed recall of a word list was assessed prior to, and immediately following mnemonic training, and at the 5-year follow-up. Overall, there was no significant difference between word recall prior to training and that exhibited at follow-up. However, pre-training performance gains scores in performance immediately post-training and use of the mnemonic predicted performance at follow-up. Individuals who self-reported using the mnemonic exhibited the highest performance overall, with scores significantly higher than at pre-training. The findings suggest that mnemonic training has long-term benefits for some older adults, particularly those who continue to employ the mnemonic.O'Hara, Ruth et al, "Long-term effects of mnemonic training in community-dwelling older adults" "Journal of Psychiatric Research", October 2007
This contrasts with a study from surveys of medical students that approximately only 20% frequently used mnemonic acronyms.Brotle, D.Charles "The role of mnemonic acronyms in clinical emergency medicine: A grounded theory study", 2011
In humans, the process of aging particularly affects the medial temporal lobe and hippocampus, in which the episodic memory is synthesized. The episodic memory stores information about items, objects, or features with spatiotemporal contexts. Since mnemonics aid better in remembering spatial or physical information rather than more abstract forms, its effect may vary according to a subject's age and how well the subject's medial temporal lobe and hippocampus function.
This could be further explained by one recent study which indicates a general deficit in the memory for spatial locations in aged adults (mean age 69.7 with standard deviation of 7.4 years) compared to young adults (mean age 21.7 with standard deviation of 4.2 years). Interestingly, at first, the difference in target recognition was not significant.
The researchers then divided the aged adults into two groups, aged unimpaired and aged impaired, according to a neuropsychological testing. With the aged groups split, there was an apparent deficit in target recognition in aged impaired adults compared to both young adults and aged unimpaired adults. This further supports the varying effectiveness of mnemonics in different age groups.Reagh et al. Spatial discrimination deficits as a function of mnemonic interference in aged adults with and without memory impairment, "Hippocampus" (3):303-14 (2014)
Moreover, a different research was done previously with the same notion, which presented with similar results to that of Reagh et al. in verbal mnemonics discrimination taskLy et al, Perceptual versus conceptual interference and pattern separation of verbal stimuli in young and older adults., "Hippocampus" 23:425-340 (2013).
Studies (notably "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two") have suggested that the short-term memory of adult humans can hold only a limited number of items; grouping items into larger chunks such as in a mnemonic might be part of what permits the retention of a larger total amount of information in short-term memory, which in turn can aid in the creation of long-term memories.