Practical Applications of Mnemonic Techniques
Practical Applications of Mnemonic Techniques
I have been perusing this site for quite some time looking for new or creative ideas/applications and recently decided to join due to the perceived lack of utility for the techniques I have seen. For me personally, this is disappointing because card memorization and the like while not bad, is not of any great utility. Alternatively, there are a lot of very useful applications for these techniques. I wanted to lay out a few of the ways I use them for my work in particular, and personally as well. I also figured I should contribute rather than stalk... I am by no means an expert, and would probably not do well in any memory championship, but I suspect I use these techniques in real life more than most of the people in the championships. That is obviously a subjective assessment though.
Let me first say that I have noticed a lot of people prefer loci to memorize things. As far as practical applications go, and for me personally, I do not use loci often. In fact, I find them a hindrance in many cases because they require too much structural preparation beforehand. My impression is that many people spend more time just building their memory palaces than actually memorizing information. Your brain works based on connections, and trying to “compartmentalize” that information means working against the grain in my limited medical opinion. I prefer to use variations of the peg system and link method. A note about that: in the peg system, pegs are loci, but allow for easier numbering of ordered items. You don’t have to worry about forgetting where you put something if you're old enough to count, and the pegs are also useful for anything else with numbers. More importantly, it is great for on-the-fly memorization and still provides more structure than loci. It’s practically infinite compared with loci because you don’t have to focus on having enough “space” in a palace versus having an individual object based on the major system (which I use to make my pegs - ties everything together). I recommend Harry Lorayne’s books to anyone interested in the practical side of mnemonics. He is probably the most famous pioneer of practical utility for mnemonics. His very first book, “How to Have a Superpower Memory” despite the cheesy name is a great read and can be found for free online.
Now, for the practical applications. I use mnemonics for a lot of things at work and at home. In addition to names, faces and personal information for people I meet, I use mnemonics on a daily basis to remember many things already mentioned on this forum such as license plates and their respective vehicles/types, directions, safe combinations, phone numbers, and foreign vocabulary to name a few. Probably one of the most unique purposes I use mnemonics for includes conversation. My job involves a lot of talking to people and it helps to know where I want conversations to go. Generally speaking, this means determining a direction for the conversation beforehand. I use mnemonics to memorize the major points I want to hit on during conversation. It means conversation is smoother, and the mnemonic cues help me move from topic to topic seamlessly. It is also helpful in reverse: I can remember what people tell me by linking mnemonic images as major points. As Harry Lorayne points out, your natural memory will fill in the blanks and make natural associations. Trust it. You only need to draw the outline. And, here’s a free tip to those of you interested in the topic of elicitation: people like talking about themselves (hence I'm still writing here). It’s human nature. If you can memorize a few flattering facts about someone before speaking with them, then guide the conversation to those topics; usually the other person will do all the talking after that. The book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is one of the best references for anyone who wants to know more in that regard.
One final note: contrary to popular belief, mnemonic techniques are not for initial long-term storage. They can be used for that with adequate review, but work better when you let your “non-mnemonic” memory do the work and eventually absorb the information you retained using mnemonics. Mnemonics are only a way to hold information a lot longer so it can be absorbed and become more readily available for learning or recorded in some other way. In that respect (and also contrary to popular belief), it is very useful for learning new things. I notice a lot of people want to memorize books etc. using mnemonics. I’m sure it can be done, but I have yet to see a mnemonic technique effective in accomplishing it. Understanding the principles mnemonics are based on is key to knowing how to use them. This is my two cents, take it for what it's worth.
Hopefully some of this info is helpful and can stimulate some discussion. Anyway, I'd love to hear any feedback. Also, I love this site and have very much enjoyed spending way too much time reading through the forums. Thanks to everyone for making this site so great.