The Disregard for Mnemonics

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#1 5 December, 2017 - 10:42
Joined: 1 week 2 days ago

The Disregard for Mnemonics

I've been using memory techniques for a while, and they have been truly helpful this year. I have found that for most of my college work is just memorization, even in math classes. I've grown a reputation around my classmates to being one of the smartest kids in the class, and most of them believe that I'm just naturally talented instead of using memory techniques.

Every so often when someone asks me how I do the things that I do, I give them a brief and non-complicated overview of the memory techniques that I use. Everytime I try to encourage my classmates to use these techniques, they never go through with it. I'm just wondering what other's experiences are with trying to get others to use memory techniques, and why it seems that average person disregards mnemonics techniques?

5 December, 2017 - 11:34
Joined: 2 years 7 months ago

I feel like people are not looking for methods, they are looking for a pill that makes them instantly remember everything.

5 December, 2017 - 17:47
Joined: 3 months 1 week ago

I agree with Mayarra. They are looking for a no effort way of learning and remembering.
I have taught the most basic of all at the beginning of some classes: the link system.

Generally everyone thinks it's great since they can remember a list of 20 items forward and backward, or I can call out an item and they can go forward and backward from there.

I also point out how it can be used as a component of their study to help get things into LTM more easily /quickly.

But later, almost none of them use even that. They go back to highlighting the text and cramming; probably because that's what they have always done and it's been good enough (they are satisficing).

7 December, 2017 - 03:18
Joined: 1 month 3 weeks ago

Interesting topic.


I think that because we (people writing on a forum about memory) are so close and familiar to Memory Methods that there is a danger (and I find myself doing this all the time) of forgetting that memory methods are only a very small part (and fabulous addition) to the process of learning new stuff, ingraining a habit or improving an existing skill.

We have seen it time after time in people and companies and websites developing Memory Courses and Techniques and get together and forums and all sorts of things and sadly, the general consensus is that people just do not care a damn about general memory philosophies. They really don't. Just as most people don't care about Mathematics or Grammar or Fashion or Art....

They do however care about small realisable improvements that are relevant to their own lives.

So even if they are not interested in the whole field of memory studies, they are interested in things that are relevant to them that are simple enough to introduce quickly and are shown to be of great value.

We can do something about that, but it will take a long time. A long long time. So what we need to do is look for PROGRESS not PERFECTION. And that to me means my not getting disheartened if others can't grasp what I am on about, - it is not their fault. It's mine. Too much information is a phrase I heard a lot when I started bleating on about PAOs and Penrose Stair Memory Palaces.....

Took a while to realize that the fault lay with me..... and that there are ways of getting things across that make a small difference, like drawing attention to the present ways they memorise things and modify them, to colour coding instructions, simple associations, symbols, it comes down to thing at a time step by step..

The reasons why people are so reluctant are many: Prime is that we as a species do not like change. We are hard wired against it (it's called homoeostasis and includes thought patterns). We don't see the relevance to our quality of life or productivity. They do not believe it is for them, that memory systems work or could possibly be true and even if they did the effort required is too much. Our job is to help them believe in themselves and what they already know... then add one thing more.

7 December, 2017 - 15:35
Joined: 3 months 1 week ago

Respectfully, I already have a job.
Given that the question was about mnemonics I think it reasonable to answer the question and not try to diagnose people's issues and give life lessons...thats what pubs are for :)

12 December, 2017 - 00:35
Joined: 1 month 3 weeks ago

By the same token, my fault that I did not manage to get my point across to you without you pulling up the drawbridge. Must try harder. Memory Techniques and their use and application in Education is an area where many people have strong views. Positive and negative views. Views and opinions which make you either wish to continue promoting the use of memory techniques in education or conversely say "there's no point people have a disdain for them" and effectively give up. I'll never give up. Because they are useful,. but only in context and where made to be personally relevant. Even in a pub.

12 December, 2017 - 22:39
Joined: 3 months 1 week ago

I believe there is no question that mnemonics would benefit education. I know that some think it not necessary anymore with the advent of the internet. "as long as you know where to find the information" seems to be the mantra.
However, even a very brief thought would show this to be false. Memory is required in order to learn. So, mnemonics of some sort will help with that. And most students use at least some, even if only an acrostic.
Don't worry about drawbridges, it's VERY difficult to get me to take offense.
If I come across terse, it's because I'm often trying to respond from my phone and I'm pathetic at texting, so terse is good, although I may give the wrong impression.

13 December, 2017 - 03:23
Joined: 1 month 3 weeks ago

Respectfully I've already got a job, I don't need another one trying to second guess whether you have replied using a phone which lead to you being terse and just possibly inadvertently gave the wrong impression.

But in a spirit of reconciliation, as - let's face it we are both into memory techniques and both believe they are useful, - so I'll stop preaching as much (funnily enough your not the first to say this...guess you are correct..) if you'd take on board that (inadvertently) you came across to me as a tad negative (glass half full kind of guy).

I got the impression that you had some sort of limbic reaction to my post and wanted to tell me in no uncertain terms that in your opinion I mustn't suggest a possible strategy to bear in mind when the question of how we get people interested in using memory techniques in education comes up.

If you were to read my 'introduce yourself' post I am interested in memory techniques not for the sake of memory competition but how to help people develop deeper mental representations of the things they are must learn. There is a huge, proved correlation (i.e. not causal - not yet anyway) between a person's mental representation of that activity and their skill at doing that thing. Prof Barry Zimmerman predicted the actual measurable skill level of a group of sports people by not seeing them play, but by measuring how well they could describe the process of playing - he was 95% right when the description score was plotted against the actual skill level as judged by top judges. So, I thought - why not help people develop a mental rep in addition to just training them in the activity? Can't do any harm,. And it doesn't. And it makes them interested in things they previously were not interested in looking at...

I've been deeply interested in the "Holy Grail" of motivating people in training. That area includes education and business and indeed things for pleasure like hobbies... And that is: How do you help people learn to do things that they do not really feel like learning. But must. Great progress has been made on that in the last twenty years to the point that, essentially the problem has been solved. But only theoretically. Implementing it is quite another matter. Proving it another. But we are making great progress.

A similar problem faces the use of memory techniques in education, we know they can help... but how to implement it? Key to this, I think (and yes I may be wrong) is one of the points the "SERMON" I preached (I mean posted) above.

Kind Regards (genuine) from Glasgow. (on a phone)...

13 December, 2017 - 05:23
Joined: 2 months 2 weeks ago

Hi guys

I'm also a student myself. I find mnemonics useful to memorize lists of complicated words, speeches for class presentations and important details. But I never use the techniques to remember the material itself unless I'm in a rush or don't give a damn about the material, since I found that taking your time to understand the material is much more efficient than spending your time memorizing and having to constantly review it just to be able to spew the material like a parrot without truly understanding it.

I've tried both methods, and I found that when I truly understand a concept I don't need to review it constantly and will remember it even weeks later.

So, in my opinion, memorization complements education but does not substitute it. Think about it this way: the best scholars in the world aren't those who memorized the most books in their field. They're the ones who have a deeper understanding of the subject and are able to come with meaningful insights on the spot. I could spend several years memorizing dozens of books about religion, atheism and evolution using the memory techniques, but that wouldn't make me the next Richard Dawkins.

Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely not downplaying mnemonics, I use them everyday to remember the chronological order of books I read, to-do lists, phone numbers, etc, but I really value knowledge and I seriously don't think that memory = understanding. Please let me know what you think, or if you think I'm wrong or that I missed something, peace.

13 December, 2017 - 11:08
Joined: 3 months 4 weeks ago

When I was in college I knew about all the memory systems and techniques, but had no support base of family or friends who were into learning, so my motivation for it was not very high at the time. That is why I've started the first memory club/society in my state, to encourage people to meetup weekly for mutual encouragement. When you come from a family of non-learners, who value TV over books, who value beer over brains, then it's extremely difficult to find the people and motivation to encourage you to be a better learner. I've already had a few memory club meetups and it makes me so much more exited to learn and practice these techniques, when I have other people around me who are also into being a much better learner.

13 December, 2017 - 13:28
Joined: 1 week 2 days ago

I also personally never memorize something I do not understand. But once I understand a concept, I memorize the concept just for long term use so I don't forget it in the future. From my own personal experiences, I find that most people do not have trouble understanding "difficult" concepts, but they do not retain the knowledge to understand them in the future. This is especially apparent when they have to answer problems that rely on a previous knowledge base of concepts they have already learned in the past.

Another thing I notice about understanding is that sometimes you need to know a lot of previous knowledge just to understand a concept. You can learn this previous knowledge without mnemonics, but it's usually not a efficient use of your time. With mnemonics, I can learn a whole semester's worth of knowledge within less than a week.

13 December, 2017 - 15:13
Joined: 3 months 4 weeks ago

ehcolston that sounds like quite the achievement! What subjects are you studying that you can learn so quickly using mnemonics?

13 December, 2017 - 17:29
Joined: 3 months 1 week ago

I would like to point out that there is no education without memory: Memory is a necessity for understanding, whereas understanding is not a necessity for memory.
However, I don't think any educator would seriously suggest memorizing things you don't understand, but you certainly can't understand anything you haven't memorized. And with the memory part, mnemonics will certainly help.

14 December, 2017 - 06:18
Joined: 2 months 2 weeks ago

What I'm trying to say is that memory techniques might help some people and complement their learning, since everyone learns differently, but that's really not an universal thing. Sure, you need to retain the knowledge before understanding it, but in my experience our natural working memory works just as well for this than memory palaces, because when you create an image and store it using the method of loci you're not trying to directly uncover the meaning behind the thing you've memorized, you're just creating a funny, obscene image that reminds you of that thing, therefore creating another ''layer'' that makes understanding the thing harder (atleast for me).

I don't know about you guys, but I find that my time and brain-power is more well spent if I try to dumb down the concepts and explain them with my own words, therefore truly understanding them, as opposed to just memorizing them straight from the book. I do use method of loci for important details though, that can't be linked in any meaningful way to the original idea or concept, whenever 2 things have similar names or when I just don't care about the material and know that I'll be able to forget it a few days later without losing sleep at night, but I have friends that don't use mnemonics and do just as well or even better than myself while spending the same amount of time studying.

Sadly, educational systems today don't seem to care much wether you've LEARNED things, and as long as you get the answers right in the tests you're good. If you treat studying as a tool for landing a good job and making decent money in the future, then sure, memory palaces would be a really awesome tool for you, but when it comes to learning I feel that you're better off just using your working memory (for the most part) and making logical connections with things you've previously learned.

I still hold firm to my belief that memory palaces can aid education, since they make abstract things and hard details easier to review, but these 2 things can also be mutually exclusive. Think of how many people succeeded in their academic fields without ever being big into mnemonic systems.

Of course everything that I said is only based on my personal experience and opinions, and I'd love to know how you guys incorporate memory palaces into your day to day studying and life.
I hope I managed to express what I wanted to say, hope you have a good day and also, happy studying!

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