The word “Mnemonics” has been derived from a Greek word “mnenom” meaning “mindful”. It is pronounced as neh-MAHNIK. Mnemonics is a technique for repackaging information, helping the brain to store it safely and thereafter to assist in its recall at the right time. We all have experienced very often that we forget the name of a friend we need to introduce to someone. We also have experienced that we unfortunately blank out completely while standing up to debate or give a lecture and end up completely messing it up. We have always been envious of people with exceptional memories, the kind of people who amass encyclopedic knowledge with seemingly little effort, while the rest of us struggle to remember the name of the person we were introduced to seconds ago. If this sounds familiar then you are not the only one to experience such embarrassments. There's hope for all of us, though. Just as we can strengthen any other muscle in our bodies, we can train our brains to remember more and learn anything faster. You don't need to be born with a photographic memory we all do at some time or the other face such embarrassing moments when our memory lets us down. This is where Mnemonics comes in useful. For people who have to memorize and store a huge amount of new information, like people studying for medical school, law, or a new language, the techniques of mnemonics can be invaluable. As the alphabet song demonstrates, even the simplest lessons can benefit from these methods. It’s important to remember, however, that mnemonics can only take you so far. You still have to put in the work of memorization.
One of the best tried-and-true tactics for memorizing a great deal of material is the use of mnemonics: patterns of letters, ideas, sounds, or other associations that assist in learning something. Probably the simplest example is the alphabet song. All of us probably learned to sing the ABCs in kindergarten, and we’re willing to bet you still remember that song today. It’s ingrained in your brain through the use of a mnemonic.
The roots of mnemonic devices for memorization stretch back into antiquity. It is well documented that the ancient Romans and Greeks knew and valued mnemonic techniques, practicing them to ease the demands of poetry recitations, public speaking, and other tasks.
Basic mnemonic memorization revolves around associations. The most basic mnemonic devices in the English language include the alphabet song, as mentioned above, and ROYGBIV, the acronym for the colors in the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, and blue, indigo, violet)
The Science behind the Brain
Let us see how Memory works so that we can understand the science behind these memorization techniques. If memory–or how our brains make and recall seems mysterious you are not alone. Scientists and philosophers have been for the last 2000 years trying to figure out how human memory works and they are still making new discoveries. In 2016, British scientists won the first prize for neuroscience (1 million Euros) for their work on memory–the discovery of a protein in the brain which plays a key part in memory formation and memory loss. However, there is still a lot to discover and understand. However, what is well known is that there are basically three stages to memory processing viz Encoding, Storage, and Recall. These are as hereunder:
The first step to creating a memory is called encoding: This is when you notice an event or come across a piece of information and your brain consciously perceives the sounds, images, physical feeling, or other sensory details involved. Let us take for example, your first trip to Mumbai. Your memory of that event is formed by your visual system (noticing extravagantly designed buildings and lush landscaping), your auditory system (the noise of local trains/ metro), and perhaps smell (the distinctive scents of food stuff being sold at the Railway Station e.gVadaPav).
"Research suggests we remember things better and also retain them longer when we associate meaning to them using semantic encoding". If you attach meaning or factual knowledge to any of this sensory input, that's called semantic encoding. For example, if you associate the Victoria Terminus and Sea Link at Mumbai with its location on a map or the fact that the Musical Fountain at Upvan Lake at Thane, you're encoding Mumbai with semantic memory. This is good to know because research suggests we remember things better and retain them longer when we associate meaning to them using semantic encoding.
All of these little bits and pieces of information are then stored in different areas of your brain. Your neurons or the nerve cells in your brain pass signals to each other about what you perceived, effectively "talking" with each other and building either temporary or long-lasting connections. It is that neural activity and the strength of those connections that make a memory, neuroscientists believe. The network of neurons in our brains is the key to storing and retrieving memories
There are two kinds of memory: short-term and long-term. Short-term or working memory is like your brain's scratchpad. It's when your brain temporarily stores information before either dismissing it or transferring it to long-term memory—for example, remembering what you want to order for lunch before calling the takeout place. Once your food is delivered and eaten, your brain can let go of that info. Long-term memories are those memories you hold on to for a few days or many years–things like how to ride a bicycle or your first dinner date with your girlfriend. Both kinds of memories can weaken with age because the brain loses cells critical to those connections between neurons over time–but that's not inevitable. As with muscle strength, you can exercise your brain; with memory, it's "use it or lose it."
To retrieve a memory, your brain "replays" or revisits the nerve pathways created when the memory was formed. Repeatedly recalling information helps strengthen those connections and your memories, which is why techniques like reviewing your notes or using flashcards help you retain information. However, when you remember something, it's not an exact reproduction of the first time you experienced an event or came across a fact, because your own awareness of the current situation gets mixed in with the memory. As The Human Memory explains:
Memories are not frozen in time, and new information and suggestions may become incorporated into old memories over time. Thus, remembering can be thought of as an act of creative re-imagination. That's also why people can have false memories, or their memories of events might change over time.