Mnemonic link system

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A mnemonic link system is a method of remembering lists, based on creating an association between the elements of that list. For example, if one wished to remember the list (dog, envelope, thirteen, yarn, window), one could create a link system, such as a story about a "dog stuck in an envelope, mailed to an unlucky black cat playing with yarn by the window". It is then argued that the story would be easier to remember than the list itself.

A probably more effective method rather than creating a story is to actually link each element of the list with the following, seeing in one's mind's eye an image that includes two elements in the list that are next to each other. For example, if we wanted to easily memorize the last list one would imagine his or her dog inside of a giant envelope, then one would "see" an unlucky black cat (or whatever that reminds the user 'thirteen') eating a huge envelope. The same logic should be used with the rest of the items. The observation that absurd images are easier to remember is known as the Von Restorff effect, but was refuted as a mnemonic technique by several studies (Hock et al. 1978; Einstein 1987). Important is not the absurdness but the established interaction between the two words. By combining this method with others, like the Peg system and the Major system (which is used to retain numbers), we can easily get what some people call a trained memory.

However, in order to access a certain element of the list, one needs to "traverse" the system (much in the same vein as a linked list), in order to get the element from the system.

See also


  • Hock, H.S., Romanski, L., Galie, A., Williams, C.S. (1978). Real-World Schemata and Scene Recognition in Adults and Children. Memory and Cognition, 6, 423-31.
  • Einstein, G. and McDaniel, M. (1987). Distinctiveness and the Mnemonic Benefits of Bizarre Imagery in Imagery and Related Mnemonic Processes: Theories, Individual Differences, and Applications", ed McDaniel, M.A. and Pressley, M. (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1987). 79-102.

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