Mnemonic devices for psychology terms

4 Types of Mnemonic Devices and How to Use Them

Mnemonic devices are tools that you can use to help you remember things more easily. Essentially, mnemonics are shortcuts; they give your brain tricks that allow it to encode and recall information in a snap.

You’ve probably used mnemonics before, even if you don’t realize it. There are a few different types of mnemonic devices:

1. Imagery and Visualization

Our brains remember images much more easily than words or sounds, so translating things you want to remember into mental images can be a great mnemonic device.

For example, if you are trying to learn a new language, you might benefit from creating mental images for some of the vocabulary words:

The Spanish word for tiger is tigre, so you could imagine a tiger drinking tea that has turned gray.

The Spanish word for sun is sol, so you could imagine the sun is burning the sole of your foot.

The Method of Loci (The Journey Method)

This mnemonic device has been around since ancient Greek times. It’s a form of imagery and visualization, but in this method, you choose a place you are familiar with—your house, your car, or the route you take from home to work every day.

By mentally “placing” objects you want to remember around the familiar location, you can remember them by simply mentally walking around your house or driving to work.

2. Acronyms and Acrostics

An acronym is a word or words formed by using the first letter(s) of the items you want to remember.

For example, to remember the colors of the rainbow—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet—you could use the acronym Roy G. Biv.

An acrostic is a mnemonic device that takes the first letter of each item you want to remember and uses those letters to make a new, memorable sentence or phrase. Some popular acrostics are:

Order of operations in algebra: Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction. With those first letters, we can make the sentence, “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.”

Order of the planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. Those letters can be used to make the sentence, “My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos.”

3. Rhymes

Rhymes are a great mnemonic device; they use acoustic encoding to make concepts easier to remember. Here’s a rhyming mnemonic you might know:

I before e, except after c,
And when sounding like a
As in neighbor and weigh.

4. Chunking

This mnemonic device breaks down larger pieces of information into small, easy-to-remember pieces, or chunks. Since our brains can only process so much information at a time, this device helps simplify information that might otherwise be too complex to remember.

A good example of chunking is 10-digit U.S. phone numbers, which are broken into two three-digit sets and one four-digit set:

877-245-0347 is much easier to digest and remember than 8772450347, right?

What to Read to Improve Your Memory

In his bestselling book Unlimited Memory, International Grandmaster of Memory Kevin Horsely teaches readers easy strategies for improving memory, including mnemonic devices like the ones mentioned above.

You’ll learn how to break the bad habits that stop you from remembering key facts and details, discover strategies for mastering your attention, simple techniques for remembering names, and much more.

Using Mnemonic Devices

You can use mnemonic devices to remember just about anything. Try putting these handy tools to work next time you need to remember something, and be amazed at how much information your brain can hold!

What are your favorite mnemonic devices? Tell us in the comments below.



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Melissa Drumm

Melissa Drumm is a lifelong book lover. She is passionate about helping authors make their work the best it can be. You can find some of her writing here on the TCK blog, and learn more about her other projects at melissadrumm. com. When she’s not writing, editing, or reading, you’ll usually find her in the kitchen, baking.

Mnemonic Devices: Types, Examples, and Benefits

Mnemonic devices — like acronyms, chunking, and rhymes — work by tapping into how the brain naturally stores data.

If you’re like most people, you probably get frustrated when you can’t remember the name of your new co-worker, a friend’s phone number, or even why you walked into a room.

But memory shortages can feel even more frustrating when you have to recall large amounts of information, such as the state capitals or the bones in the human body.

This is where mnemonic devices can come in handy — as tricks to easily memorize things.

You’ve used a mnemonic device if you’ve ever used a rhyme or a song to help you memorize something. It’s simply a fancy word for a memorization tool.

Through various tricks, mnemonic devices can help you remember anything from phone numbers to long lists to other things that would be otherwise difficult to remember.

Share on PinterestDesign by Wenzdai Figueroa

There are several types of mnemonic devices, and many of them overlap in how they work. Below are five of the most common types of mnemonic devices:

  • acronyms and acrostics
  • association
  • chunking
  • method of loci
  • songs and rhymes

Acronyms and acrostics

An acronym is a word created from the first letter of a group of words or names. For instance: HOMES is an acronym for the five Great Lakes:

  • Huron
  • Ontario
  • Michigan
  • Erie
  • Superior

Some words we commonly use as “stand-alone” words are acronyms. For example:

  • radar (radio detection and ranging)
  • laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation)
  • scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus)
  • gif (graphics interchange format)

An acronym doesn’t even need to be a “real” word — as long as it sounds like one. For instance, many government agencies use acronyms, such as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

You can also use acronyms as mnemonic devices in day-to-day situations like grocery shopping.

For example, if you need to remember to buy pasta, apples, cilantro, and eggs at the store and you don’t have a way to write a shopping list, you may easily forget some random items. Creating the acronym (and word) “pace” from the items’ first letters and thinking “pace” as you walk through the grocery store may help you remember all the items you need:

  • pasta
  • apples
  • cilantro
  • eggs

An acrostic is a similar mnemonic device, but it can be a sentence or a whole phrase instead of just one word. For example, you’ve likely used a phrase similar to “My Very Educated Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas” to help you remember the nine planets and their order in our solar system:

  • Mercury
  • Venus
  • Earth
  • Mars
  • Jupiter
  • Saturn
  • Uranus
  • Neptune
  • Pluto


Association is a fairly easy technique to help you remember new information. The idea behind it is that it’s easier to remember new information when you link it to something you already know well.

For example, if you have a new co-worker named Todd and an uncle with the same name, you could imagine your co-worker with glasses, a mustache, and a pencil behind his ear — like your uncle Todd — to help you remember your co-worker’s name.

Similarly, suppose you’re trying to remember that the scientist who invented calculus and discovered the laws of gravity was Isaac Newton. In that case, you could imagine your friend Isaac eating (and dropping) a Fig Newton while doing math.

The stranger and sillier the scenario, the more likely you’ll remember it.


Chunking is a mnemonic device in which you break down information into bite-sized “chunks.” Two common examples of chunking are phone numbers and Social Security numbers. Most people divide both of these long numbers into three sections.

Chunking allows the brain to memorize more information than usual. According to the late psychologist George A. Miller, the average short-term memory capacity is about seven items, plus or minus two, depending on the person. Miller also suggested that verbal short-term memory capacity is determined by the number of chunks stored in memory.

Chunking comes in handy when memorizing random items, such as a password. For instance, trying to memorize P3850tf21 would be quite difficult. But if you break it down: P38-50-tf21, it becomes a lot easier.

So why does chunking allow more items to be stored in the brain? Research from 2021 suggests that chunking may be a long-term memory function. Therefore, chunking allows people to tap into their long-term memory function to extend the capability of their short-term memory.

Method of loci

The method of loci — sometimes called the “memory palace technique” — involves remembering items based on their locations.

According to legend, the Greek poet Simonides of Ceos temporarily excused himself from a large banquet to speak with someone outside. Soon after he left, a disaster ensued, and the entire structure collapsed on everyone inside. The scene was chaotic, and even family members could not identify the bodies.

However, once the debris was cleared, Simonides was able to help identify the dead correctly because he remembered exactly where each person had been sitting. This story is commonly retold as an example of how to recall large groups of items.

For example, your grandmother has asked you to stop at the store to pick up five random items:

  • a scented candle
  • flip-flops
  • paper towels
  • honey
  • a purple flower pot

You don’t have any way to write down the list and need to memorize it.

To use the method of loci, try the following:

  1. Imagine an area you know very well, such as your home.
  2. Imagine each item’s exaggerated or silly form placed somewhere in your home.

In practice, this may look something like this:

  1. Imagine arriving at your front door and seeing a large flickering candle there.
  2. As you mentally walk inside your house, you “see” a pair of flip-flops hanging from the air conditioning vent.
  3. Then you imagine your brother holding a paper towel roll in the family photo on the wall in the entryway.
  4. You enter the kitchen and see a large honeycomb dripping with honey and swarming bees on the kitchen countertop.
  5. The honey is dripping into a purple flowerpot below.

Songs and rhymes

Songs and rhymes are very effective mnemonic devices. Most young children are taught to remember the entire alphabet — 26 random letters in a row — by reciting it in a simple rhyming tune.

Songs and rhymes work for adults as well. Just think of how easily you sing along when an old song comes on the radio.

Singing can help with many types of learning. Research from 2013 shows that a foreign language can be more easily memorized when put into a song. A 2021 study also indicates that singing may improve memory and well-being in people with dementia.

Research from 2019 shows that learning is more efficient when people use mnemonic devices. These memory tools work by tapping into how your brain naturally stores data.

Below are some of the advantages of using mnemonic devices:

  • You become an active learner when you sort the information in a way you can remember.
  • Mnemonic tools allow you to recall large amounts of information that would be incredibly difficult to remember.
  • You’re able to quickly retrieve information from your long-term memory.

Mnemonic devices are useful learning aids when memorizing large amounts of information.

Using memory-boosting tools, such as loci, chunking, or rhyming, can make learning much easier and even fun. So you don’t have to despair if you’re being tested on the state capitals or the periodic table.

Lesson 5. Mnemonics

Mnemonics (mnemonics techniques) are special methods of memorizing certain types of information based on the characteristics of human psychology, as well as on the four rules of memorization that were given in previous lessons. Knowledge and use of special mnemonics will allow you to better remember digital information, specific texts and terms, names, faces and surnames, foreign words, expressions and much more.

This lesson will cover the basics of mnemonics and will describe the basic techniques and methods for remembering different types of information.


  • What is mnemonics?
  • Basic mnemonic devices
  • Memorization of numbers and numbers
  • Remembering faces and names
  • Memorization of foreign words
  • Verification test

What is mnemonics?

Mnemonics or mnemonics are specially designed techniques and methods that facilitate the memorization of certain types of information. In some textbooks and courses, the authors use the term "mnemonics" to refer to the entire set of techniques and methods for memorizing information used for certain data, and the term "mnemonics" is interpreted as the practical application of the methods defined for this particular mnemonic.

The main principle of any mnemonics is the replacement of abstract objects with concepts that have a visual, auditory or less often other sensory representation, linking objects with existing information (building associations) to simplify its memorization.

Basic mnemonic techniques

The applied arsenal of modern mnemonics consists of a large set of unified memorization techniques. Among the main mnemonic techniques and methods, the following can be distinguished:

  • Letter code. Formation of semantic phrases from the initial (or purposefully assigned) letters of the memorized information.
  • Associations. Finding bright unusual associations that connect with memorized information.
  • Rhymes. Create rhyming word pairs or even short poems containing memorable material.
  • Consonance. Memorization of terms or foreign words with the help of consonant already known words or phrases.
  • Roman room method. Assign memorized objects to specific locations in a room you know well.

In this lesson, for the convenience of learning, all mnemonics will be divided into groups depending on the type of information that these mnemonics help to remember.

Number memorization

The techniques described below are suitable for memorizing information such as telephone and car numbers, historical dates, mathematical and natural science constants, and so on.

Alphanumeric code. Alphanumeric code is one of the most popular (and ancient) mnemonics. This technique is based on the fact that each digit is assigned a specific letter. To memorize large numbers, words, phrases, sentences, or even small stories are made up of such letters.

We will demonstrate the operation of this mnemonics using an example. Below is an alphanumeric code, which is based on the correspondence between the consonants with which most numbers begin, and, in fact, the numbers themselves from 0 to 9.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 nr (“times”) d t h n w s m (“a lot”, because “d” is already occupied by the number 2)

To freely use alphanumeric code, this table needs to be learned very well, it needs to be known no worse than the multiplication table. And in order to remember any number, for example, 739812, you need to do the following:

  1. Break our number into pairs of numbers: 73-98-12.
  2. After that, you need to recode the numbers into words: the first consonant in the word is the first digit of a two-digit number, and the second consonant must correspond to the second digit in the alphanumeric code. For the number "73" (letters "s" and "t"), you can make up the words: set, honeycombs, one hundred, sieve and others. For digits 9and 8 we will compose the word Mavr, and for the numbers 1 and 2 - RaDuga.
  3. Now made up words representing pairs of numbers should be used to create a specific story, for example "One Hundred Moors saw the Rainbow".

Try these methods in practice and take a training on memorizing phones using mnemonics: