—mnemonically, adv./ni mon"ik/, adj.1. assisting or intended to assist the memory.2. pertaining to mnemonics or to memory.n.3. something intended to assist the memory, as a verse or formula.4. Computers. a programming code that is easy to remember, as STO for "store."[1745-55; < Gk mnemonikós of, relating to memory, equiv. to mnemon- (s. of mnémon) mindful + -ikos -IC]
* * *▪ memory aidany device for aiding the memory. Named for Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory in Greek mythology, mnemonics are also called memoria technica. The principle is to create in the mind an artificial structure that incorporates unfamiliar ideas or, especially, a series of dissociated ideas that by themselves are difficult to remember. Ideally, the structure is designed so that its parts are mutually suggestive. Grouping items in rhymed (rhyme) verse has long been a popular mnemonic technique, from the “gender rhymes” of the Latin grammars to the verse for remembering the number of days in the months (“Thirty days hath September, April, June and November …”).Numerous attempts have been made to invent mnemonic systems—generalized codes to improve all-around capacity to remember. The Greek and Roman system of mnemonics was founded on the use of mental places and signs or pictures in terms of the location of the items of interest. The method combines a familiar structure (locus) and the item or thing to be remembered (res). This mnemonic method, which is referred to as loci et res, is an effective way to remember a series of items. The most usual method is to choose a large house, of which the rooms, walls, windows, decorations, and furniture are severally associated with certain names, phrases, events, or ideas by means of symbolic pictures; to recall these it is necessary only to search the rooms of the house mentally until the particular place is discovered where they had been deposited by the imagination. In accordance with this system, if it is desired to fix a historic date in the memory, it is localized in an imaginary town divided into a certain number of districts, each with 10 houses, each house with 10 rooms, and each room with 100 quadrates, or memory places, partly on the floor, partly on the four walls, and partly on the roof. By means of this system, the traditional date of the invention of printing in Europe (1440) could be fixed in the memory by mentally placing a book or some other symbol of printing in the 40th quadrate, or memory place, of the 4th room of the 1st house of the imaginary town.Scientific interest in mnemonics was heightened in 1968 when the renowned Soviet psychologist Aleksandr R. Luria wrote The Mind of a Mnemonist, which suggested that the field was worthy of deeper psychological study. Luria described a man with synesthesia who had a remarkable memory.Mnemonists use a variety of procedures to facilitate recall. One method, called linking, associates any pair of items—a pen and a chair, for example—and then links those items with a third, the chain proceeding indefinitely. Interaction, and not mere association, is necessary; one could imagine the pen writing on the chair. This method has proved effective with grammar-school children as well as with adults. Other methods include rhymes (“i before e, except after c”) or substitution (the name Tchaikovsky can become “chew-cow-ski”). One point stressed by mnemonists is that bizarre images can amplify the effectiveness of the memory aid.
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