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Mnemonics

Updated on April 14, 2010
Photo by Nadja Girod
Photo by Nadja Girod

Mnemonics is a system of artificial aids for assisting the memory. Such methods have been in use for many years. They consist in the main of some mechanical scheme or framework which, by association, is linked with what one desires to memorize. One of the oldest forms of verbal mnemonics is contained in the familiar lines, "Thirty days hath September, April, June and November"; and many similar devices are known.

The medical student has an unlimited number of mnemonic aids whereby to remember the names of the muscles, to call to mind the relation of important viscera and to determine accurately the order of the cranial nerves. Students of logic have for years made use of mnemotechnic devices to remember the parts of the syllogism. Some of these devices are based on topical association, whereas others depend on number and letter relations, and a great many which have been in vogue in recent years are based upon sound and rhyme relations. A general criticism that can be made of most of these memory-schemes is that the processes are purely mechanical, and that one of the fundamental features in memory, that is, memorizing for the sake of idea-relation, is given up for the sake of word-relation.

For certain classes of students and for certain lines of work these mechanical schemes may be of much service; for salesmen, for instance, who need to bear in mind immense quantities of goods with their wholesale, retail and discount prices. But as a process of general culture, improving mind-facilities, so called, mnemotechnics are mechanical.

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