Do mnemonics indeed improve our memory?

I want to ask you if you agree with the statement presented in the following video:

It is short, it lasts few minutes. The main idea is that memory or brain exercises don’t really improve our memory or brain. What do you think about it? In the video the guy says that we master particular activity and no our brain in general. For example if you learn to play chess, you master chess and not your brain skills in general.

So what’s the best training for our brain? I know that the main reason we use mnemonics is to strengthen our memorising, but my question is different, beacuse it’s obvious it’s worth to learn and master mnemonics. But what to do to improve our memory in general, beside mnemonics, so we don’t only master particular activity like memorising a deck of cards?
And I was curious about lumosity games for brain - that’s why I digging up a little bit here.

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He is right. The best thing you can do is follow a healthy diet, get enough sleep and do some excercises to get a clear mind. But this will not significantly improve your brain.

A question I see asked a lot on the forum from new people is if it is possible to memorize in real time without consciously trying to. Unfortunately this is not possible unless you already have an excellent memory but 99,9…% of the population does not have excellent memory.

Mnemonics is a way to use your brain, not a way to improve your brain.


Your post here is rather vague. The video you’ve provided a link for doesn’t actually discuss the efficacy of any particular mnemonic, and for this reason, I believe the question you use to preface this post is misleading.

For example if you learn to play chess, you master chess and not your brain skills in general.

What exactly do you mean by brain skills? Chess is a strategy game: you need to visualize, calculate, and decide the most effective path to victory; these are all “brain skills” if you will.

To answer your title: mnemonics is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Mnemonic techniques exist so that you can utilize a specific mechanism to associate two different pieces of information for recall at any given time. It’s not relevant whether or not someone is using them to memorize a book, a poem, or a deck of cards; in all of these instances, it’s been shown that mnemonics are effective.

But what to do to improve our memory in general, beside mnemonics, so we don’t only master particular activity like memorising a deck of cards?

Aren’t you trivializing the subject at hand, here? Memorizing a deck of cards is one of the many things you can do to exercise the use of mnemonics, but I don’t think it’s something as specialized as a game you’d play on Luminosity.

Haven’t you answered your own question with this statement? There are effective methods of “training your brain”, but I’m not sure how easy it would be to qualify which methods are best for any given person. Anyway, in my opinion, I think you should reconsider what you’re trying to ask and be more lucid with your questions.


No. I understand that people are not happy with the idea of paying and investing time for a brain training app and not having it work in the end, but that is a separate issue.

  1. You still get better at something specific you are doing.
  2. This specific thing you are doing can apply generally, e.g memory palace, provided you use it. Then it will show general gains where you use it.
  3. It doesn’t matter if it (your training) shows general transfer. The difference will be that if you have a specific transfer there are too many cases for it to handle everything, so it will take time to develop, this doesn’t make it any less effective once it’s done.
  4. The fact that it doesn’t improve a general network is dubious. Sure research supports this statement on the outside, but the training samples have been conquered by the brain, indicating more so that it took the path of least resistance. Rather than overhauling your complicated general network, it just learned how to deal with the situation better by memorizing, this is much more plausible.
  1. Luminosity games, for the most part are part of those that don’t have general transfer. You can’t really hope it will improve your memory drastically.

  2. Part of a specialized activity is part of our brain. If we are getting better at it, we are getting better at using our brain. The issue is when this doesn’t cross apply, and simply in most cases it would not. You can’t think something as simple as ‘by paying attention to an object I will become better at paying attention to all objects’.

It may just be that learning exactly how to handle many particular activities, is more fruitful than attempting to play around with how your general network works. For example, say that you had a digit span of 8, and you worked really hard for a long time to get it up to 10. All that may have changed, may be your digit span. If you worked on other things like your working memory, in this sense it would likely have taken longer. On the other-hand you could pick up mnemonics and get a much larger digit span much more quickly.

Remember that language is not truthfully a general network. We learn words, we learn the syntax, they supplement some general aspects but it doesn’t change the fact that most of our verbal memory is something that has developed at some point after that.

If you are not familiar with the terms in a medical book, you can pick up one of those and then test your sentence span. It is almost certainly going to be less than on a familiar text. That should give you an idea of how, even in a specialized context you can improve your memory.

So if you want to improve your memory or brain in general, you will need to design an intelligent way to do this that takes into account the dynamics of the brain. Many scientists have tried this and generally not done well, this is because it is hard, not because it is impossible. The ‘neurons that fire together wire together’ common phrase, while simplified, is exactly why it wouldn’t make sense for established circuits to simply not update themselves when firing together. Some individuals are even starting to believe that perhaps there is no such thing as a general network and it instead is a collective result of many specific processes, so brain training should go for breadth to handle the transfer.

As for the title of the question, mnemonics improve your ability to use your memory and do not under normal instances, improve your memory without using mnemonics.


And what about exercises that ara available here. in the memory league.
For example “Images”. I would say that it improves our memory in general, because it helps us to connect totally different images and our imagination and visualization works hard. Am I right? Or maybe you think there are better exercises?

I actually agree very much that games and brain exercises help very little to improve memory. However (!!!), meaningful activities, like learning another languages absolutely improve your memory. I came to United States when I was 24 and did not speak English or any other language, except my mother language, and after learning English, I can’t believe how much my memory improved. Memory techniques with meaningful activities is the key for improving memory, in my opinion.

This is because you are training your brain to memorise images through a certain pathway using a certain method.

It may improve your natural memory slightly but in the end what you master is the application of the underlying technique and visualisation.

For example to go from one specific place to another, if you use your bike continuously to travel, you will become better at riding your bike through that path.

Using your bike does not makes you good at running. But if you go through the same path by running now, you may reach a little faster than normal, since you may know the path exactly.

I think if memory is running, then mnemonics are the bike.

I once heard someone increased their memory by continuous use of flashcards.