How much does Mnemonics speed up learning?

I’m curious about all of your opinions, how much do you feel mnemonics could speed up learning, assuming someone had interest, skill and a system for learning the information. I’d say that it would speed it up at least by a factor of 5, once you were “in the zone” or “flow” as the technical term I imagine it could be much more. Also, with mnemonics you can review the material anywhere, without a notebook or textbook, which really helps

A lot of learning is skills, so much like memory tricks they need to be practiced frequently. Memorizing a whole bunch of stuff can be sufficient in some cases, such as memorizing history or medical terms, but that’s only a small part of learning.

The other parts are application, which mnemonics only help to “clear up room” for the brain to work on other matters than trying to recall data. For example, I have a decent sized French vocabulary and knowledge of the grammar rules, but I fumble in conversational speech because I’ve had little practice bringing out those words on the fly. Memorizing more vocabulary wouldn’t really help me become fluent. Only practice can do that.

I think there are tricks that can be used to optimize these other learning processes, though. Learning these methods along with memory techniques would surely make learning much more efficient than just normal note taking and whatnot.

With an integrated approach you should have a factor 10 or more decrease in learning time. But this obviously depends on your level of skill and the nature of the material. Subject matter like history where your main requirement is remembering information will see a greater gain than a subject like advanced calculus where reasoning and calculation are more needed. Still there you should also see significant gains.

Hi Wesselj, that is a big claim! Do you have any evidence? Thanks.


A question that I have is how to increase the long term memory of what you memorized using a mnemonic. When I memorized the periodic table of elements with this I had to review it every 3 months because I would forget it(not entirely). When I memorize something using repetition I wouldn’t forget because the memory became crystallized and I can’t seem to crystallize the images even by integrating repetition with the images.

Is the natural meaning should this occur. I know people on this site have said that you need to review, but when can you stop (correlating to the upper paragraph[crystallize the memory])?

Sorry for the double post something was up with my computer

Actually I have concerns about a similar ‘effect’. Can you be more specific about the overall time period you are talking about and roughly how many repetitions and at what intervals?

Sorry about that. It might have been the website. Sometimes double posts happen when the caching system loses connection with the website. The server should be getting faster in a week or two…

An example I can use is over the summer I wanted to memorize the periodic table of elements, but the only thing I wanted to memorize was the number that each element was(ex: if i need cesium’s atomic number because of the memory system I know that it is number 55 which will help me locate it faster).

Well I memorized it once at the start of the summer and maybe because I didn’t use it the whole summer the memory started to fade away. So then at the end of the summer I rememorized it and now about 2 months later I starting to loose the memory.

I think that the memory fades on the interval of two months. The repetitions I was talking about was supposed to mean that if I want something in long term I integrate images and repeat it over and over. It is just like flash cards.

If I am wanting to remember the 10th element which neon, then I will see the image for neon which is a dice and a neon sign and then I will see the number for hydrogen. Next I will see the image for neon then helium etc.

Just a single thought, if you find that images fade quickly you need to look at the images you are using, they are not sticky enough. More memorable images and more effective links between images will last longer and be reinforced easier. This is the part of the process that require experimentation.

The fact that you have created a link does not automatically mean it is a good link for you. And what works for me might be completely forgettable to you.

Also try using the information you have learned. Translate phone numbers into elements as a simple example.

Can you describe more on what you mean by:(use the information you have learned. Translate phone numbers into elements as a simple example).

The wiki article on spaced repetition quotes the following Pimsleur regime:

The intervals published in Pimsleur’s paper were: 5 seconds, 25 seconds, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 hour, 5 hours, 1 day, 5 days, 25 days, 4 months, and 2 years.

It may be that your problem is missing the 25 days review by leaving it for 2-3 months? Perhaps you could try this?


An article posted on here previously that has a different spacing regime:


And another - see below. Interestingly this article says that if you get it wrong at any stage then you should start the whole repetition process from the beginning again.


1st day, 3—4x/day


2nd day, 2—3x/day (only for texts, or other complex material)


3rd day, 2—3x/day (only for texts, or other complex material)


4th day, 2—3x/day (only for texts, or other complex material)


4 days after you stopped reviewing


1 week


12 days


3 weeks


1 month


2 months


3 months


5 months


9 months


6 months


2 years


6 years


11 years


18 years

There is also a wiki page on spaced repetition and recall. I’ve just added the links above… :slight_smile:

That’s true. When you think of an image to related to a term o number if, the image is not clear enough (Dominic O’Brien suggests to use all your senses) you will loose it fast. Also, the pegs have to be as clear as the concept and the relation between them.

Could you post a link to this paper? Generally, what evidence is there to back up the use of any of such systems? They seem quite arbitrary, as if created by the pure sense of elegance.

The Pimsleur one is here:

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I agree with Loki that mnemonics are not everything. They are good for freeing up time; students can be working on critical thinking, practicing, etc., in the time that would otherwise be wasted on slow rote memorization work.

That said, I’m thinking that memorization time could realistically be cut down to 10%-20%, depending on quite a few factors. One question I would have is how much of a difference it makes to have mnemonics that are already devised, as opposed to having the students come up with their own mnemonics. I’m in favor of the former, at least for beginners and for younger children. (And this is already being done on very rare occasion; sometimes a teacher will give a child a mnemonic to help him/her learn something difficult, though they rarely, if ever, teach the children how to come up with their own mnemonics.)

That is with or without mnemonics?