Is there a place for rote memorization?

Since I’ve discovered memory techniques, I’ve spurned rote memorization. To me rote memorization is like picking up a child’s plastic toy hammer to drive a screw when you’re holding a power screwdriver in your other hand. I don’t understand why someone would spend the time and effort to acquire information through brute force rather than using far more efficient (and, frankly, fun) memory techniques.

So I’m curious how others here feel. Do you think there is still value in rote memorization even when you know and regularly use memory techniques?



Well, trivially speaking, mnemonic techniques work by creating an association from the target info to a more memorable concept, no? So all uses of mnemonics most therefore have an associated memorable concept which is already known. Therefore, by induction, there must be a non-zero number of concepts upon which all mnemonics in use by a given person are based, which cannot themselves be mnemonics in the sense defined above. Of course, this is only a proof if the mnemonic associations form a nice, transitive, tree with no loops, and that assumption is almost certainly false, but maybe this is at least, despite not being a proof, a point in favor of non-mnemonic techniques under limited circumstances, at the minimum?


The advantage of rote is that is a tremendously fast recall. It is well retained and you can hang things from it easily. Using learning systems like spaced repetition (Anki/SuperMemo) to create long term memory and volume training of facts are both excellent tools. Throwing out your BFH because you have a saw and a screwdriver is probably not the best idea.


I don’t think there’s any use for the kind of forced drilling that was imposed upon me in school to learn verb conjugations or similar. I actually believe it’s somewhat harmful. I think it’s a mistaken application of ideas that work in physical exercise. I was forced through endless drilling in Latin and learned nothing. I hated that language, even though I have some aptitude.

But there is a process by which the mind responds to repeated, low level exposure and it can be harnessed. After all, we ‘pick up’ a lot of stuff without trying to. While I was learning languages, I would have the news on in that language in the background and I was surprised at how much I retained and how new material seemed almost familiar or welcome. In my experience it can’t be forced. If you work at it or stress it chokes up. But when you have the time to let the process work naturally, it’s almost free.


Rote’s not necessary. Just don’t spurn repetition, even for things you use mnemonic devices for. Rote and repetition shouldn’t be confused. Many things I have memorized using better memorization methods, have fallen out of my head for failure to sufficiently rehearse them.

Right now I prefer to repeat things until I’m utterly sick of them. Like walking a path over and over. It’s repetitive, but eventually you’ve stomped out a clear trail that won’t so easily fade.

By the time I’m sick of them, I know the grooves are embedded deep in my memory. If I forget them, it’ll be much easier to review them.


I do think there is a place for it… take solving a Rubik’s cube blindfolded for example. If you do a search on the forum you’ll find some people that use memory techniques to memorize the face turns for the beginners method in order to simply solve the cube in the first place… and fair enough if that’s all they wanna do.

Blind-solving on the other hand, you use memory techniques to memorize the order in which you want to swap the corners and edges on the cube… the algorithms to swap the pieces however is muscle memory simply learned by rote.

Especially for multi-blind, where you memorize and then solved as many cubes as you can in one hour requires you to focus your memory techniques on the memo/recall of the cubes rather than the steps to perform individual algorithms.

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I feel like there should be a place for rote memorization and I don’t mean that people should memorize this way but that rote memorization should be a goal to strive for as a society.

Why are you using memory techniques? Because you either want to be able to achieve impressive memory feats or because you have a bad memory and want to improve it. The latter is who I am concerned about.

I always use rote memorization if I have to but I often only need to repeat the information perhaps 2 or 3 times in my head. For most people, this is not reality. They can’t memorize a lot of information after repeating it two or three times and that is not a good thing if you think about it.

I remember my days from middle school when my classmates were complaining about all the material and how much they had to learn and frankly, I never thought the same as them. I have now dropped out of school but I have people around me who are still learning and when I hear that they have to learn this and that, I just wish that I could lend them my brain for a moment so they didn’t have to struggle so much.

Let me ask you this; which would you rather choose, a society where the members have to spend time learning memory techniques first and than have some decent memory or one where most members have a good memory already and only have to use rote memorization by repeating the information only a few times? I think I prefer the last one.

Not only would we all have good memory, our average intelligence would spike up too. Having a good memory often means more than just a good memory.
Naturally, this would probably never happen. The average person has an average memory and average intelligence and this group grows much faster than those who are above average. That’s why I put my hopes on technology.

Dr. Alan Schnyder already demonstrated that we all can have near savant like abilities for a short period of time by stimulating certain areas of the brain. He believes that there is an inner-savant in everyone. In the link below is a video of the demonstration.

His findings are controversial but I still remain hopeful.

Elon musk just announced their Neurolink project recently and this also shows potential. A chip in the brain sounds uncomfortable but I believe if we play our cards right, it can improve us drastically in a lot of ways.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we went from rote memorization and repeating information 3, 4, 5 or 6 times to zero times?

When my classmate in school told me he had an eidetic memory, I was excited. (I had one other classmate who was jealous and later also claimed to have an eidetic memory which I still find funny)
I was energized by him when he told me about it and it was amazing to see him in action. I also didn’t feel alone for a short time. If there was a way for me to give up my abilities so everyone else could be improved then I would definitely do it.

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I rote learned some paragraphs of scriptures in foreign language. It took me a year of reading it everyday before I could do it from memory. I did it this way because I didn’t want a whole lot of random images interfering with the mood that I wanted to create. Now it is in long term memory and I can recite it without any thought and without any mnemonic ghost images.

Reciting the bible isn’t as common as it used to be but reciting the Qur’an still seems to be fairly common.