Mnemonics vs Rote

(Will Roberts) #1

I was thinking about it recently and noticed I learned the Rubik’s cube long after I started learning memory techniques and have never used them with the cube. Never felt it necessary. In fact, I feel reviewing algerithims in my head while solving it would slow me down.

When I learned it, I literally did one algerithim a day until I covered all the basic algerithims. Took me about the better portion of a week and half.

I see now that doing it all via muscle memory allows my mind more space to concentrate on other tasks simultaneously - like reciting Presidents or the books of the Bible.

I can definitely see mnemonics/memory techniques aiding with rote/muscle memory, and vise versa.

So my question is what has been your experience, thoughts on the matter, or anything else you would like to add to the discussion.

And as always, your thoughts, time and input are appreciated.


PS: What are your thoughts on ways to go about learning sequences of movements (ie: F2L with the cube, dance, sports plays, etc) using memory techniques.


I never used memory techniques to memorize the sequence of moves. If you use finger tricks you know that not all R, U, D, etc. feel the same depending on what comes before or after in the sequence.

They can be used in an abstract way in PLL; a Y-perm or a T-perm look pretty much the same as the pieces that are being swapped. I say abstract because some people might simply call that pattern recognition, but I guess a case could be made that it’s a mnemonic of sorts.

Now the obvious place for memory techniques as far as the cube is when you solve it blindfolded. Most people start with Old Pochmann, so simply the Y, T, R and optional J(a) and J(b) perms you know from the full PLL.

There is no need to memorize the algorithms as you know them already. The setup moves for the edge and corner swapping are intuitive. Remembering the sequence in which you want to swap out the corners and edges goes into a memory palace though.

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Any algorithm can be learned in an abstract way, in which memory techniques can definitely help.

Activities heavily dependent on our locomotor or tactile system also make use of algorithms, ofc. However, getting to actually do something (or even just imagine doing it) imports it directly to our body’s memory, which is faster to activate given the proper conditioning (see 'fight-flight-freeze response, body reacts before thoughts arise-- except when the stimulus that triggers the reaction lies within thought^^).

In music, for example, while we need to have a deeper understanding of structure, form, harmony, rhythm, expression, etc. in the end what matters is how we allow this understanding to surface during a performance. Saying that a pianist is 100% conscious of their finger movements and all other aspects that tie a piece together would be kind of far-fetched; it would simply mean that through their practice they’ve studied those aspects and assimilated them, integrated them to their playing.

It may sound like mechanical playing (i.e. learning by rote), but in essence what the end result desired is is automated playing with one point of focus at each given moment. This is what mastering a piece allows, to be able to rely on previously established knowledge and proper movements, so that one may focus on how they express themselves best.

What matters is the process, so even if rote learning is well suited for learning sequential stuff like dance steps, music playing, cube solving, etc. it had best have a good solid backup of understanding of the direction/ flow of movement, which can very well be facilitated through mnemonics.

To quantify my view in summation:
Actual practice (or visualization, albeit perhaps less intensely) contributes 70 - 80% to learning.

Knowledge that backs the practice up contributes to 20 - 30% of the entire learning process (e.g. virtuosos who rely too much on muscle memory and mechanical technique don’t employ this percentage, with fine results at times- though not very reliably, imho).

Memory is worked on physically as well as mentally. Practice on the former constitutes actual practice, whereas practice on the latter ups our points of deeper knowledge. So, you can see where mnemonics stand in the whole scheme (according to my own understanding, at least).

Pardon the long post. Hope it adds some useful points for consideration! :slight_smile:

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