What Are Mnemonics and Do They Really Work?

Do Mnemonic Strategies Work?. Susan Chiang E+/ Getty Images

What Are Mnemonics?

A mnemonic (pronounced ni-mon-ik) is a memory strategy that helps us learn information. They are often referred to as memory tips or tricks.

Do They Work?

The use of mnemonics is backed by many research studies that show significant improvement in testing scores with their use.

Mnemonics have been demonstrated to be effective, not only for mainstream students but also for those with learning challenges.

Some research has also been conducted in people with dementia and has concluded that mnemonics can be used in the early stages to effectively improve memory for specific items.

Why Do Mnemonics Work?

One reason it's likely that mnemonics are effective is that they involve elaborative rehearsal. Rather than simply repeating information over and over, mnemonics use elaborative rehearsal by requiring that you organize and process the information more deeply.

Mnemonics also often add meaning to the information. Even non-sensical words or phrases can tie the pieces of information together, and by manipulating (or using) the information, you are more likely to thoroughly understand and remember it.

Related Reading


Alzheimer's and Dementia. July 2014. Volume 10, Issue 4, Supplement, Pages P157–P158. A comparative study of mnemonic strategy and spaced retrieval training in patients with mild cognitive impairment. http://www.alzheimersanddementia.com/article/S1552-5260%2814%2900268-4/fulltext

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.. 2014; 8: 294.Music as a Mnemonic to Learn Gesture Sequences in Normal Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4026693/

Hippocampus. 2012 Aug; 22(8): 1652–1658.Mnemonic strategy training partially restores hippocampal activity in patients with mild cognitive impairment. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3371321/

Neuropsychology. 2012 May; 26(3): 385–399. Mnemonic strategy training improves memory for object location associations in both healthy elderly and patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment: a randomized, single-blind study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3348454/

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