Pronounced nee-mon-iks, MNEMONICS are either verbal or visual cues used to help one remember otherwise difficult-to-remember information. Nature provides few of us with eidetic memory (total recall), but by using mental tools such as mnemonics, memory can be greatly enhanced. They work through the use of repetition and associations between easy-to-remember facts paired with pattern-poor facts. Using this tool, in a specific situation, one can simulate a “photographic” memory. The best way to illustrate this is to demonstrate:
We remember which direction to set our clocks when Daylight Saving Time arrives with the mnemonic: “Spring forward. Fall back.”
Central American nations are remembered by schoolchildren (at least, when I was in grade school) with the mnemonic: “Better Go Home Every Night Completely Paid.” (From North to South: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama.)
The rhyme “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November; all the rest have thirty-one, except February alone” allows us to remember the arbitrary pattern: 31, 28 (29), 31, 30, 31, 30, 31, 31, 30, 31, 30, and 31.
Whether card counting or remembering the names of guests in a party, memory systems and tricks can be used with impressive results. None of these systems actually makes us smarter, but looking smarter is the important part.