General Considerations in Selecting Mnemonics
Mnemonics are useful in almost any situation in which learning and memory are the goals, but one size does not fit all. The effectiveness of a mnemonic requires that the technique be matched to the particular circumstances of application. The rub is that the particular circumstances can differ in countless ways. For example, one simply might want to commit a 12-item grocery list to memory. Then again one might want to learn to play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2. The same technique is unlikely to be equally effective in these circumstances. Given the goal of fitting the mnemonic to the circumstances, it would be helpful if we can specify dimensions to consider when selecting a mnemonic. In this chapter we discuss some of the more important of those dimensions as identified by basic memory research in conjunction with practical considerations. For example, we have good reason to believe that the processes underlying memory for particular events differ from the processes underlying the acquisition of knowledge. We also know that different kinds of memory tests are differentially sensitive to different kinds of learning. Individual differences among people must be taken into account when selecting a strategy for a particular individual. What works for you may or may not work for me. Another important consideration is who creates the mnemonic, the user or someone else. Each of these concerns will crop up periodically throughout the book in various contexts. Consequently we shall devote the chapter to a general description of these issues as they relate to the selection of mnemonic techniques for particular situations.