How to improve your memory
Part 1

Marcus Loane

20th Jan 2010

Our ability to remember things is not fixed and anyone can improve their memory by employing many simple tricks. I have included more advanced memory tricks in part 2.


How to remember names


When you meet someone new and they tell you their name, visualise their name spelt out. Then look at the person's features carefully. Is there anything memorable about them? You could try to link their name to a feature. If his name is Richard, does he look rich or does he have rickety legs? If his name is Marcus does he look like a teacher who could Mark Us after an examination? Failing that, make a picture in your mind of the person with, or blended with, someone else you already know with the same name.
 If his name is Bill you could imagine him at your letter box putting an electricity bill through it or doing something with Bill Clinton. If her name is Susan you could make an image in your mind of her in legal regalia and Suing you. Make the images bizarre and detailed and imagine your emotional responses as this makes them more memorable. Maybe she has curly hair and just thinking "curly Sue" is enough to make you remember. Is the Walter you have been introduced to coming across as a bit shy? Then you could remember "Walter the wallflower" and picture his face as the centre of a wallflower and see him walking around the room at a party with his back to the wall. If introduced to an Angela you could visualise her with tiny angel's wings growing out of her ears.

It is also useful to repeat someone's name back to them at intervals in the conversation and people usually appreciate this if not overdone.




A mnemonic is any memory aid device but it is often a rhyme or word whose letters are used at the beginning of each word to be remembered. This is a popular way to learn for exams. Many school children are taught the colours of the rainbow in order by learning the made up name Roy G. Biv. Each letter in the name is the start of a colour, giving Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet. Some are taught the phrase Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain. Mnemonics are popular in the teaching of medicine. For example the facial nerve branches can be remembered by remembering


Two Zombies Buggered My Cat. Imagine your facial expression on seeing that!

From superior to inferior:
Temporal branch
Zygomatic branch
Buccal branch
Mandibular branch
Cervical branch


This is popular with medical students to remember the cranial nerves.

Oh, Oh, Oh, To Touch And Feel Virgin Girls Vaginas And Hymens

CN I - Olfactory
CN II - Optic
CN III - Oculomotor
CN IV - Trochlear
CN V - Trigeminal
CN VI - Abducens
CN VII - Facial
CN VIII - Vestibulocochlear
CN IX - Glossopharyngeal
CN X - Vagus
CN XI - Accessory
CN XII - Hypoglossal


Which way do you loosen a screw? Left loosens, right tightens. Lefty loosey, righty tighty.


StalaCtites are on the Ceiling. StalaGmites are on the Ground.


To remember the planets in our solar system:

MVery Easy Method Just Speeds UNaming Planets.
Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto
My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.


 The problem with some mnemonics is that you have to remember the mnemonic. There is a way around this and that is to use mnemonics that mean or link to what they are for. An example is the planets one shown above. The meaning of the mnemonic is about what we are trying to remember. However, most people will find, "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas" easier to remember because it can be remembered as a picture or movie in their head. It can be linked to planets by imagining each pizza with a little globe for each planet on top. Perhaps imagine the globes starting to roll off and your very educated mother in graduation cap and gown desperately balancing the pizzas to stop the planet globes rolling off. That will be difficult to forget! The more bizarre, humorous or disturbing the picture is, the easier it will be to recall.

 I did this linking (although quite weakly) with the Two Zombies Buggered My Cat and thinking about the facial expression that would result. Therefore when you think facial nerves, you think facial expression and then you think surprise and then hopefully you might remember the surprising image from the mnemonic and the words of the mnemonic itself, followed by the cranial nerve names. A better linkage could be remembering that zombies have no facial expression or abnormal facial expression.

 A great example of a meaningful mnemonic is one for remembering the order to play coloured balls in snooker.


You Go Brown Before Potting Black.

Yellow Green Brown Blue Pink Black.


Often rhymes and alliterations are easier to remember.


Lefty loosey, righty tighty.


I before e,
except after c
or when sounding like "ay"
as in neighbor or weigh.


There are many variations on the following.


Thirty days has September,
April, June and November.
After February’s done,
The other months have thirty one.


 It may be stating the obvious but when creating your own mnemonics, try and make them memorable! That means using the tricks mentioned above such as :

using rhyme,

using alliteration (repeating similar sounds like Lefty Loosey),

using images or mini movies you can visualise instantly before translating them into the words of the mnemonic,

linking the meaning of the mnemonic to the meaning of what it is for, or

just finding what works best for you.


 Some people may be better at remembering words than pictures but they are probably in the minority.


How to improve your memory – Part 2


Marcus Loane

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