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Reminders About Mnemonics
on 31 January 2012
Kenneth Higbee's book is written to help people improve their memories. It doesn't spend much time with theories of memory or research that support these theories. It explains how memory works and some techniques -call them tricks if you like--that can make it work better.
The book begins by dispelling a number of memory "myths" that often stand in the way of memory improvement. These false beliefs include regarding memory as a physical "thing" and exaggerated claims about photographic memories. Higbee then presents the basic model of sensory, working, and long-term memories contained in most cognition texts. He derives ten fundamental principles of memory improvement from this model and demonstrates their effectiveness. Several chapters are devoted to specific mnemonic techniques, including the link, story, loci, peg word, and phonetic systems. The book closes with suggestions for remembering names and a general discussion of memory in education and everyday life.
I've used this book to teach a brief college course in mnemonic techniques. Students found it easy to understand and useful in designing mnemonic strategies for practical memory tasks. Compared to other psychology textbooks, they also found it affordable. My only negative comment is that it could use an update. It's not that mnemonics have changed, but that many of the book's examples seem a little dated to today's students. An update would give it more audience appeal and help convey its very useful messages to a younger, attention-challenged generation.