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So-called memorial seals from the work of Giordano Bruno
Woodcut of one of Giordano Bruno's memory pictures

Mnemotechnics [ mnemoˈtɛçnɪk ] (from ancient Greek μνήμη mnḗmē 'memory', 'memory' and τέχνη téchnē 'art') is an artificial word that has been used since the 19th century for ars memoriae and ars reminiscentiae (German memory art) , mostly synonymous with mnemonics (Greek μνημονικά mnēmoniká ).

Mnemonics develops memory aids ( donkey bridges ), for example as a memorandum , rhyme, scheme or graphic. In addition to small memory aids, mnemonics also include complex systems with the help of which one can safely remember entire books, lists with thousands of words or thousands of digits. Mnemonics serve to "improve the storage and retention of information" in long-term memory.

Memory training refers to the exercise of memory, which can also include practicing or using mnemonic techniques.

Name and definition

Probable mosaic of the Mnemosyne, 2nd century AD, Tarragona National Archaeological Museum
Mosaic of a poet like Simonides von Keos, from Pompeii ( Casa del Poeta Tragico )
Aristotle bust, Roman copy, after a sculpture by the sculptor Lysippus , Rome, Palazzo Altemps 8575

The ancient Greek word μνήμη mnḗmē means memory, remembrance and with the goddess Μνημοσύνη Mnemosýne , the Greeks worshiped a goddess of memory who was also the mother of the muses . Accordingly, for a long time people spoke mainly of memory art, although the exact name was inconsistent, as the following Latin expressions show:

  • ars reminiscentiae (art of remembering),
  • ars memoriae (art of memory),
  • ars memorativa ( art of memory),
  • ars memorandi (art to remember).

In modern times, mnemonics were mostly used , which goes back to the mnemonics , a lost book by Aristotle , before Aimée Paris coined the term mnemonics .

Beyond these cultural references, there are many definitions for mnemonics , so a generally recognized delimitation cannot be given. This depends u. a. with the high individuality of the authors on this topic, who often want to create their own system or want to limit themselves to a sub-area. Modern authors therefore often avoid a definition.

In ancient times, natural memory was contrasted with artificial memory and accordingly it was called an art. Personal practice and individual characteristics were also emphasized. Also Martianus Capella , who switched the topic to the Middle Ages and saw the memory as a "gift of nature", said: "But no doubt it can help skilful instructions are encouraged." In modern times, the focus lay more to the practice, or the making available of mnemonic procedures, which is why it was obvious to speak of a technique . The necessity of the individual development of the procedure for each individual is not doubted.

Ulrich Voigt defines mnemonics as "the technique of donkey bridges" and mnemonics as "their theory". He looks at a model consisting of “a memory content A, a memory aid B and a link μ between A and B” and defines: “A donkey bridge is a B that is used to remember an A.” He quotes Johann Christoph Dommerich : "Mnemonics or the art of memory is the science of the means to improve memory."

He also draws attention to the problem that under mnemonics the individual memory aid or donkey bridge can be understood, but under mnemonics the entire range of knowledge and application, which is very broad at Dommerich. Voigt criticizes such an open and broad definition as impractical. He also criticizes the restriction to one or a few enumerated mnemonics, for which he cites the Auctor ad Herennium and the loci method considered by him as an example, since he is concerned with “the basis for possible processes” and not with highlighting a process . This also indicates the possible range of definitions of mnemonics.


Antiquity - invention and classic

The Rhetorica ad Herennium in the manuscript Vaticanus Palatinus lat. 1459, fol. 1r (14th century) in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana , Rome
Portrait of Cicero on modern bust found in the Villa of the Quintiliers ( Vatican Museums )
Quintilians Institutio oratoria in the manuscript Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana , Plut. 46.12, fol. 1r, from 1476

It is said that the speakers of ancient Greece and Rome often made use of mnemonic means. The poet, statesman and world- wise Simonides von Keos was generally considered to be the inventor of the art of memory. Relevant statements can be found in Cicero , Quintilian , Pliny , Aelianus , Ammianus Marcellinus , Suidas and in the Parian Chronicle. The Parian Chronicle is a marble tablet from around 264 BC, found in Paros in the seventeenth century , and records the legendary dates of discoveries such as that of the flute, the introduction of grain by Ceres and Triptolemus, and the publication of Orpheus' poems, as well as in During the historical period, it was mainly festivals and the prizes awarded. Among them there is also a passage about Simonides: "Since the time when the Keaner Simonides, son of Leoprepes, the inventor of the system of memory aids, won the choir prize in Athens and statues were erected in honor of Harmodios and Aristogeiton 213 years." (that would be 477 BC).

Cicero describes the story of how Simonides invented the art of memory quite vividly in his rhetoric textbook De oratore , one of the three main sources on the ancient art of memory: “At a feast that was organized by a Thessalian noble named Skopas, Simonides entered in honor of his host lyrical poem, which also contained a section on the glory of the gods Castor and Pollux . The thrifty Skopas informed the poet that he would only pay him half of the sum agreed for the song of praise and that the rest should be given by the twin gods to whom he had dedicated half the poem. A little later the news was brought to Simonides that two young men were waiting outside to speak to him. He left the feast but could not see anyone outside. During his absence, the roof of the ballroom collapsed, burying Skopas and his guests under its rubble. The bodies were so crushed that the relatives trying to pick them up for burial could not identify them. But since Simonides remembered how they had sat at table, he was able to show the relatives who was their dead person. The invisible visitors, Castor and Pollux, paid generously for their part in the hymn of praise by removing Simonides from the feast just before the collapse ”.

He then describes the loci method : “Anyone who is looking to train this side of his mind must therefore choose certain places, imagine the things he wishes to keep in mind and place them in the conscious places. So the order of these places will preserve the arrangement of the material, but the picture of the things will designate the things themselves, and we could use the places instead of the wax tablet , the pictures instead of the letters Cicero then gives objections to the art of memory an explanation of how it works. It is noteworthy that he describes the visual sense as the sharpest, most memorable sense.

In addition to the position in Ciceros De oratore , the passages on mnemonics in the Institutio oratoria , a textbook on rhetoric by Quintilian , and the anonymous Ad C. Herennium libri IV are important for the development of mnemonics. Ad Herennium , incorrectly attributed to Cicero in the Middle Ages, formed the pattern on which the numerous medieval texts on the art of memory - always as part of rhetoric training - were based. All in all, these texts are considered to be the three main sources of ancient memory art, which were not only used for this purpose, but also became the starting point for numerous new approaches.

The Auctor ad Herennium describes the desired quality of the places and images and gives tips for practice. He demands z. B. to set a sequence for the locations so that nothing gets out of order and all memories are easily accessible. They should neither push too much into the foreground nor be too inconspicuous, but they can come from the imagination. 30 feet is the optimal distance between the locations. He also recommends numbering every fifth place. He gives us the only known number symbols from Roman antiquity: a golden hand for the 5 and a person named Decimus for the 10. He gives an example word for word and explains how to remember connections and whole sentences finds memorable images. Finally, he turns against prepared images as recommended by the Greeks, whereby in addition to the necessarily insufficient selection, he also takes into account the individual differences of the people.

Quintilian begins by emphasizing the importance of memory for education and oratory, arguing that simple memorization is not enough for these purposes before discussing the possibilities and limits of natural memory. After Simonides' description of the invention of the art of memory by Simonides and instructions for the loci method, quoting Cicero and mentioning possibilities such as real or fictional journeys, houses and paintings for the settlement of routes in them, he discusses their limits. He mentions a demonstration by Hortensius on the art of memory at the forum, at which the correctness was checked using the books of the merchants. For memorizing texts and names, he gives recommendations that go beyond the loci method, which is still common today. He recommends practice and gradually increasing the workload as the most important memory technique. The importance of sleep, the helpful effect of writing down on the memory, the importance of concentration and attention as well as advice for teaching are explained and memory performances attributed to well-known personalities are listed.

There are fragments on the topic from earlier times and Aristotle mentions the technique of locating images in order to organize memory. For his invention of the scientific model , an inspiration from the method of the art of memory is controversially discussed and his writings On the Soul and On Memory and Remembrance were significant for the reception of the art of memory by scholasticism in the Middle Ages. Apart from a few hints, he does not deal directly with mnemonic technology, but rather investigates the question of active remembering, also against obstacles to memory. However, it is difficult to interpret. Conclusions about the chain method seem to be obvious , whereby it starts not only from the beginning of a chain, but also from other links of the chain, if this promises greater benefit.

Middle Ages - Reception and Meditation

Page of a manuscript by Martianus Capellas De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercuriae , 10th century, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Lat. 7900 A

Between 410 and 430 n. Chr. Wrote Martianus Capella Scripture De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercuriae (From the marriage of philology with Mercurius ), which essentially retains the seven liberal arts of the ancient education system ( grammar , rhetoric , dialectic , arithmetic , geometry , music , Astronomy ) and thus became a basis of the medieval education system. In this writing, the memoria forms part of the rhetoric. The church teachers Albertus Magnus in De Bono (of the good) and Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae , on the other hand, treated the art of memory in the context of the doctrine of virtue, namely as part of the prudentia (wisdom), a reference that later protected the art of memory from theological attacks. Almost all authors later cited Thomas Aquinas to justify and justify their writings.

The Ars memorativa can also be found in mnemonic texts of the late Middle Ages such as the Tractatus de arte memorativa cujusdam magistri parisiensis written by Johann Ulrich Rosenheimer in 1449 or the probably written by Johannes Hartlieb , in part a translation of Rosenheimer's later Ars memorativa depicting art of memory .

Early Modern Times - Highs and Declines

Giordano Bruno. Illustration in: Neue Bibliothec, or News and Judgments of New Books . Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1715. P. 622, fig. 38
Matteo Ricci, painting by Emmanuel Pereira (also Yu Wen-hui) from 1610

Mnemonic technology of the early modern period is characterized by comprehensive systems of individuals. So put Giordano Bruno continued (1548-1600) the tradition and will pass through the mapping of terms and names to mystical knowledge. Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) explained his memorial palace to the Chinese as an aid for the civil service examination and thus made mnemonics known in China. Lamprecht Schenckel (1547–1625), later honored and criticized for speaking about “the Schenckelius”, shaped the image of memory art through sensational appearances and the treatment of the topic as a secret doctrine, while Johann Justus Winckelmann (1620–1699) under the pseudonym Stannislaus Mink von Wennshein developed a practicable number code and Johann Heinrich Döbel saw his work as a starting point for later generations. In contrast to his predecessors, he developed a clear and fundamentally simple system. But after his Collegium Mnemonicum of 1707 there were no more major publications on mnemonic technology for almost a hundred years.

The mnemonics did not fit the zeitgeist. Thinking should replace memorization. It was not taken into account that knowledge should be divided into understanding and factual knowledge. In addition, the well-known mnemonic technicians set too high demands that overwhelmed the audience and reached their limits without developing new impulses to overcome these limitations. In addition, too much fantasy was perceived as negative, which had provoked criticism of mnemonics since Descartes .

Up until 1804 there were only a few mentions of this art and very few publications that were to be regarded as exceptions. The survival of mnemonic practice is difficult and often indirect to observe during this time.

The exception here is Richard Gray , who in 1730 presented a complicated system for a digit or number code in which consonants and vowels form the numbers. Certain letters have special functions. The 'R' denotes e.g. B. a break. Due to its complexity, rigidity and the need to create word lists for all expressions prior to use, it did not find a successor.

1804 - New beginning of mnemonics

Johann Christoph von Aretin (1772-1824). Painting by an unknown artist (1806)
Gregor von Feinaigle (1760-1819)

After mnemonic technology had become quiet in the 18th century, a new beginning took place in 1804, which was determined by three publications:

  • Christian August Lebrecht Kästner , pastor in Leipzig, wanted to build up mnemonic technology from its foundations in his mnemonics, as he saw the "famous three passages among the ancients", with which he saw the passages already mentioned with Cicero, Quintilian and the Auctor ad Herennium meant. Through his modern language he revived interest in the subject.
  • In the same year, Baron Johann Christoph von Aretin spoke up with a memorandum in which he draws attention to the fact that one must go beyond modernizing the old system and announced his work on the theory and practice of mnemonics, which had been prepared for some time. In it he wants to replace the previous topological location of the memory images with a system of number images and developed a mnemonic bibliography that is still important today . Because of the order function assigned to the numbers , this work is considered to be the foundation of modern mnemonics.
  • Also in 1804 Gregor von Feinaigle published his art of memory. After the secularization of Salem Monastery had driven him out of his work as a religious, rhetoric teacher and librarian of the monastery, he earned his living as a traveling teacher and memory artist in France and England. He stood in the tradition of the previous art of memory, which he wanted to improve. His system of number pictures for the numbers up to 100 pointed to his presence.

A common weakness of these three was that they couldn't find a convincing memory system for numbers. Ulrich Voigt emphasizes her "endeavor to summarize the entire technology, to re-establish it and to put it on a stable foundation".

Age of nationalism - numbers, ideas, stories

Aimé Paris (1798–1866)

Aimé Paris , who also coined the term mnemonic , was the outstanding figure of the memory art of the 19th century . In 1825 he published his numerical code, which he developed from Winckelmann 's. In contrast to its predecessor, the digit code according to Aimé Paris , today usually referred to as the major system, is based on sounds instead of letters and enables an unambiguous assignment , so that it can also be used as a classification tool and on the sound-letter assignment of the language and spelling used is independent, making it the basis of modern mnemonics, in that the problems of Aretins and Feinaigles found a manageable solution. With regard to the basic loci method, he located ideas instead of images, which brought him closer to the memory content and increased noticeability through what was closer. The nationalism of the time began to have a negative impact on him, as he did not admit any foreign sources - Feinaigle was considered French at the time. This made the communication of the national schools very difficult, which were now developing in the spirit of the times.

Carl Christian Otto under the pseudonym Carl Otto Reventlow was decisive for German mnemonics . In order to be able to be regarded as his creator, but also in the sense of nationalism, he changed the numerical code according to Aimé Paris . In doing so, he went backwards to letters and gave up the unambiguousness of the assignment, which subsequently hindered German mnemonics very much. Just as Paris wanted to replace images and perception with ideas and understanding, he also wanted to replace places with them. This gave rise to criticism. Hermann Kothe called for a "sense of sight" and a "combination of ideas" to be combined. In addition, the individual images and ideas should be linked by the "summarizing thought". He referred to the resulting sequence of connections as threads . Hugo Weber-Rumpe went further here and processed such threads into stories . However, he rejected the equation of “summarizing thought” and “summarizing story” because “the chain consists of the individual chain links and only from them gains its stability”.

At mnemonics of other nationalities z. B. Francis Fauvel Gouraud and Ernest E. Wood to name, both of which dealt with the numerical code. Besides the coexistence in national schools, preoccupation with the recent history of mnemonics is hampered by the individuality of the authors, who often denied their predecessors and emphasized their own contributions. Beyond entertainment and limited uses, public interest waned, but never waned. And while philosophy kept the subject in mind, pedagogy focused on its own methods.

Transition to the present - athletes, coaches, entertainers

In the 1980s, memory artists and trainers such as Harry Lorayne and Gregor Staub kept mnemonics in the consciousness of a larger audience through appearances in television shows . These pursued or pursue their own approaches. Gregor Staub uses the tools of mnemonics very pragmatically in order to combine them into a system in which the effectiveness is in the foreground compared to an application according to the pure teaching. In the second half of the 20th century, many methods of mnemonics were also investigated experimentally, whereby their effectiveness was confirmed, and in some cases their functionality could be specified.

The memory sport emerged later , which uses mnemonics as an application for certain disciplines, and memory trainers such as Ulrich Bien and Jens Seiler also contributed to the fact that mnemonics were not only present in the media in the early 21st century, but also applied different levels is alive. Mnemonic authors and educators such as Ulrich Voigt also pursue higher demands again, whereby the focus is partly on systematization and partly on classification in the knowledge of pedagogy.

Structure of the mnemonics

Just as there are many views for defining mnemonics, there are also many views for the structure of mnemonics. For a consistent presentation, however, one can be guided by practical considerations, as do many of the books on the subject. First of all, the basics are mostly discussed that have a general influence on learning and the functioning of individual mnemonics. Then it is explained how the substances to be memorized are dealt with in order to bring them into a form that is as easy to learn as possible. The memory content and the memory aids must be brought into a relationship that allows the association to the memory aid and from the memory aid to the memory content. After all, it is about more complex mnemonic techniques that can structure, arrange and sequence the material and help to master even large areas of knowledge. Some techniques, such as the major system , serve both to encode the memory content and to organize the material. In the following, this classification should help to maintain an overview.

Basics of mnemonics

Even if these are described differently, the topic can be found in most books on this. This also raises the question of the respective limitations of mnemonics. Whether all knowledge and tips for learning fall under the mnemonics, or only some or only very clearly mnemonics in the sense of a certain definition, like the one mentioned above by Voigt, determines the scope of these basics.

General knowledge and advice

Even if memory trainers and some mnemonic technicians regard everything as belonging to the topic or integrate into their lessons that facilitates memorization and supports memory, this usually goes beyond the scope of what is understood by mnemonics. A reference to the relevant articles on pedagogy, learning, memory and other relevant topics is also sufficient here. There you will z. B. Find clues about creating a favorable learning environment, how memory works, and similar fundamentals.


Sometimes it is discussed which aids, apart from one's own senses, one's own thinking and one's own memory, are allowed in order to still be able to speak of mnemonics. Even the mnemonic technician often has to work out what to remember first. He must also use the usual aids, e.g. B. to capture a text, take into account. But the use of the individual mnemonic techniques can also require the use of aids. Sometimes a drawing helps to better imagine or construct a place, a route, a memory palace. Then you have to repeat the application of mnemonics in order to anchor knowledge in the long term. Here, too, there is the need to keep the information to be memorized and also the possibly complex construction to be memorized available in some form. The processing of more extensive knowledge often requires the use of writing. Not only for grasping and repeating, but also to work out the form in which the mnemonics are applied to them. The learning card, on the other hand, is not counted as part of the mnemonic, since the focus here is on the support provided by aids.


The mnemonics should make learning easier. As a rule, the relief provided by the systematic approach can be easily seen and checked yourself. Likewise, everyone will consider it rational that someone actually puts too much effort into being able to explain a simple procedure to others later. (See also Mnemonic processing of larger areas of knowledge .) Today, however, the possibility of quick reference is held against it. Here, the time it takes to look up is underestimated compared to knowledge, as this adds up over the course of life. In addition, looking up usually does not achieve sufficient efficiency.

Mnemonic mental factors

The memory works according to certain principles, which should be used to achieve efficient and long-term storage. Those more closely related to mnemonics are of concern here. There are also easy-to-remember compilations, of which the mnemonic mental factors are the best known.

There are seven of them:

1. Imagination
If learning content is reduced to the essentials, it quickly becomes dry. They no longer appeal to the imagination and are difficult to learn. Conversely, it is helpful if the learner's imagination provides associations, images, and other means that support or enable mnemonics or even form them. The simple activation of dry material can also be helpful. For example, the involuntary imagining of things - a rather creative and extravagant act - helps effective learning rather than hindering it, as has often been claimed.
2. Visualization
The human being has the ability to imagine images in the mind and to let films run in front of the inner eye, the conscious imagining of a certain process. In particular, many consider the idea of ​​the generated image combinations or films on the inner screen to be the most important exercise in mnemonics. "So close your eyes and see your inner eyes." or similar prompts can therefore be found in pretty much every book on the subject. Experiments also confirm the high visual storage capacity of our brain. All senses should be taken into account, colors, smells and sounds should not be missing. It should also be noted that moving images and films work better than static images. It should be noted that the visualization can also play a role for other means of processing the memory content , such as words and concepts.
3. Logic
Once you have understood a subject, you can usually derive it logically. But there is also material that eludes such deductions. Mnemonic technology is only required where the derivation is too lengthy or where factual knowledge that cannot be derived is available. This is where logic can help find structures and give data additional meaning so that it can be better understood. At the same time, it helps to find consistent structures for the individual mnemonic techniques for the current learning content.
4. emotion
Everyone knows the effect that information associated with strong emotional sensations is easy to remember and remains in the memory for a long time. Unpleasant memories are often hard to forget. This can be exploited by connecting memory contents - for example through emotional images - with emotions. Often humor, disgust and eroticism are mentioned, but also other emotions such as B. Anger, passion, fear, and horror work. Different emotions can work differently well.
5. Transformation
This means “translating” the information to be learned into an easier “digestible” form. On the one hand, this includes the theory of chunking , according to which one can increase its catchiness through the form in which the information to be learned is viewed and thus optimize the capacity of short-term memory and thus expand this bottleneck in memory . Pictures are the cheapest here. On the other hand, the implementation of the memory contents in a form corresponding to mnemonics, i.e. the preparation of the memory contents, is also meant. Various means such as associations, images and stories are available for this.
6. Localization
Localization is a way of memorizing knowledge completely and in an orderly manner. The oldest mnemonic technique , the loci method , is especially considered. This method is often regarded as the main method of mnemonic technology and is within the mnemonic mental factors as pars pro toto for the other structuring mnemonic techniques .
7. Association
This refers to the ability to make connections - called associations - between different pieces of information. Such associations secure each other's knowledge in memory. Associations between new learning content facilitate their learning as well as connections to information already available in long-term memory . Associations can arise spontaneously, be natural, so to speak, or be created artificially. Finding or making them can be practiced and is often difficult at first. They are a means of preparing learning content for mnemonics and, as pars pro toto, also stand for other of these means. Associations also play a role in structuring mnemonics .

The mnemonic mental factors can be easily memorized with the help of the following mnemonic ( acrostic ):

" A ll F actors L ead T o V ery E fficient L earning"

(Association, fantasy, logic, transformation, visualization, emotion, localization)

Other factors

The mnemonic mental factors ignore some important basics. Sometimes they are assigned general tips that have no place in mnemonics, sometimes they are incorrectly related to mnemonics due to misunderstandings. Here are to be mentioned:

  • Repetition : Mnemonics also need repetition in order to ensure long-term memory. Some mnemonic techniques are aimed at making it possible to check whether the learning content is still available. There are also suggestions on how to ensure optimal repetition. Disregarding this factor leads to the prejudice that mnemonics only work for a short time. It's just a technique that more than significantly reduces forgetting and makes repetition easier. In doing so, stupid repetition is usually avoided through a well thought-out system.
  • Attention : In order to recognize learning content, attention, i.e. conscious and concentrated perception, can help. But what has our attention to a large extent can also be memorized better than other things. With regard to mnemonics, the latter sets it apart from the set of general references.

General principles of memory

Another common compilation are the so-called General Memory Principles . They are less systematic and consistent, but should not be suppressed because of their distribution. As far as the choice of words is concerned, these principles are named so that together they result in the word blazing colors :

F antasie : This is the same wording mnemonic mental factor.
A lle sense to use: This is included in the mnemonic mental factor of visualization.
R eihenfolge and order: This is localization in mnemonic mental factor.
B ewegung: This is included in the mnemonic mental factor of visualization.
E rotik: This is contained in the mnemonic mental factor emotion.
N ummerierung: This is localization in mnemonic mental factor.
P ositive ideas: This is contained in the mnemonic mental factor emotion and to prevent displacement of negativity.
R eichtum of colors : This is included in the visualization mnemonic mental factor.
A ssoziation : This is the same wording mnemonic mental factor.
C odes: This is contained in the mnemonic mental factors localization and logic.
H umor : This is contained in the mnemonic mental factor emotion.
T iefere impressions: The deliberate and focused perception as an accurate process is absent in the mnemonic mental factors and is above attention treated at the further factors.

Mnemonic means

This is about the means of preparing the memory content , the means of forming donkey bridges could be said. Ulrich Voigt enumerates feelings, signs, schemes, images, places, words, concepts and stories . So these are by no means just pictures, as is sometimes claimed. In detail should

  • Feelings may not be suitable for absorbing information, whereby Voigt disregards the fact that the connection with feelings is an important factor in better retention of knowledge. As a result, they are also part of the donkey bridges.
  • Characters are too difficult and complex for a character mnemonic to ever come about. But he gives letters and words as examples.
  • Schemas, on the other hand, are not only "general and familiar", but can also be used by mnemonics. He mentions the ability to remember faces as an example. As plan sketches, caricatures of faces or map sketches, they can highlight what is important and thus make memorizing easier.
  • Images would have been the usual donkey bridges for most of the story. Even today, the image technology is the best known and most influential of the means of processing memory content. The Auctor ad Herennium noted a poisoning as follows: The victim lies sick in bed, next to it stands the accused with the poison in his hand. In the other hand he holds will and purse to clarify the motive and Aries testicles hang from one finger to symbolize the witnesses. If the victim and the accused are unknown, they must be replaced in the introduction by suitable people. Strictly speaking, several images are linked here, but this makes the example all the more haunting. It is often recommended to imagine animated or moving pictures : the poison victim gasps for breath, the accused looks satisfied at the will and wallet or anxiously at the witnesses. If you think ahead consistently, you come to small films or stories .
  • Locations already belong to the oldest mnemonics, as described above . In ancient times they were regularly linked to images. These are topologically located 'places', 'compartments' or 'hooks' that can be connected with other of the means listed here. It is possible to connect many places together. The classic example is the loci method .
  • Words along with thoughts may have been introduced in the 19th century as a substitute for pictures and places, as also described above , whereby the words should be connected by thoughts. Mnemonics have also been used with newly defined and completely newly formed words. Replacing numbers with words based on a digit code such as the major system is an example of the use of words.
  • Terms must always be assigned to the magical mnemonic technique, in which the donkey bridges are used not only to make it easier to remember, but also to capture and master the content. The term itself is assigned power, i.e. effectiveness, and knowledge was expected through its use and recall. In this context, Raymundus Lullus and Giordano Bruno should be mentioned. With a more mystical understanding, a certain worldview should be internalized and better understood.
  • Stories have role models in Indian mnemonic technology of the Middle Ages and individual predecessors in Europe since ancient times. Stories emerged from the connection of words through thoughts within the framework of association chains. Ulrich Voigt calls the chain method, if the context consists of stories, the thread method: “The phone hops into bed where it is devoured by a tiger.” Like pictures, however, stories can also be used as a very special means of representing information.

It is noticeable that associations are not mentioned. This is due to the fact that they play a special role on various levels in the Voigt system, and reference can be made here to their description under the mnemonic mental factors . The means listed for mnemonic representation of the memory contents are not in competition with one another and can also be used together.

Limits of mnemonics

Contrary to the promise of some memory trainers, mnemonic technology is no wonder, with which everything can be quickly remembered after a brief explanation about the technology. Most of the techniques are simple, but they take a little practice to use safely. However, progress can be made quickly. The individual character and experience also affects the way in which the techniques are optimally applied. These individual characteristics can only be learned through the application. Furthermore, when learning with mnemonic techniques , what has been learned must be repeated . Some mnemonic techniques, such as some memos, primarily make the existing and missing knowledge verifiable. This means that less is forgotten than with other learning methods. So the fabric fits faster, and you notice more with less effort.

For some purposes, such as shopping lists and memory sports, the reminder contents become obsolete after a short time. However, if the content is to be remembered for a long time, it is usually necessary to proceed more carefully. The pictures should e.g. B. not be so absurd that they are difficult to remember in the long run. Rather, the absurdities should fit in so that the learner can easily imagine them.

For z. B. Shopping lists and numbers are recognized and quickly applicable methods. However, preparation is often necessary for large quantities. And sometimes it is necessary to think of a way for yourself to make the topic tangible for a mnemonic.

Preparation of the reminder contents

A large part of mnemonic technology consists in expressing the memory contents with the appropriate means of mnemonic technology . To this end, common techniques have been developed for a range of content, while in other areas work has to be done for this purpose. In view of the large number of possible reminder contents, only examples are listed below.

People, their names and faces

Especially when there are a lot of names to remember, this is difficult even for those who otherwise hardly have memory problems. This is where the “ diplomat's trick ” can help. Instead of memorizing all the names at once, you join a small group until you have memorized the names in this group and then go to the next group, thus obeying the principle of not wanting to memorize too much. Here you can visualize the names and connect them with the features of the faces.

Language and vocabulary learning

A familiar word that sounds similar to the vocabulary being learned is the key word. An image is created in the mind from the key word and the meaning of the word. This is called the keyword method. Methods recommended by linguistics and education should also be mentioned here. While a basic vocabulary affects the effectiveness of the selection of the learning content, word formation theory and word families , the consideration of the history of a word , the comparison of synonymous words or the knowledge and the formation of references to corresponding foreign or loan words and similar words in other languages ​​make learning easier . Once, similar to the history of language, people wanted to use the 'folk character' as a donkey bridge for certain word groups. Anyone who uses the Loci method or the Memorial Palace will also find order options here.

Remember numbers

Memorizing numbers is objectively particularly difficult, even if different people have different degrees of difficulty. Systems that facilitate this are the number-symbol system , the number-rhyme system and the more comprehensive major system , in which consonants are assigned to the digits. What they have in common is that they can also be used to structure and organize memory contents.

Disciplines of memory and pi sports

Special techniques and peculiarities have often developed for memory sports, the application of which for other purposes can sometimes be problematic. The PVO system for memorizing numbers and the Dominic system for memorizing the order of playing cards should be mentioned here. It is similar in pi-sport , where you have to memorize the number π.

Structuring mnemonics

Mnemonic alphabet of Robert Fludd 1619


The following set can be the planet sequence, from the sun from memorize: " M a V ater e rklärt m ir j Eden S onntag u nseren N night sky." Where each of the first letter of a planet having the same letter. The M in M and for M erkur (closest to the Sun Planet), the V in V ater for V enus (next closest planet from the Sun), and so on for E would recommend, M ars, J Upiter, S aturn, U ranus and N eptun. The memory aid assumes that you know the planet names. Learning is made easier, just like with complex systems, if the content of the fictional scene that the sentence describes is as vivid, lively and colorful as possible. It would be beneficial if one imagines Father explaining the planets using a drawing in a large book or blackboard. With your own father, of course, in the atmosphere and environment that you remember as being typical for your own family on Sundays. The internal repetition of the sentence should be emphasized on every single word.

This example of simple mnemonic technology already contains the two basic elements of the most complex mnemonic universal systems, namely order / fixed order on the one hand and clear images for both the order system and the remembered knowledge on the other.

Another example is: “Klio / me / ter / thal / Eu / er / ur / po / kal” for the 9 muses of classical antiquity: Klio , Melpomene , Terpsichore , Thalia , Euterpe , Erato , Urania , Polyhymnia and Kalliope .

A well-known example of learning the circle of fifths is the sentence: " G eh D u A lter E sel, H ole Fis che". A visual comparison with child-friendly images helps through a mnemonic approach. It is important the choice of images with phonetically more accurate pronunciation, for example " E Lefant" and not " e imer". “ E lefant” has the further advantage that it cannot be misunderstood, in contrast to “ Es el”, which incorrectly points to “Es”.

Chain method, chains of associations

In typical methods of mnemonics, the terms to be learned are linked like the links in a chain in such a way that the correct sequence is retained. You just think of a story in which the terms appear. The danger is that if a chain link is lost, the entire chain of associations "breaks" so to speak. But there are also specific methods by which this risk can be minimized.

The methods can be applied to areas of knowledge where key words and their completeness and correct order are important. The most common of these are number-symbol systems ; the letter system and the loci method , which is the oldest system.

Alphabet method

With the alphabet method, the letters of the alphabet, each with a firmly linked image, form the basic memory structure, whereby the words to be remembered are converted into images and each connected to an image that stands for a letter.

The images for each letter are not formed from the shape (for 1 stands for a candle, a fountain pen or a ruler) as in the simple number method, but from a word with the same initial letter. When building the system, the user can z. B. decide to memorize the word and image lemon for Z. If the word “theory of relativity” is in the list of words that you just want to remember and it is next to “Z”, then you could imagine Einstein with a blackboard with formulas on it while he bites into half a lemon and that Grimacing. This particular image, in which smell and taste are included, is a good example of an image that is hardly forgotten because the brain stores living images well. In combination with a classification feature, here the letter Z, which makes the memory accessible, it is easy to learn a list of words by heart and reproduce them in sequence or reproduce the respective memorized word when a letter is mentioned.

Loci method

A well-known and widespread mnemonic association technique is the loci method (from the Latin locus for place / place). It was the main method in ancient times and in the Middle Ages. To master this technique, it takes very little effort. When trying to memorize a sequence of things in the conventional way, a lot of things in the brain often get mixed up. With the help of Loci technology, the learning content is “encoded” in an orderly manner.

In loci technology, a separate place is reserved for each term, so to speak, variables are created that can be assigned different content. These variables are in a superordinate, fixed structure, so that it is possible to keep the exact sequence during playback. The fixed structure mentioned earlier can be a well-known path, but it can also be a space. In the second case, it doesn't necessarily have to be a real room. You can create your own space, but this has to be done with the greatest possible accuracy. With both variants it is necessary to select very clear places where the things to be remembered can be stored later. Then you can put what you want to remember in the form of living pictures on the mentally prepared places; It is particularly beneficial if you first combine several things into an association image and only then mentally discard them. This “saves space” and is even easier to remember. You can use the path or the room again and again, “describe” it anew, so to speak.

Imprint on a walk

  1. You write the learning material on notepad.
  2. You mentally go for a walk (a certain tour) and then stop at certain places (for example on a bench, at a bus stop, near a fountain, near a restaurant, near a prominent tree) and memorize the substance of a certain memo .
  3. The place where the content was learned is noted on the memo.
  4. You repeat the walk (always with the same stations) and thereby deepen the information on the notepad until you have mastered the topic.
  5. In an exam situation, it is then sufficient to go for a walk in your mind and you can remember what you have learned relatively easily.

Well-known example

The structure of a typical freely spoken speech can be remembered with the front view of a Greek temple. The introduction of the speech is associated with the stairs, the right, sunlit column with the pro-arguments and the left, shaded column with the contra-arguments. The middle, half-shaded column brings together similarities and irreconcilable opposites. The pointed roof of the temple is associated with the end result (e.g. a compromise or a synthesis).

Memorial palace

A memory palace is a fictional structure that exists in the head and is used to store knowledge in the long term or, through its local structure, to bring logic into knowledge that is already present in the head. It is essentially based on the principle of the loci method , but there are some fundamental differences in its “construction”.

Mnemonic processing of larger areas of knowledge

This often requires more than a combination of several mnemonic techniques and a solution can only be found by analyzing the respective area of ​​application. Insofar as it is different for each area of ​​knowledge, nothing can be said about it here. However, there are a number of publications that show how certain areas of knowledge can be mastered mnemonically. This includes:

  • Johann Buno : New Latin Grammatica. In fables and pictures. Presented to the uterine senses / and thus established / that by means of such a means the same can be learned in a short time with the pupil's pleasure and pleasure, along with several thousand vocabulis contained therein & c. , Danzig 1651.
  • Friedrich Robert Gilbert: The ABC of Chinese writing , Berlin 1926.
  • Hermann Kothe: Mnemonics of the Bible , Kassel 1853.
  • CW Nauck: Mnemonicon. Mnemonic chronological tables of world history. Initially for grammar schools and higher education institutions , Cottbus 1845.
  • Hugo Weber-Rumpe: French gender rules to be learned in a few hours mnemonic , Breslau 1891.
  • Ulrich Voigt: The year in your head. Calendar and mnemonics , Hamburg 2003.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Mnemonics  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Mnemonics  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. ^ Hermann Hobmair et al .: Pedagogy / Psychology . 2nd Edition. Bildungsverlag EINS, Troisdorf 2005.
  2. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemotechnik between Simonides and Harry Lorayne , Hamburg 2011, pp. 23, 28, 266. Aimée Paris: Principes et Applications diverses de la Mnémotechnie, ou l'Art d'aider la Mémoire , Paris 1833.
  3. For example Rhetorica ad Herennium, III, 28 f., 38 f.
  4. Martianus Capella : De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii (“The marriage of philology with Merkur ”), 5, 538, quoted from the translation by Hans Günther Zekl, Würzburg 2005.
  5. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemonics between Simonides and Harry Lorayne . Hamburg 2011, pp. 32, 38.
  6. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemonics between Simonides and Harry Lorayne , Hamburg 2011, p. 36.
  7. ^ Johann Christoph Dommerich, The mnemonics and heuristics designed according to their first features, Halle, Helmstedt 1765.
  8. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemotechnik between Simonides and Harry Lorayne , Hamburg 2011, p. 33.
  9. ^ August Boeckh: Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum. Volume 2, No. 1. Berlin 1828, 12, 6, pp. 293-343.
  10. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero : De oratore , II, 352f.
  11. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero : De oratore , II, 354.
  12. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero : De oratore , II, 350-360.
  13. Rhetorica ad Herennium, III, 28-40.
  14. ^ Quintilian , Institutio oratoria XI 2, 1-51.
  15. Aristotle, De memoria et reminiscentia 252 a.
  16. ^ Rainer Rudolf: Master Rosenheimer, Johann Ulrich, from Strasbourg. In: Author's Lexicon . Volume VIII, Col. 193 f.
  17. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemotechnik between Simonides and Harry Lorayne , Hamburg 2011, p. 32 f, 71-74. Wolfgang Wildgen: The cosmic memory - cosmology, semiotics and memory theory in the works of Giordano Brunos (1548–1600 ), Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1998.
  18. ^ Matteo Ricci: The western ars memorativa (Xiguo Jifa) , 1596. Jonathan D. Spence: The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. 1985, pp. 1-23.
  19. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemotechnik between Simonides and Harry Lorayne , Hamburg 2011, p. 24.
  20. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemotechnik between Simonides and Harry Lorayne , Hamburg 2011, pp. 170–172.
  21. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemotechnik between Simonides and Harry Lorayne , Hamburg 2011, p. 24 f, 103-106, 169.
  22. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemotechnik between Simonides and Harry Lorayne , Hamburg 2011, p. 24.
  23. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemotechnik between Simonides and Harry Lorayne , Hamburg 2011, p. 24. Ulrich Bien: Einfach. Everything. Note .. humboldt, 2nd edition, Hannover 2012, pp. 43–46.
  24. ^ Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemotechnik between Simonides and Harry Lorayne , Hamburg 2011, p. 24 f, 27.
  25. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemonics between Simonides and Harry Lorayne . Hamburg 2011, pp. 168–173.
  26. Christian August Lebrecht Kästner: Mnemonics or System of Memory Art of the Elderly , Leipzig 1804.
  27. Johann Christoph von Aretin: Mémoire sur la Nature et les Avantages de la Mnémonique ou sciènce du souvenir , ( memorandum on the true concept and use of mnemonics ), Munich 1804.
  28. Johann Christoph Freiherr von Aretin: Systematic instructions for the theory and practice of mnemonics along with basic lines for the history and criticism of this science , Sulzbach 1810.
  29. ^ Gregor von Feinaigle: Art of Memory, to learn all kinds of sciences in an easy as well as durable way and to fix them in memory , Strasbourg 1804. The more meaningful mnemonics or practical memory art for self-teaching after the lectures of Herr von Feinaigle , Frankfurt a. M. 1811 was made public by an indiscreet student.
  30. Cf. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemotechnik between Simonides and Harry Lorayne , Hamburg 2011, p. 27, cf. also pp. 24–30.
  31. Individual examples are mentioned for individual techniques. See also Ulrich Bien: Simply. Everything. Remember .. humboldt, 2nd edition, Hannover 2012 and Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt. Mnemonic between Simonides and Harry Lorayne . Likanas Verlag, Hamburg 2001.
  32. On the history of mnemonics in general, see the following works: Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemotechnik between Simonides and Harry Lorayne , Hamburg 2011 considers the development of mnemonics within the system and from the point of view of philosophy. Frances A. Yates: Memory and Recall. Mnemonics from Aristotle to Shakespeare , Weinheim 1991 mainly looks at the cultural history of mnemonics.
  33. Cf. Ulrich Bien: Simply. Everything. Notice. , Hanover 2012. Gunther Karsten: Memory of success - How to remember names, facts, vocabulary better , Munich 2002. Ulrich Voigt mentions other approaches: Esels Welt - Mnemonics between Simonides and Harry Lorayne . Hamburg 2011.
  34. Evidence for this section can be found in the literature section, unless otherwise stated.
  35. Gunther Karsten: Memory of success: How you can simply better remember numbers, names, facts, vocabulary . Goldmann, Munich 2002, ISBN 978-3-442-39035-9 .
  36. Manfred Spitzer : Learning. Brain Research and the School of Life . Spectrum, Ulm 2003, ISBN 978-3-8274-1396-3 .
  37. ^ Friedrich Rost: Learning and working techniques for studies . VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 978-3-531-34454-6 .
  38. Gunther Karsten : Memory of success: How you can simply better remember numbers, names, facts, vocabulary . Goldmann, Munich 2002.
  39. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt. Mnemonic between Simonides and Harry Lorayne . Likanas Verlag, Hamburg 2001, pp. 40-44.
  40. Rhetorica ad Herennium, III, 28-40.
  41. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt. Mnemonic between Simonides and Harry Lorayne . Likanas Verlag, Hamburg 2001, p. 123.
  42. Ulrich Bien: Simply. Everything. Merken., Hannover 2012. Ulrich Voigt: Esels Welt - Mnemonics between Simonides and Harry Lorayne . Hamburg 2011.
  43. Evidence for this section can be found in the literature section, unless otherwise stated.
  44. Ernst Habenstein: Latin word customer , Stuttgart 1948. Ernst Habenstein, Eberhard Hermes, Herbert Zimmermann: Basic and Advanced Vocabulary Latin . Leipzig / Stuttgart / Düsseldorf 2012, pp. 6-11, 152 f.