Mnemonic devices

Mnemonic devices are examples of manipulation and improvement of memory.

There are methods we can use to enhance recall and retrieval of information. We call these mnemonic devices. Mnemonic devices add more layers of encoding to information, as they often link the new stimuli with what we already know. Mnemonic devices include acronyms, acrostics and narrative chaining.


An acronym is an abbreviation of a phrase or word, which can be used as a cue to remember the umbrella phrase or word. For example, laser is an acronym for light amplified by stimulated emission of radiation. By using laser, we are given a cue as to the starting letter of each word. Other common acronyms include ROY G. BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).


An acrostic is a mnemonic device in which each letter of a word or phrase is used as the starting point for a longer piece of text, often which aids in recall. For example, if you had to remember the letters MNITAMFTOYIC, you are unlikely to be able to do so effectively without use of an acrostic (see the capacity of short-term memory).

To counter this, we can use an acrostic to add meaning to the letters. For example:


Narrative chaining

Narrative chaining is another mnemonic device which calls on the principles of elaborate rehearsal. Say you had a bunch of ‘nonsense words’ to remember:

Tree, octopus, phone, blue, banana, life, stung, monkey and hurt.

These words have no direct correlation to each other. However, narrative chaining combines these words into a story, which aids in memory formation. For example:

The blue monkey, which sat in the tree, eating bananas and on its phone, had a great life until an octopus stung it. It hurt!