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Cognitive Psychology: Attention · Decision making · Learning · Judgement · Memory · Motivation · Perception · Reasoning · Thinking  - Cognitive processes Cognition - Outline Index

Memorization or memorizing (Memorisation or Memorising in British English) is the process of committing something to memory. The act of memorization is often a deliberate mental process undertaken in order to store in memory for later recall items such as experiences, names, appointments, addresses, telephone numbers, lists, stories, poems, pictures, maps, diagrams, facts, music or other visual, auditory, or tactical information. Memorization may also refer to the process of storing particular data into the memory of a device.

The scientific study of memory is part of cognitive neuroscience, an interdisciplinary link between cognitive psychology and neuroscience.

Some principles and techniques that have been used to assist in memorization include:

  • Rote learning, a learning technique which focuses not on understanding but on memorization by means of repetition. For example, if words are to be learnt, they may be repeatedly spoken aloud or repeatedly written down.
  • A mnemonic, a type of memory aid. Mnemonics are often verbal, such as a very short poem or a special word used to help a person remember something, particularly lists, but they may be visual, kinesthetic or auditory. Mnemonics rely on associations between easy-to-remember constructs which can be related back to the data that is to be remembered. This is based on the principle that the human mind much more easily remembers spatial, personal, surprising, sexual or humorous or otherwise meaningful information than arbitrary sequences.
  • A Mnemonic link system, a method of remembering lists, based on creating an association between the elements of that list. For example, if one wished to remember the list (dog, envelope, thirteen, yarn, window), one could create a link system, such as a story about a "dog stuck in an envelope, mailed to an unlucky black cat playing with yarn by the window". It is then argued that the story would be easier to remember than the list itself. Alternatively one could use visualisation, seeing in one's mind's eye an image that includes two elements in the list that are next to each other. One could imagine a dog inside a giant envelope, then visualise an unlucky black cat (or whatever that reminds the user 'thirteen') eating a huge envelope. In order to access a certain element of the list, one needs to "traverse" the system (much in the same vein as a linked list), in order to get the element from the system.
  • A peg system, a technique for memorizing lists. It works by pre-memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent (1 to 10, 1-100, 1-1000, etc). Those objects form the "pegs" of the system. Then in the future, to rapidly memorize a list of arbitrary objects, each one is associated with the appropriate peg. Generally, a peglist only has to be memorized one time, and can then be used over and over every time a list of items needs to be memorized. The peglists are generated from words that are easy to associate with the numbers (or letters). Peg lists created from letters of the alphabet or from rhymes are very simple to learn, but are limited in the number of pegs they can produce.
  • The Major system, a mnemonic technique used to aid in memorizing numbers which is also called the phonetic number system or phonetic mnemonic system. It works by converting numbers first into consonant sounds, then into words by adding vowels. The words can then be remembered more easily than the numbers, especially when using other mnemonic rules which call for the words to be visual and emotive.
  • The Method of loci, a technique for memorizing practiced since classical antiquity which is a type of mnemonic link system based on places (loci, otherwise known as locations). It is often used where long lists of items need to be memorized. The technique was taught for many centuries as a part of the curriculum in schools, enabling an orator to easily remember a speech or students to easily remember many things at will.
  • The Art of memory, a group of mnemonic principles and techniques used to organize memory impressions, improve recall, and assist in the combination and 'invention' of ideas. This group of principles was usually associated with training in Rhetoric or Logic from the time of Ancient Greece, but variants of the art were employed in other contexts, particularly the religious and the magical. Techniques commonly employed in the art include the association of emotionally striking memory images within visualized locations, the chaining or association of groups of images, the association of images with schematic graphics or notae ("signs, markings, figures" in Latin), and the association of text with images. Any or all of these techniques were often used in combination with the contemplation or study of architecture, books, sculpture and painting, which were seen by practitioners of the art of memory as externalizations of internal memory images and/or organization.

Specialised forms of rote learning have also been used in Vedic chant since as long as three thousand years ago,[1] to preserve the intonation and lexical accuracy of very long texts, some with tens of thousands of verses.

[In todays world, it is a growing problem among high schools, especially in Eastern Europe, that so much information is presented to students, that memorization is becoming the only way to store everything.]

See also:


  1. Scharfe, Hartmut: "Education in Ancient India", 2002, BRILL; ISBN 9004125566, 9789004125568, at Ch. 13: "Memorising the Veda", page 240
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