Mnemonics and Imagery
OBJECTIVES: This lecture is designed to enable you to:
- discuss the nature and role of elaboration in human information processing.
- discuss the nature of mnemonics and their role in human learning and memory.
- differentiate among three systems of visual mnemonics and and describe how they can be implemented.
- discuss the nature of mental imagery and visual processing.
- discuss the educational implications of mnemonics and imagery.
- When new information is processed, it often is elaborated in the sense that additional information is added to it and/or the new information is related to other information (for additional information, see Levin, 1988; Reder, 1980; Shuell, 1988).
- The use of mnemonics (and to a lesser extent mental imagery)involve elaboration.
- Individuals differ in their propensity for making elaborations -- a reality that may account for both individual and developmental differences in performance.
- For example, older children generally need LESS EXPLICIT prompts or cues in order to elicit the elaboration process.
- Similarly, individual difference within age groups in propensity for elaboration have also been demonstrated (for more information, see Shuell, 1988) -- For example, successful students are more likely than less successful students to:
- engage spontaneously in elaboration activities.
- make precise elaborations -- i.e., elaborations that help reduce the arbitrariness of relationship in the material, for example:
- "The hungry man got into his car to go to the restaurant."
- "The hungry man got into his car and drove away."
- recognize that precisely elaborated material is easier to remember.
- Elaborations can either be provided by the teacher or generated by the learner; in the latter case, they would be referred to as learning strategies.
- Elaborations generally have a facilitative effect on learning, although under certain conditions, their effect can be detrimental (see Reder, 1982; Shuell, 1988).
- Elaboration presumably facilitates learning by:
- unitizing discrepant information.
- directing the encoding process away from interfering facts and toward the relevant to-be-remembered material.
- If for any reason the learner's elaborations encode the new material in a way that is inconsistent with the task the learner is ultimately expected to accomplish, then performance on that task will be poorer than it would have been if the learner had not engaged in elaboration.
- Elaborations presented by the teacher or instructional agent may be less effective than those that the learners (especially the better ones) would generate on their own.
- According to Solso (1995, p. 257) Mnemonics are "techniques or devices, such as a rhyme or an image, that serve to enhance the storage and the recall of information contained in memory." Mnemonics have been used in Western civilization since at least the times of the Greeks.
- Mnemonics can be either verbal or visual in nature.
- Examples of verbal mnemonics include the use of:
- the fictitious Indian tribe SOHCAHTOA -- who live in triangular teepees -- to help you remember the three trigonometric functions, Sine, Cosine, and Tangent (if not, a hint: SOH-CAH-TOA).
- Every Good Boy Does Fine and FACE to remember the lines and spaces, respectively, of the treble clef.
- Three commonly used mnemonics systems utilize mental imagery.
- METHOD OF LOCI (dates back to ancient Greek times).
- Choose an area, route, or place with which your are familiar, for example:
- The route you travel from home to work.
- The area around your home or campus.
- The inside of your home or office.
- Select a series of different places (loci) in that area, along that route, or around your home, room, or office.
- Since your familiar with the area, you will undoubtedly select loci that are distinctive and meaningful for you.
- The loci you pick should be easy for you to remember, for example:
- Along the route you travel from home to work, such as:
- bus stop
- traffic light
- Joe's Market
- Around your kitchen:
- microwave oven
- and so forth.
- Once you have thoroughly memorized the loci, you are ready to utilize the system to help you learn something more easily -- e.g., a grocery list, a series of points in a chapter, or an outline for a talk or lecture.
- Now, go through the series of loci you selected -- one at a time -- and PICTURE the item you want to remember in some association with the appropriate locus. For example, if you want to remember a grocery list using the route you travel to work you might:
- associate SUGAR with HOME by thinking of "Home Sweet Home" or picture a snowfall of sugar coming down on the house.
- picture a huge PINEAPPLE in the GARAGE, taking up the whole garage and about to burst the sides and ceiling.
- picture an EGG frying on the DRIVEWAY on a hot summer day.
- picture a POT OF BUTTER waiting at the BUS STOP.
- and so on.
- When you want to remember the items on the grocery list, you merely retrace the trip from home to work, and as you think of each locus, you remember the item associated with that locus.
- NUMERIC PEGWORD (actually a variation of the method of loci).
- In this system, a relatively easy-to-learn number-word rhyme scheme is mastered and then used in place of the locus.For example, the rhyme might be:
- The numbers provide you with the correct sequence and easy access to stimuli that can cue the recall of the items you wish wish to remember.
- After learning the rhyming scheme, you use it in much the same way as the loci in the Method of Loci.
- The KEYWORD METHOD (Developed by Atkinson  for learning foreign language vocabulary) -- involves two stages.
- an ACOUSTIC LINK STAGE in which the student acquires a keyword which is a familiar English word that:
- sounds like a salient part of the foreign word,
- ideally, it can be pictured.
- an IMAGERY LINK STAGE in which the student must form a visual image in which the keyword and the English translation are interacting in some manner.
- Concern for the representation of visual information (e.g., mental imagery has a long -- although rather controversial -- history in psychology (controversial since images are internal phenomenon that cannot be observed).
- Nevertheless, there is good evidence that humans can process information using mental imagery.
- Certain types of visual information (e.g., pictures) can be remembered better than verbal information (e.g., words).
- Allan Paivio's (1969) two-process (dual-coding) theory.
- Stimuli can be coded both VISUALLY and VERBALLY.
- But stimuli differ in the ease with which they can be coded in one or the other modality.
- Information is easier to access (e.g., recall) when it is stored in more than one modality.
- For example, a list of pictures is likely to be recalled better than a list of concrete words; which, in turn, is likely to be recalled better than a list of abstract words. This general finding is explained in terms of the extent to which the stimuli can be coded visually and verbally.
- Pictures can be coded in both visual and verbal modalities, and are especially strong with regard to visual coding.
- Concrete words can elicit mental images (visual code), as well as a verbal code; although, the verbal coding is probably stronger than the visual coding.
- Abstract words seldom are conducive to visual coding, and consequently, they are processed only in the verbal modality.
- Visual mnemonics and diagrams have important implications for teaching.
- Obviously, much of the material learned in schools are of
a visual nature -- e.g., graphs, diagrams, etc.
- Furthermore, Levin (1981) has extended the work of Atkinson (i.e., the Keyword Method) to other types of school-related learning tasks, that include:
- Vocabulary learning (e.g., Levin, McCormick, Miller, Berry, & Pressley, 1982).
- Learning the name of U.S. Presidents (Levin, 1981).
- Learning information about famous people (Shriberg, Levin, McCormick, & Pressley, 1982).
Abstract prose material (Levin, Shriberg, & Berry, 1983).
Atkinson, R. C. (1975). Mnemotechnics in second-language learning. American Psychologist, 30, 821-828.
Bransford, J. D., & Franks, J. J. (1971). The abstraction of linguistic ideas. Cognitive Psychology, 2, 331-350.
Levin, J. R. (1981). The mnemonics '80s: Keywords in the classroom. Educational Psychologist, 16, 65-82.
Levin, J. R. (1988). Elaboration-based learning strategies: Powerful
theory--powerful application. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 13, 191-205.
Levin, J. R., McCormick, C. B., Miller, G. E., Berry, J. K., & Pressley, M. (1982). Mnemonic versus nonmnemonic vocabulary-learning strategies for children. American Educational Research Journal, 19, 121-136.
Levin, J. R., Shriberg, L. K., & Berry, J. K. (1983). A concrete strategy for remembering abstract prose. American Educational Research Journal, 20, 277-290.
Lindsay, P. H., & Norman, D. A. (1972). Human information processing: An introduction to psychology. New York: Academic Press.
Paivio, A. (1969). Mental imagery in associative learning and memory. Psychological Review, 3, 241-263.
Reder, L. M. (1980). The role of elaboration in the comprehension and retention of prose: A critical review. Review of Educational Research, 50, 5-53.
Reder. L. M. (1982). Elaborations: When do they help and when do they hurt? Text, 2, 211-224.
Shriberg, L. K., Levin, J. R., McCormick, C. B., & Pressley, M. (1982). Learning about "famous" people via the keyword method. Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 238-247.
Shuell, T. J. (1988). The role of the student in learning from instruction. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 13, 276-295.
Solso, R. L. (1995). Cognitive psychology (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
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