Mnemonics III – The Peg System

OK, so now that you’ve mastered the link system (see last post!) you’re ready for the next level of sophistication: the peg system.  Like the link system, this Pegs by internets_dairymethod allows you to memorize a list of items, but with the additional advantage of being able to identify the ranking of the items or retrieve particular items directly without having to go through a series of links.

For example, you want to remember the first 5 presidents of the United States in order.  The first step is establishing the “pegs”–so called because they act like pegs on a wall that you might hang things on.  Each peg has a number and an associated image, which in this case we will associate with rhyming words as follows:

  • one – sun
  • two – shoe
  • three – tree
  • four – door
  • five – hive

Once you establish the pegs (and of course you can substitute your own images if you wish), you can use the same ones over and over.  It’s been shown that ordinary folk can maintain at least six simultaneous, discrete lists of ten each, using the same images.  Now let’s attach the presidents:

  1. sun – Washington: picture someone “Washing” the sun
  2. shoe – Adams: the tip of the shoe poking out where a person’s Adam’s apple would be
  3. tree – Jefferson: someone you know named Jeff as the trunk of a tree
  4. door – Madison: a door that looks like a Mad magazine cover
  5. hive – Monroe: Marilyn Monroe with a bee-hive skirt

Now you can easily recount the first five presidents in order, and furthermore, you can immediately tell what number each one was, or given the number you can immediately name the president.  I did five here for brevity, but if you establish 10 pegs for yourself that covers a lot of situations.  If you make up your own pegs, use images that work for you–they should be common and concrete–and then make them vivid in your mind by picturing and rehearsing them in detail a few times before attaching a list.  Once you’ve used them a few times they’ll be set for you to use the rest of your life!

This was just a basic introduction to the peg system.  If you like it and want to pursue it further, there are lots of variations on how to organize & implement it (for example using visual vs. rhyming associations, using letters instead of numbers, etc.).  Just Google “peg system.”

[Photo credit: internets_dairy – License]

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