Professor Gary Jason, PhD | Memory Tricks Resource Center
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Memory Tricks Resource Center

Using mnemonics to remember the answers to the review questions

I. Quick guide to mnemonic devices (memory aids or tricks)

On every exam, I put review questions, which are meant to get you to think about the most important concepts we learn in the course. While most students find these questions fairly easy—after all, I provide a list of the review questions from which Mr. Computer chooses the test questions—some students find them troublesome.

If you are one of those students for whom memorization is difficult, I suggest you use some mnemonic devices—better known as “memory aids.” For example, when you were young, you probably learned spelling tips by means of a rhyming mnemonic:

“i” before “e” except after “c”
or when sounding like “a”
as in “neighbor” and “weigh.”

Common mnemonics include name mnemonics, word mnemonics, acronym (or letter) mnemonics, rhyming mnemonics, image mnemonics, connection mnemonics, music mnemonics, and diagram mnemonics.

Let’s look at a few examples. One of the review questions on the list for the first exam is, “Define: deductive validity; inductive strength.” A second question is “Define: fallacy; sound.” You can remember both by remembering a simple diagram (see MT p. 73)

image-1

You can then remember the definitions. Valid = it is 100% certain that if the premises were true, the conclusion would be true. (A valid argument may or may not be sound: it is sound if it is valid and the premises are in fact true.) Strong = it is not 100% certain but it is probable (more that 50% likely) that if the premises were true, the conclusion would be true. Fallacy = an argument that is neither valid nor strong = an argument where it isn’t even probable that if the premises were true, the conclusion would be true.

Now, for the second midterm and the final, some of the questions will call for remembering rules or criteria for assessing various types of inductive reasoning. Here, acronyms mnemonics may help. For example, on the list of review questions for the second test is, “Identify the 5 factors or criteria for assessing eyewitness testimony.” You could just keep in mind the letters “CPCPC,” or the silly sentence “Critical people criticize people constantly.” You can then just fill in the criteria:

Credibility of witness;
Position of witness;
Consistency of testimony;
Plausibility of testimony;
Corroborating evidence.

Again, for the final exam, one of the review questions is, “What are the criteria for logical or reasonable advertising.” You could use a name mnemonic, like “Stormin’ Norman Corman,” to remember the letters “SNC”. You can then write on the test:

Superiority of the product;
Need for the product;
Cost of the product.

Images or pictures are also useful. For example, one of the review questions for the final exam is, “What is a simple cause? What is a compound cause?” The following picture might help:

simple-cause

This makes it visually clear that a compound cause has components that work together to produce the effect, whereas a simple cause has no components to it.

You can invent clever, amusing, or even obscene names, phrases or acronyms to help your memory. (Don’t put any of the obscene ones on the test—I’m a sensitive guy who shocks easily!) The letters alone won’t do, of course—you need sentences or sentence fragments that make the answer clear. But whatever helps you remember the information is fair game.

Review questions are truly “no brainers.” There is absolutely no reason every one of you shouldn’t get them all perfectly correct.

II. Internet sources for learning about memory devices

A. Good written sites explaining mnemonics are:

B. Good lectures on mnemonics are:

  • Iris Reading webinar on mnemonic devices…video.
  • Long Beach City College lecture on memory tricks…lecture 1 video.
  • Long Beach City College lecture on memory tricks…lecture 2video.
  • Long Beach City College lecture on memory tricks…lecture 3 video.