Association, Imagination and Location

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The three fundamental principles underlying the use of mnemonics are:




Working together, these principles can be used to generate powerful mnemonic systems. This Mind Tools presentation will show illustrations of many memory techniques and examples of areas where their application will yield serious advantage. Hopefully once you have absorbed and applied these techniques you will understand how to design and apply these principles to your field to design your own powerful, sophisticated recall systems.

These principles are explained below:


Association is the method by which you link a thing to be remembered to a method of remembering it. Although we can and will suggest associations to you, your own associations are much better as they reflect the way in which your mind works.

Things can be associated by:

being placed on top of the associated object

crashing or penetrating into each other

mergeing together

wrapping around each other

rotating around each other or dancing together

being the same colour, smell, shape, or feeling


Whatever can be used to link the thing being remembered with the image used to recall it is the association image.

As an example: Linking the number 1 with a goldfish might be done by visualising a 1-shaped spear being used to spear a goldfish to feed a starving family.


Imagination is used to create the links and associations needed to create effective memory techniques - put simple, imagination is the way in which you use your mind to create the links that have the most meaning for you. Images that I create will have less power and impact for you, because they reflect the way in which we think.

The more strongly you imagine and visualise a situation, the more effectively it will stick in your mind for later recall. Mnemonic imagination can be as violent, vivid, or sensual as you like, as long as it helps you to remember what needs to be remembered.


Location provides you with two things: a coherent context into which information can be placed so that it hangs together, and a way of separating one mnemonic from another: e.g. by setting one mnemonic in one village, I can separate it from a similar mnemonic located in another place.

Location provides context and texture to your mnemonics, and prevents them from being confused with similar mnemonics. For example, by setting one mnemonic with visualisations in the town of Horsham in the UK and another similar mnemonic with images of Manhattan allows us to separate them with no danger of confusion.

So using the three fundamentals of Association, Imagination and Location you can design images that strongly link things with the links between themselves and other things, in a context that allows you to recall those images in a way that does not conflict with other images and associations.

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