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Techniques > Memory methods > Associating

Usage | Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Connect a cue that you can remember to the item that you want to remember.


Take something you want to remember (the item) and find something you can remember (the cue) when you want to remember the original item.

Create a strong sensory link between the cue and the item, such that when you think about the cue you automatically think of the item. Visual links are the easiest, and these can be supplemented with sound, smell and so on (use those senses to which you respond most).

Associations can include:

  • Things next to one another
  • One thing using the other
  • Things the same color
  • Things pressed together
  • The things moving together

Strengthen the memory by using some of the following principles:

  • Unique, so no other memory will interrupt.
  • Ridiculous, so you have to think about it.
  • Funny, so you laugh at it.
  • Interactive, so the two items work together to become one memory.
  • Three-dimensonal (3D), so it seems real.
  • Bright-hued, so it stands out.
  • Exaggerated, like a caricature.
  • A symbol, such as a pointing finger.
  • Rude, so it shocks its way into memory.
  • Multi-sensory, giving many ways to remember it.

Physical items are easiest to remember as all you need to do is create an image of them. To remember actions, you will typically need to create a dynamic image of a person doing the thing to remember. Concepts, such as 'power', may need a more imaginative evocative image.

For things that are currently using similar items to which you are associating the memory, make these different with different defining features or background contexts.

You can also remember words as a visual image, for example having them as a neon sign, flashing on and off.


When I go to the kitchen I must remember to make my wife a cup of coffee. I imagine a small doll that looks like my wife dancing on top of the coffee-maker waving a red flag and singing to get my attention.


The brain is highly associative in the way it works, linking thoughts together in a huge network. The memory method of linking plays to this patterning.

Associating is the core principle of many other memory methods and used aspects of conditioning to link stimulus to response.

Note that different associations work differently for different people. It may thus be helpful to experiment and find the methods that suit you best. For example some people prefer visual images, whilst others prefer sounds or physicality.

See also

Association principle, Conditioning


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