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How to Memorize Using the Association Technique

The Association Memory Strategy

The Association Memory Technique

The Association Technique can be a helpful tool to help you memorize many seemingly unrelated items or ideas. Association is a powerful memory aid. We all experience sensory stimuli that remind us of something else. The smell of fresh baked bread might remind you of your mom’s great apple pie. Hearing the end of the “Sesame Street” theme song might remind you of your wonderful pre-school teacher.

The Association Technique connects the items or ideas we want to remember to one visual theme. Recent hemispheric brain research has proved the power of associations. Our brains act as computer file folders, slotting newly learned information in the same file as already-learned information that fits within that same file. This Association Technique connects the new information you want to remember with existing information that you already know, much like our brain file folders do. If we take the time to organize new information in same way as our brains, we can improve our retention of that information.

Directions and Examples

Select a vivid image that represents the main idea or “title” of the majority of objects, or key words, to be remembered. For example, if you wanted to memorize the steps of the scientific method, you might sketch out a test tube as you vivid image. Place a number inside the image which represents how many items you need to remember: in this case “5” for the steps in the scientific method. Draw a separate concrete object around the image to represent each idea or fact you want to remember. Pick a key word that will help you remember the idea or fact: in this case a magnifying glass for Step 1 Observation; a question mark for Step 2 Questions; a light bulb for Step 3 Hypothesis; a puzzle for Step 4 Data Collection and Analysis; and a race finish banner for Step 5 Conclusion. If the exact order is important, connect each in clockwise order: in this case the order is important.


Suppose you needed to remember the following errands for Saturday afternoon. Use the Association Memory Technique to draw pit amd remember these errands:

  1. Pick up the cleaning.
  2. Mail Kenny’s birthday package.
  3. Buy a jar of mayonnaise.
  4. Buy a three-pound can of coffee.
  5. Pick up a dozen roses for Mom.
  6. Call for reservations at Luigi’s Italian Restaurant.
  7. Make a doctor’s appointment for your annual physical.

Here’s my drawing: Picture a large orange “seven” standing up in the middle of a green, grassy field. Picture yourself leaning up against the “seven” with a plastic bag containing your cleaning on your right arm and a birthday package with a bright red bow hanging from your left arm. Then, picture your right foot stuck in a jar of mayonnaise and your left foot stuck in a coffee can. In your mouth is a long stem rose. Hanging out of your nostrils is a few spaghetti noodles from Luigi’s and hanging around your neck is a doctor’s stethoscope.

Now prompt yourself to remember the errands by identifying each object. Works well, doesn’t it? A little rehearsal will place these facts into your long term memory.

Memorizing using the The Association Technique will enable you to retain the memory of many seemingly unrelated items. Useful for upcoming tests, lectures, speeches, shopping lists, and weekend errands? Of course.

Check out these other brief articles on helpful memorization techniques: catch sentencescatch words, linking, This Old Man, location, and grouping.

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