Memory linking is a mnemonic technique used in psychology to improve memory recall. It is also called the link method. It involves creating a mental connection or association between items or pieces of information in a sequence or list.
By linking the items together using vivid mental images, stories, or emotions, individuals can more easily remember and recall the information when needed.
The link method works based on the principle that our brains are better at remembering information when connected to other meaningful or vivid information.
Creating these connections makes it easier for the brain to retrieve the desired information through the associations made during the learning process.
Simple Memory Linking Eample
Let’s say you need to remember a list of five items: an apple, a banana, an orange, a pear, and a grape. Then, to use the link method, you would create an image or story that somehow involves all of these items.
So, memory linking might involve imagining a castle made of apples, bananas, and oranges with a large pear tree in the center and grapes hanging from the branches. By creating this vivid image, the items become easier to remember.
Definition of Memory Linking
Memory linking is a mnemonic technique in cognitive psychology that facilitates the learning and recalling of information by creating mental associations between items in a sequence or list, often using vivid mental images, stories, or emotions (Byrne & Sara, 2017).
This method aids in memory consolidation by establishing strong mental connections between pieces of information, thus enhancing their representation in long-term memory.
According to Hill and colleagues (2000),
“…in this technique, one associates each to-be-remembered item with its predecessor by having them interact” (p. 72).
The link method is particularly useful for remembering lists, sequences, or a series of events, and it relies on the principles of associative learning and elaborative encoding to improve memory recall.
For example, a student may use the link method to remember the order of historical events by creating a story in their head involving each event.
Or, an individual might use the link method to remember a grocery list by picturing each item in an absurdly creative way.
In both cases, creating vivid mental connections between the items helps strengthen their recall when needed.
Simply, memory linking is a powerful mnemonic technique that can help individuals remember information more effectively by associating items in a sequence or list.
10 Link Method Examples
- Remembering a list of groceries: For example, you could use the link method to remember a grocery list. Picture yourself in the store. Milk might be in the shape of a cow, eggs might be represented as chickens, and apples – as fruit trees. Such visualization will help you recall each item more quickly when it’s time to shop.
- Studying for an exam: You can apply the link method to studying for upcoming exams by creating associations with concepts or facts you’re trying to remember. For example, if learning about World War II, you might create an image of two armies fighting and linking them to critical facts or events related to that war.
- Memorizing names and faces: To remember someone’s name and face quickly, link their facial features with something else you already know or have seen before – such as a famous actor or musician – and imagine them together in one image.
- Memorizing phone numbers: The link method is great for memorizing phone numbers too! Imagine placing each number inside an object or environment. For instance, place the first three digits in a kitchen cupboard. The next three digits beneath a bridge on your local trail, and so on. It will help make long strings of numbers easier to store in your memory more efficiently.
- Remembering store locations: If you always forget where certain stores are located within a mall, try using the link method to associate a store with an area inside the mall instead of relying solely on directions (e.g., picture a department store as being near an escalator). It will help increase your ability to recall store locations quickly without consulting maps or asking for assistance from others.
- Learning foreign languages: When learning new words in foreign languages, create vivid images that connect that word and its definition. Such a technique will help strengthen your recall abilities when speaking that language more naturally later on down the road.
- Recognizing musical notation: To quickly learn musical notation, associate notes and rhythms on sheet music with distinct colors or shapes that represent them effortlessly. This way, when playing music later on, you can easily recognize the notes at a glance without needing to pause and think about the meaning of each note every time (for example, associating “C” notes with pink circles).
- Reciting speeches/dialogues: When preparing speeches or dialogues for theatre performances, link each line with an image relevant to its meaning (e.g., Romeo professing his love for Juliet paired with cupid shooting arrows). This method simplifies memorization by reducing large pieces of text into smaller parts associated with visual elements like color images or symbols. In such a way, recalling during performances is a much less daunting task than before!
- Recalling historical events: Use visuals or stories when trying to recall complex dates regarding historical events. Connect them like puzzle pieces where one event may lead into another after it happened chronologically. Such a technique helps form stronger memories surrounding these big historical moments better than reading about them in books alone would likely do otherwise!
- Navigating unfamiliar spaces: Link interesting landmarks, such as shops and street signs, when exploring new areas. Create mental “paths” between these landmarks to use later if you get lost. This method makes navigating unfamiliar environments much easier and quicker, thanks to improved location recall and a heightened sense of direction and awareness.
The Link Method vs. The Story Method
The main difference between the two methods is that the link method focuses on creating mental associations between two items with no narrative, while the story method adds a narrative element.
The link method is when a person connects two items through an image, metaphor, or story to form an association that will help strengthen their memory (Hill et al., 2000).
For example, if trying to remember a list of groceries, one might picture each item as an animal – milk might be a cow, eggs as chickens, and apples as fruit trees.
The story method is when a person uses narrative storytelling techniques to associate items or facts together to recall them later on down the road more easily (Cobble, 2019).
This method can be utilized for anything from historical events (linking important people and stories together) to memorizing names and faces (associating someone’s traits with book characters) (Simister, 2007).
For instance, if trying to remember Albert Einstein’s famous equation E=MC2, one might link it with a story such as:
“Albert was walking along the beach when he noticed how energy from the sun was reflected off of the sand particles….”
While the link method leans more towards creating visual images and metaphors between two objects or ideas, the story method instead emphasizes storytelling elements such as narrative structure and plot devices.
Benefits of Memory Linking
The link method is a popular technique used in psychology to help improve memory, increase creativity, and enhance concentration and memory organization while studying or working (Channon, 2016).
Here are some of the main benefits of this method:
- Improved Memory: By forming visual links between items, facts, or sequences, it becomes much easier for a person to recall what they have learned, which leads to greater memory retention.
- Increased Creativity: Connecting two items together through an image or story can help open up creative thinking and be more imaginative when tackling difficult tasks or concepts.
- Enhanced Concentration & Focus: Because memory linking encourages visualization and creates vivid images that help connect different pieces of information together, it also helps increase concentration levels and mental focus when studying for exams or memorizing long strings of numbers.
- Better Memory Organization: Using the link method helps organize memories by reducing large amounts of information into smaller pieces associated with visual elements such as colors and shapes, making it easier to comprehend larger concepts or sequences more effectively.
Disadvantages of Memory Linking
Despite the many benefits, memory linking has a few drawbacks. For example, it has limited memory capacity, is quite time-consuming, and may cause subjective associations.
The main drawbacks of this method include the following:
- Limited Memory Capacity: Since the method relies on forming associations between two items, it can be difficult to remember large amounts of information and complex concepts due to its limited capacity when recalling data.
- Time-Consuming: Creating an association between two ideas can be time-consuming if done incorrectly, as one must ensure that they are forming strong enough connections for it to be retained effectively.
- Subjective Associations: Different people will form different associations based on personal experiences or preferences. Therefore, what might work for one person may not work for another when utilizing this technique.
The link method is a valuable mnemonic technique in psychology that improves memory recall by creating mental connections between items or pieces of information.
It enhances memory consolidation by leveraging vivid mental images, stories, or emotions and facilitates better retention of information in long-term memory.
Besides, memory linking is a great way to increase creativity, concentration, and focus when studying or working.
However, this method may be limited in its capacity and require more time investment to create strong associations. Additionally, individuals may form different subjective connections that may not work as effectively for another person.
So, while the link method has its benefits and drawbacks, it is still a great tool in your memory arsenal when recalling information quickly or studying for an exam.
Byrne, J. H., & Sara, S. J. (2017). Learning and memory: A comprehensive reference. Elsevier.
Channon, M. (2016). Improve your memory: Sharpen focus and improve performance. Teach Yourself.
Cobble, M. (2019). Memory Improvement. Speedy Publishing LLC.
Hill, R. D., Bäckman, L., & Neely, A. S. (2000). Cognitive rehabilitation in old age. Oxford University Press.
Simister, C. (2007). How to teach thinking and learning skills. SAGE.