Generating mnemonics boosts recall of chemistry information

J Exp Psychol Appl. 2022 Mar;28(1):71-84. doi: 10.1037/xap0000350. Epub 2021 May 3.


Students frequently generate mnemonic cues to help them remember difficult or abstract information (Tullis & Maddox, Metacognition and Learning, 2020, 15, 129). Self-generated mnemonics have the potential to be particularly effective means of remembering target information because they can transform abstract information into meaningful units, connect information to existing schema, and create distinct retrieval routes to the targets. Across five experiments, we compared the effectiveness of self-generated mnemonics to mnemonics generated by others for remembering chemistry information. Generating one's own mnemonics consistently boosted recall for both the chemistry content and the mnemonic itself. However, experimentally boosting recall of mnemonics through retrieval practice did not affect recall of associated chemistry content. These results indicate that improved recall of chemistry content is not caused by better recall of the mnemonic itself; rather, generating a mnemonic involves deep and effortful processing of chemistry content that boosts recall more than reading someone else's mnemonic. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Mental Recall*
  • Metacognition*