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68 Expert Panel: Mnemonics- Alex Mullen, Anthony Metivier, and Nelson Delis

The medical mnemonist podcast featuring Dr. Eric Gantwerker discussing video game mechanics for fostering medical learning.
The Medical Mnemonist
68 Expert Panel: Mnemonics- Alex Mullen, Anthony Metivier, and Nelson Delis

Three well known memory experts share tips for integrating memory techniques like memory palace, the story method, and mnemonics flashcards.

Show Notes

[01:27] Defining Memory

[02:59] Defining Mnemonics

[04:17] Common Misconceptions About Memory

[06:56] Comparing and Integrating Memory Techniques

[13:40] Remembering & Differentiating Concepts That Are Very Similar

[15:24] Remembering Information Outside the Classroom

[17:27] Tips for Remembering Names

[20:38] Pre-Made vs Self-Made Medical Mnemonics

Chase DiMarco conducts a memory expert panel with a three-time world memory champion, Alex Mullen, multiple US memory record-holder and author, Nelson Dellis, and mnemonics practitioner, trainer, and author Anthony Metivier. They talk about common misconceptions surrounding memory, share tips for comparing and integrating different memory techniques for medical school and for remembering non-academic information, such as people’s names and the layout of a hospital.

What is Memory?
People tend to think of memory as a bookshelf from which we can simply retrieve information. However, Alex explains that memory is more like a lens through which we view the world. Everything we encounter is filtered through the lens of memory. The author of the blog Wait, but Why, Tim Urban, describes memory using an analogy: memory is like a tree trunk, the more knowledge you acquire, the more branches you build. This makes it easier to integrate new material, by building on what you already know.

Lots of people also believe that memorization is a fixed ability, or a gift, rather than a skill that can be cultivated. Nelson debunks the concept of a “photographic memory” which does not exist and is not supported by the literature. Rather, memory is a skill that can be improved.

Memorization Techniques
Alex is famously known as a proponent of mnemonics flashcards for medicine, while Anthony is known for his visual memorization techniques, such as memory palaces. However, both of them agree that we should not try to compare and argue for particular memory techniques, as if there is a singular perfect technique. Instead, it is important to consider the type of information that we are memorizing.

In contrasting memory palace and the story method, Nelson agrees that the decision to use a particular method should be contextual. Memory palaces are more robust, while the story method holds the risk that you blank out in the middle and cannot retrieve the remainder of the story. However, using the story method requires little preparation, and is thus more convenient. When you are memorizing something, critically determine whether or not your methods/activities are effective for this information, rather than blindly applying them.

To remember people’s faces, the panelists provide several possible techniques:

Remembering parts of the room where you met the person,
Remembering their specialty
Gauging and remembering their height and weight.
Keep business cards, because they can function as “flashcards” of sorts.
For spatial information such as layouts of buildings or cities, it can help to remember landmarks or street names.

While many people recommend writing your own medical mnemonics, studies have shown that ready-made medical mnemonics from sources such as Sketchy can be just as effective.

Check out Nelson’s website, Nelson’s YouTube channel, as well as his books Memory Superpowers and Remember It: The Names of People You Meet, All of Your Passwords, Where You Left Your Keys, and Everything Else You Tend to Forget.

Check out Anthony’s website ‘Magnetic Memory’ and read his book The Victorious Mind.

In addition, check out Alex Mullen’s website ‘Mullen Memory’ and Alex’s Twitter page.

Also, do check out Read This Before Medical School.

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Podcast Host

Chase is an MS, MBA-HA and MD/Ph.Dcandidate. He is the Founder and educator at MedEd University, which he began in 2014 to consolidate free educational resources for his classmates. He is the host of the Medical Mnemonist Podcast, creator of several medical education platforms, and is the CEO of FindARotation.

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