Introduction to Memory Systems
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The Peg System (or Hook System)
The Peg system is one of the most useful memory techniques. Like all mnemonic devices the Peg System uses visual imagery to provide a ‘hook’ or ‘peg’ from which to hang (associate) your memories.

While the Link System is ideal for remembering lists in sequence it does not provide an easy way to recall, for example, the 8th item in the list. You would have to start at the beginning of the link and mentally count forward through the associations until you reached the 8th item.

The Peg System gives you the ability to remember the numerical position of items in a list in sequence or out of sequence. The technique has several variations ranging from the very simple to the more advanced. In this chapter you will learn about the Rhyming Peg and the Phonetic Peg Systems.

Rhyming Peg
The Rhyming Peg system uses sound-a-like words to construct a number of pegs. You do not have to use rhyming words to form your pegs but studies have shown that recall is significantly improved by doing so.

The system is useful for short lists and is quite effective for lists containing as many as 20 items. You begin by associating a sound-a-like or rhyming word with the numbers from 1 - 20. You can use your own words or memorize the list on the following page.
  1. Bun
  2. Shoe
  3. Tree
  4. Door
  5. Hive
  6. Sticks
  7. Heaven
  8. Gate
  9. Vine
  10. Hen
Close your eyes, say the number, and form a vivid mental image of the rhyming object. Do this several times and review them over the next few days and they will be permanently fixed into your long-term memory.

The first 10 are quite straightforward but establishing rhyming words for the next 10 is a bit more challenging. You might try the following and their associated images:
  1. Leaven (pan of bread puffing up over the edges)
  2. Shelve (putting something on a shelf)
  3. Bird Queen (a pigeon wearing a red cape and crown)
  4. Floor Clean (a sparkling clean checkered floor)
  5. With Cream (a big pitcher of cream)
  6. Fix Screen (a window screen with a jagged hole)
  7. Seven Green (The number seven, sick and turning green)
  8. Ate Bean (A plate with a giant bean in the middle)
  9. Swine Clean (A pig in a bathtub)
  10. Plenty Tea (A giant Teapot)
A fun way to commit these pegs to memory is to create a little rhyme. We are cheating a bit because we will be talking more about rhyming and its effects on memory in a later chapter. In any case you might try to run through the pegs using a little rhyme such as:

“When I get to one I see a Bun, when I get to two I see a shoe, when I get to three… when I get to eighteen I Ate a Bean, when I get to nineteen I have to get a Swine Clean, and when I get to Twenty I will have Tea a Plenty.”

What if you forget a Peg Word? Another easy way to commit the peg words to memory and have an easy way to recall them is to create a story with them using the Linking system you are already familiar with. For example if you couldn’t recall the peg word for fifteen but you did remember that Floor Clean was fourteen you could refer to your link and see the floor being cleaned using a mop and a Pitcher of Cream! Again, don’t worry about all of the images cluttering up your head. They are just to help you remember the peg words and when they are no longer needed they will naturally dissipate.

Once the peg words are permanently encoded with their numerical counterpart it is now a simple matter once again of association. You associate the items you want to remember to the peg word image using the encoding and elaboration skills as required. But this time not only will you be able to recall the list but you will also know the exact numerical position of each item in the list! You can use the substitute word technique for any abstract items. Give it a try with these 10 items:
  1. Tent
  2. Spoon
  3. Cloud
  4. Dinosaur
  5. Saddle
  6. History
  7. Swimming
  8. Email
  9. Mnemonic
  10. Classmates
If possible give the list to someone else and have them quiz you as to an item’s numerical position in the list and vice versa. Then try a new list and work your way up to twenty items. With a little practice you will find the Rhyming Peg system to be one of the simplest and most efficient methods for remembering a list of items and their position in the list.

Phonetic Pegs
What if you want to remember a much larger number of items? It is rare to have to remember more than 20 items but should the need arise it would be beneficial to have a system! You could conceivably find more rhyming words for numbers past 20 but that would not be very practical.

There is a more sophisticated way to remember a large number of items and their position within a list. That system is based on the Phonetic Alphabet. Its value in addition to allowing you to remember long lists is in helping you remember numbers.

Phonetic means the sound of speech and the Phonetic Peg System is based on ten consonant sounds. We relate these ten sounds to the ten basic digits in our numerical system. Together they form a very useful and powerful memory technique.

The system was first introduced over 300 years ago, refined in the 18th and 19th centuries, and has changed little in the past 100 years. This technique will be the most challenging to master but with a little dedication and practice you will gain a life-long memory tool. It may appear a bit awkward initially but when the light goes on you will see its simplicity.

To give you a quick understanding of Phonetics consider the position of your lips, tongue, or teeth when you form certain sounds. For example when you form the sounds of the letters ‘p’ and ‘b’ notice that your tongue and lips are in the same position. These letters have the same consonant value. Also notice that when you say the word ‘dog’ softly that it sounds like ‘tok’. The letters ‘d’ and ‘t’ also have the same consonant value.

Here is the basis for the Phonetic Alphabet:
0 = z, s, c (soft)
1 = t or d
2 = n
3 = m
4 = r
5 = l
6 = j, ch, sh, g (soft)
7 = k, c (hard), g (hard)
8 = v, f, ph
9 = b or p
Each number above is represented by a consonant sound. Say them now to see why certain letters and letter combinations are used together. It is helpful if you develop a sense of how the sounds are formed.

The Phonetic Alphabet also requires that you follow a few rules:
  • Vowels do not have any meaning. They are merely used as convenient fillers when you translate between numbers and words.
  • Double letter combinations are only counted as one consonant sound. For example the word ‘ladder’ translates as l, d, and r (only one ‘d’ is used).
  • Silent letters are not counted.
  • Certain consonant sounds are not used in the alphabet and they too are used as fillers. They are W, H, Y, and X. This is an easy rule to remember. Just remember them with the question “why x?”. Note that if you slowly sound out the letter ‘x’ you will see that it can be formed by a ‘k’ sound and an ‘s’ sound.
As you are learning the Phonetic Alphabet take the necessary time to learn and memorize these rules.

To begin using this technique you must commit the alphabet to memory and be able to automatically relate a consonant sound to its numerical counterpart and vice versa. The best way to do this is to associate a peg word that represents the consonant sound for each number from 0 to 10. There are a number of words to choose from that have the same consonant value. You can use your own or try these:
0 = sew (e and w are fillers)
1 = toe (o and e are fillers)
2 = Noah
3 = mow
4 = rye
5 = law
6 = shoe
7 = cow
8 = ivy
9 = bee
10 = dice (d for 1, soft c for 0, i and e are fillers)
Do you see how each of these words represents the consonant sound associated with each number? Once committed to memory they will trigger the other consonants that are associated with the number. Can you see an easy way to remember these ten words? By linking of course, with elaboration as required:

You are going to Sew a phonetic alphabet. But before you do you have to sew a Toe unto poor old Noah. Noah lost his toe when he had to Mow a field of Rye. He decided to make a Law that when you mow rye you must wear a Shoe. He lost his shoe when he kicked the Cow for eating the ivy. The ivy was meant for the Bees. The bees are playing with Dice!

You are associating three pieces of information. The number to the consonant sound and the consonant sound to a peg word whose consonant value indicates the sound associated with that number. Encode these associations until the peg word and number relationships are automatic.

Once you are comfortable with the Phonetic alphabet you can begin to apply it. Let’s start by using it to remember the list of ten items you have used with previous techniques in and out of order.
  1. Book
  2. Electric Fan
  3. Cow
  4. Sunflower
  5. Rope
  6. Music CD
  7. Screwdriver
  8. Suitcase
  9. Checkbook
  10. Watermelon
You use your old friend the Link System to encode and associate these items to the phonetic alphabet peg words. Notice we are using the peg words from 1 to 10 as most lists have no zero position. For example you might visualize:
  1. A large Toe turning the pages of a Book
  2. Noah carrying an Electric Fan into the ark
  3. A Cow trying to Mow the lawn
  4. A vast field of Rye with a big circle of Sunflowers
  5. The scales of justice with a Law book on one side and a coil of Rope on the other
  6. A Shoe dancing to a music CD
  7. A Cow with a Screwdriver in its mouth
  8. Ivy covering a Suitcase
  9. An angry Bee swarming over a Checkbook
  10. Instead of dots the giant Dice has pictures of Watermelons
When you want to know the number of a certain item in the list you simply associate the item to the peg word which will give you the number. On the other hand if you know the number you simply picture the peg word and the associated item.

You might be thinking that it is easier using the rhyming peg system. That depends on your personal preference but as stated earlier the Phonetic Peg system is really designed for long lists.

You start by memorizing as many Phonetic Peg Words as your interest or requirements dictate. On the following page is a list of 100 phonetic peg words that you can use with this system. Remembering 100 peg words will require a few weeks of dedicated review. You must learn them by employing your linking skills. You could link any list of words and use them as peg words and recall items from association. However, only the Phonetic Peg System provides you with a way to know their position in or out of the list. This is because the Phonetic Peg Words transpose back to a number based on the word’s consonant value!

There were two considerations to keep in mind when selecting the 100 words to use with your phonetic peg system. Whenever possible you would use a peg word that has a strong visual quality. Vivid nouns are a good choice when one can be found to fit. The other consideration is how the word relates to the word before and after it in the list. This is done to facilitate easier linking between words. Linking 100 words is a bit more challenging than 10 or 20 words so every effort must be made to allow for strong associations.

  1. toe
2. Noah
3. mow
4. rye
5. law
6. shoe
7. cow
8. ivy
9. bee
10. dice
11. toad
12. tan
13. tomb
14. tire
15. doll
16. dish
17. dog
18. dove
19. tape
20. nose
21. net
22. nun
23. gnome
24. Nero
25. kneel
26. notch
27. neck
28. knife
29. knob
30. mouse
31. maid
32. moon
33. mummy
34. mare
35. mule
36. match
37. muck
38. movie
39. map
40. rose
41. rat
42. rain
43. Rome
44. roar
45. rail
46. rash
47. rock
48. roof
49. rope
50. lace
51. light
52. lane
53. lamb
54. lair
55. lily
56. lodge
57. log
58. loaf
59. lab
60. cheese
61. shade
62. chain
63. jam
64. jar
65. jail
66. judge
67. chalk
68. shave
69. ship
70. geese
71. cat
72. coin
73. comb
74. car
75. coal
76. cage
77. cake
78. cave
79. cap
80. fuzzy
81. fat
82. phone
83. foam
84. fire
85. foil
86. fish
87. fake
88. fife
89. phobia
90. bus
91. bat
92. bone
93. bomb
94. bear
95. pail
96. beach
97. book
98. buffet
99. bib
100. daisies

Take a moment, pick out a few words, and see how they transpose back to their numerical value. For example, the word ‘shade’ has only two consonant sounds, the ‘sh’ and the ‘d’. This means it has a numerical value of a ‘6’ and a ‘1’ or ‘61’ which is its position in the list.

At this point you should be able to successfully link these 100 words and it will provide a stimulating challenge. Most people find it easier to break the list into chunks of 25 and work their way towards the complete list. Should you like to take a look at our Link for these words it is included in Additional Memory Resources. Click here to go there now.

So there you have it, a foolproof system for memorizing a large number of items in or out of sequence. Just memorize the 100 peg words and use your skills of encoding and elaboration to form strong associations between the item to be remembered and the peg word. Then transpose the peg word back to its numerical value to give the position in the list.

As you are learning the peg words you may on occasion get stuck and not recall which word goes with a certain number. You have two methods at your disposal to help you recall the word. Pick the number before or after where you are stuck and use your link association to recall the word, or transpose the number to its consonant value which will often trigger the word. To illustrate:

If you were stuck on the peg word for number 37 you could recall the peg words for 36 ‘match’ or 38 ‘movie’ and use the link association either forward or backward to arrive at ‘muck’. Or you could transpose the number 37 which is a 3 meaning an ‘m’ sound and a 7 meaning a ‘k or hard c or g’ sound which will hopefully trigger the word ‘muck’.

You will see the Phonetic Alphabet put to further good use in the chapter on remembering numbers.

Quick Review:
  • The Phonetic Peg System is based on the Phonetic Alphabet and is designed to accommodate large lists of items.
  • Phonetic refers to the sounds that words make.
  • Ten basic consonant sounds are related to the ten numerical digits 0 - 9.
  • Certain rules apply to the Phonetic Alphabet. Vowels, silent letters, double letter combinations, and the consonants W, H, Y, and X are not used in the alphabet but all can be used as filler letters when forming words.
  • The Phonetic Peg Words transpose to their corresponding numerical values.
  • You can use Linking to reinforce the peg words.
  • Items to be remembered are associated to the peg words using standard encoding and elaboration techniques.
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