Today in our memorization series we’ll be introducing the chain method. The chain method is technically a type of mnemonic system (which is why it is also often referred to as the mnemonic link system), but it is more abstract and requires a bit of creativity to create associations. In this method, a story, or running narrative, is used to create the associations for what you are trying to memorize.

For example, if I want to remember some items I need to buy at the grocery store (bananas, milk, eggs and watermelon), I could create this story: a monkey is eating bananas while sipping on milk, slips on one of the banana peels and lands in a carton of eggs. Unfazed, he gets right on up and starts bowling with a watermelon. Now try to recall the list of items. Easy, right?

As you can see, by creating such narratives, it becomes much easier to remember lists of facts or items.

However, you should also be aware of a few drawbacks of this method to understand what it is useful for. First, the chain method relies highly on the order of events. Thus if one of the events or associations is forgotten, other items further down the chain may become impossible to recall. Some may also find it cumbersome to run through the entire narrative in their minds in order to access a piece of information very far down the chain. A third drawback is that for lists where number order matters, it can be difficult to determine the numerical placement for each item. Despite these cons, I’ve found the chain method extremely invaluable for remembering lists of items or groups of items that are, on their own, difficult to associate.

Next week we’ll be teaching you an even more effective memorization method: the peg method!