There are several memory strategies that work well with anthropology information. The strategies described and illustrated in this section are phonetic manipulations, visual imagery, mnemonics, alphabetizing, clustering, and chunking. The latter four are usually used to remember lists of information.
Phonetic manipulation focuses on sounds in words in order to enhance encoding into and retrieval from memory. Auditory learners in particular may find phentic manipulations an effective memory strategy. Several examples of phonetic manipulations using anthropology material are provided below.
In the example below, the difference between "etic" and "emic" is remembered based on the "t" and "m" sounds in the words. Those sounds are associated with the key elements of the definitions for those words.
Another way to use phonetic manipulations is to focus on the alphabetical order of certain sounds in a word. The first example below shows another way to remember the difference between "etic" and "emic" by focusing on letters appearing in both the terms and their corresponding definitions. In the second example below, the alphabetical order of sounds in the terms "ethnography" and "ethnology" help in remembering their definitions.
A fourth example of phonetic manipulation uses sounds in words to remember terms with similar definitions. The two terms with the sound "ma" both deal with power or force, whereas the term without the sound does not.
Visual imagery, a strategy that is particularly effective for visual learners, involves making up an image that links the information to be remembered. The image may be drawn or described on paper, or you can create a mental image. The more vivid the image, the better - use sounds, smells, and tastes as well as sights in your image.
Provided below is an example of a visual image that may be used in a cultural anthropology class to remember the characteristics of band-level societies (D. Applegate, CAL).
Mnemonics involves using the first letter of each term in a list to develop a cue word or cue phrase to help remember the list items. This is a common strategy that is easily applied to anthropology lists. Mnemonics is often helpful for auditory learners in particular.
The following mnemonic is for remembering the grades of primate evolution; the list items must be kept in order. The mnemonic takes the form of a cue phrase (D. Applegate, CAL):
A cue word is used in this mnemonic for a cultural anthropology course. The six types of residential patterns do not have to be listed in any particular order, so we can switch them to form the best cue word to help our memory (D. Applegate, CAL).
The alphabetizing strategy is used to remember a list if the list items need not be kept in a certain order but can be rearranged. The strategy involves arranging the list items in alphabetical order and then looking for patterns that will aid in encoding and retrieval.
As an example, a physical anthropology student may use alphabetizing to remember this list African sites yielding important fossil evidence of australopithecines (D. Applegate, CAL).
Clustering and Chunking
People usually have few problems remembering lists of only a few items. But longer lists are more difficult to remember; we can usually recall the first few and the last few items in a long list but forget the middle items. Clustering and chunking are two memory strategies that aid in encoding and recall of long lists. Both involve breaking one large list into several smaller lists. In order to enhance memory, clustering and chunking may be used in conjunction with other strategies like mnemonics and visual imagery.
In clustering, the smaller lists are generated according to some kind of criterion (associations, relatedness, phonetics, etc). There is some logical reason for grouping the items together into smaller lists. For example, to remember the 14 characteristics of all primates for a physical anthropology course, you might group them into four categories based on if the traits relate to locomotion, diet, senses, or reproduction. As shown below, each group has from two to five items that will be easier to remember than one list of 14.
With chunking, the smaller lists are generated randomly from the single large list. Ideally, you should break the large list into enough smaller lists so that none has more than three or four items. The example below is from an archaeology course and represents a list of prehistoric Hopewell sites in Ohio (D. Applegate, CAL).