How Mr. PeaBoDy can help you on exams

You must feel either confused or intrigued or surprised to see a picture of Mr. Peabody. But it’s a learning strategy for law students, namely, the strategy to focus our attention on something not expected and not ordinary, something that causes feelings or emotions and helps us to memorize.

So, why and how is Mr. Peabody (a very nice character from the movie “Mr. Peabody & Sherman“) connected with “Learning Strategies for Law Students”? And why are some letters in bold?

Mr. Peabody is a visual image (or a symbol) for the definition of the “contract”.  As you may or will know a “contract” is:

  1. a promise or set of promises,
  2. the breach of which results in a remedy at law,
  3. and the performance of which the law recognizes as a duty.

 That’s how the letters pbd as well as the word “Peabody” were formed. This is an excellent sample, which is easy to retain in the memory for those who have a visual type of memory.

What is a “visual memory”? In plain language, it is a memory to retain everything seen. In scientific terms - it is “a form of memory which preserves some characteristics of our senses pertaining to visual experience. We are able to place in memory visual information that resembles objects, places, animals or people in a mental image. The experience of visual memory is also referred to as the mind's eye through which we can retrieve from our memory a mental image of original objects, places, animals or people”

The letters pbd (which caused the image of Mr. Peabody) are a mnemonic for the definition of “contract”. And what does the word “mnemonic” or the “mnemonic strategy” mean?

“The general name of mnemonics, or memoria technica, was the name applied to devices for aiding the memory, enabling the mind to reproduce a relatively unfamiliar idea, and especially a series of dissociated ideas, by connecting it, or them, in some artificial whole, the parts of which are mutually suggestive. Mnemonic devices were much cultivated by Greek sophists and philosophers and are repeatedly referred to by Plato and Aristotle.

A mnemonic (RpE: /nəˈmɒnɨk/,[1] AmE: /nɛˈmɑːnɪk/ the first "m" is silent), mnemonic device, or memory device is any learning technique that aids information retention in the human memory. Mnemonics aim to translate information into a form that the brain can retain better than its original form. Even the process of merely learning this conversion might already aid in transfer of information to long-term memory. Commonly encountered mnemonics are often used for lists and in auditory form, such as short poems, acronyms, or memorable phrases, but mnemonics can also be used for other types of information and in visual or kinesthetic forms. Their use is based on the observation that the human mind more easily remembers spatial, personal, surprising, physical, sexual, humorous, or otherwise "relatable" information, rather than more abstract or impersonal forms of information.”[2]

 Mnemonics can be in figures as well. For example, one of the ways to memorize the major defenses to battery is to keep in mind the next formula:

5D

2R

CLN

which means

  • 5 letters D,
  • 2 letters R and
  • Letters CLN.

and codifies the following:

  1. Self-defense;
  2. Defense of others;
  3. Defense of property;
  4. Detention for investigation;
  5. Discipline;

1)    Retaking of land;

2)    Recapturing of chattels;

  1. Consent;
  2. Law authority
  3. Necessity.

And this strategy will best work for those who have math abilities.

 Remember that while reading any definition your mind can be focused on different letters or words, or figures, or maybe feelings or memories associated with something or someone. Thereby, you can create your own images, formulas or mnemonics or, alternatively, use the mnemonics already created for you, for example, in law study materials such as “Law in a Flash” revised by Steven L. Emanuel.

It is worth noting that according to the scientific researches, “you should be able to memorize any mnemonic you need in a one-day period, if you follow the program, commonly called the “10-1-10-1” approach. ”[3]

“Look at the mnemonic you need to memorize, put it aside and immediately write it down or type. After that repeat it in the intervals of

  • 10 minutes,
  • 1 hour,
  • 10 hours,
  • 1 day.” 3

Why in these intervals?

“Because these are the intervals at which, memory experts believe, memory begins to break down.” 3

Also, have you ever thought about singing a complex legal definition?  Take any music you love – classical, rock, pop and put your words on it. In this case, your audio memory (everything you hear) will be engaged and maybe that approach will suit you better (or it may also reveal your singing talents and you will double benefit).

This is not an exhaustive list of the strategies available for the law students but, hopefully, the samples provided here will give you some hints and they will make the difference. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” 

 Iryna Sokhatska is an International LL.M student at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law and a practicing attorney in a global outsourcing product and application development company, SoftServe, Ukraine.

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