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Conversations with Med Students, Part 2: Sex Sells and Other Suggestions

Perceptions, understandings, and conclusions about med students, based on conversations with med students, from the perspective of me: not-a-med-student.

We’ve been overwhelmed by positive feedback since our launch. Students from Iowa, New Mexico, Kansas, Arizona, New York, Illinois, California, the Caribbean, and beyond have been getting acquainted with the Picmonic learning system and providing our team with valuable advice and commentary. For starters, the Picmonic founders were right: medical students are craving a more engaging and interesting way to memorize and learn the hundreds of thousands of facts necessary to become a doctor. And they were also right to take some advice from memory experts: the more outrageous a visual mnemonic, the more memorable.

Sexy Advice from Med Students

In one of our recent chats with a group of students, we received some valuable advice: “Put more sexual stuff in your images; research shows it helps you remember more!” Leave it to a medical student to not only request a sexier study tool, but to also justify the request with scientific support.The medial students who created the Picmonic product certainly know about this little tidbit of information: crude, sexual, obscene, and even offensive images leave a lasting impression. Here’s memory champion and mental athlete, Joshua Foer’s take on the topic:

“The more vivid the image, the more likely it is to cleave to its locus. What distinguishes a great mnemonist…is the ability to create these sorts of lavish images on the fly, to paint in the mind a scene so unlike any that has been seen before that it cannot be forgotten…

When forming images, it helps to have a dirty mind. Evolution has programmed our brains to find two things particularly interesting, and therefore memorable: jokes and sex–and especially, it seems, jokes about sex…Even memory treatises from comparatively prudish eras make this point. Peter of Ravenna, author of the most famous memory textbook of the fifteenth century, first asks the pardon of chaste and religious men before revealing ‘a secret which I have (through modesty) long remained silent about: if you wish to remember quickly, dispose the images of the most beautiful virgins into memory palaces; the memory is marvelously excited by images of women.'” (Moonwalking with Einstein)

(Australian Memory Champion Daniel Kilov also acknowledges this fantastic phenomenon.)

Meet Nude Mona

Allow me to back up a bit and provide some background on the subject of sexifying our pictorial mnemonics. Not surprisingly, this is a subject that has come up many times in our development process. (Maybe it’s just the nature of the profession that all medical students welcome excess nudity?) Needless to say, there are more than a few memorably outrageous images that comprise over 300 audio-visual mnemonics for high-yield medical topics in the Picmonic collection. One of my personal favorite characters appears again and again, and her name is Nude Mona. The Nude Mona Lisa (it’s an illustration of the Mona Lisa, totally topless) appears in any Picmonic card in which pneumonia plays a role. And, she is quite memorably nude. The point is, sometimes we have to get a little scandalous when we’re studying, so Picmonic is doing the dirty work for you. We promise to always offer students the most memorable solution in exam preparation, and we’re willing to walk a fine line to make sure we deliver on that promise.
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