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Blog / How To Memorize Eriksons Stages MCAT Edition

How to Memorize Erikson’s Stages MCAT Edition

Written by Nassim on Jul 7, 2022

In the psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior section of the MCAT, applicants are required to solve real-life problems based on their knowledge of psychology and sociology as well as their reasoning skills. To do well in this section, you do not need to have advanced knowledge in psychology and sociology. Instead, all you need is to be familiar with the specific theories and your critical thinking and reasoning skills. One of these theories is known as Erikson’s stages. To solve this section’s questions, you must know the key terms and concepts in this theory, and you need to be able to apply them in real-life situations. At first glance, this section might seem too easy. Undoubtedly, the key factor to doing well in this section is gaining an in-depth understanding of each stage. However, apart from this, most candidates also have trouble remembering Erikson’s stages in order. In this post, you will find some practical ways to remember Erikson’s eight stages of development. The first part of this post is a brief review of Erikson’s eight stages of development, followed by how to memorize Erikson’s stage MCAT Edition 

Erikson’s Theory

According to Erikson, development occurs in various stages, and each stage presents a conflict or crisis. To be productive and to have a healthy personality, it is necessary to solve each crisis at its own stage. Although not all people are able to overcome these crises, and as a result, they are stuck in different stages. Each of Erikson’s stages is associated with different stages of life, from infancy to old age. At the end of each stage and after resolving the crisis, we gain a specific virtue. 

Erikson’s Eight Stages of Development 

Stage 1: Trust Versus Mistrust 

Infancy to 18 months 

Basic Virtue: Hope 

At this stage of life, infants need consistent care and attention from their caregivers. So if they are provided with what they need, they will be able to solve the crisis at this stage. This allows them to build trust and carry it into the future. On the contrary, if parents do not provide for their children, they will have a hard time trusting other people in the future. For instance, if their caregivers do not feed them on time or leave them alone, they will not be able to resolve this stage’s crisis.  

Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt 

18 months to three years 

Basic Virtue: Will 

Children learn to control their physical abilities at this stage, like wearing clothes and playing with toys. They then develop a sense of autonomy. If caregivers let children explore their new skills and make mistakes, they will be able to solve the crisis at this stage. Otherwise, they will be stuck at this point and be overdependent teens and adults with low self-esteem. 

Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt 

Three to six years 

Basic Virtue: Purpose

This stage is associated with children trying to assert their personality by spending time with other children. If they have the opportunity to initiate some activities, they can solve the crisis at this stage, and then they will develop interpersonal skills. Failing to resolve this crisis may lead to a sense of guilt that prevents children from any future initiatives.

Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority 

Six to twelve years 

Basic Virtue: Competency

Children at this stage start to express their skills and abilities, and they need the support and approval of their friends, siblings, and classmates. If they feel they have received the necessary support, they begin to develop a sense of pride and competence. Otherwise, they will feel inferior. 

Stage 5: Identity vs. Role Confusion 

Twelve to eighteen years

Basic Virtue: Fidelity

At this stage, teens are looking for a sense of personal identity, exploring themselves and their personal values and beliefs. As a result, they can find their identity and role within society. Role confusion and identity crisis are the main consequences of failure at this stage. 

Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation 

Eighteen to thirty-five years 

Basic Virtue: Love

This stage is about seeking an intimate relationship with others. Adults who are able to find those relationships that lead to long-term commitment, love, and safety can overcome this crisis at this stage of life. Failing to do this can lead to isolation and loneliness. 

Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation 

Thirty-five to sixty years 

Basic Virtue: Care

At this stage, adults need to feel that they belong to society. For this, they must feel they are generative and productive. Being involved in the community shows that an adult was capable of resolving the crisis at this stage. If they cannot contribute to society, they think that they are disconnected from society and become stagnant. 

Stage 8: Integrity vs. Despair

Sixty years 

Basic Virtue: Wisdom

At this stage of life, adults look back at their life. If they feel proud of their achievements, they can solve the crisis at this stage, and they will accept death without fear. On the other hand, if they have a sense of guilt and regret, they can feel unsatisfied and fear death. 

How To Remember Erikson’s Stages MCAT Edition

Learning and deeply understanding these stages and their crises is a different part of learning. But as mentioned earlier, most students have trouble memorizing Erikson’s eight stages for the MCAT. Here you will find effective ways to memorize Erikson’s stages better. 

Memorizing Erikson’s Stage for MCAT with Mnemonic Strategy

This strategy is usually used to remember lists of any items in order. According to this strategy, you need to associate each item in the list with a number, and then you need to associate that number with an object, a place, or a name. For best results, it is preferable to use pairs of rhymes, for example, “One is a bun” or “Two is a shoe.” 

First of all, remember this method will be more effective if you could create your own mental association, your own images, and your own stories to remember Erikson’s eight stages.

Stage 1: Trust Versus Mistrust 

One is a bun

Trust and mistrust are abstract concepts, so in order to associate them with an object like a bun, we need to look for something inside the word. 

For example, ‘Rust’: So you can remember the first stage of Erikson’s theory like this: One is a bun, Bun is rusty, rust is Trust vs. Mistrust. 

Ask yourself which part of ‘trust’ reminds you of a story, friend, relative, or object. Then you can make your own mnemonic image. 

Stage 2: Autonomy versus Shame & Doubt 

Two is a shoe

Autonomy is also an abstract concept, but we can find the word auto inside it.

Auto reminds me of a car or Automobile.

So try to make a bizarre image, for example, an automobile inside the shoe or a shoe with tires. Shame sounds a lot like Shane. Shane is the driver of this bizarre automobile. 

Do you know someone named Shane? Is he one of your friends or family members? Or is he a character in a movie or TV show? If your answer is no, find another name or another object that reminds you of the word ‘shame.’ 

Stage 3: Initiative versus Guilt

Three is a tree

Another way of associating a word with an object is using initials. The initiative starts with In. We can consider it as an ‘INN.’ Do you know any INN? Is there any tree around it?

You can use this image to remember the third stage of Erikson’s stage of development. The word guilt is similar to ‘quilt.’ You can imagine this quilt wrapped around the tree. Or you can imagine a cold night when you walk around the INN and feel like you need a quilt.  

Stage 4: Industry versus Inferiority

Four is a dinosaur 

We can find «dust» in the industry. So we have to make a connection between the dinosaur and dust. It could be an image of a dusty dinosaur or a dinosaur standing on dust.

This dusty and lonely dinosaur looks kind of silly, so they feel inferior. So you can memorize stage 4 by an image of an inferior dusty dino. 

Stage 5: Identity versus Role Confusion

Five is a skydive 

Imagine somebody trying to jump out of an airplane, but when they wanted to land, they accidentally bumped a car. The word ‘Dent’ is supposed to remind you of identity.

When this skydiver wants to get up, feel a little dizzy, and you can see some stars and little birds going around their head. This image helps you to memorize role confusion. 

Stage 6: Intimacy versus Isolation

Six is sticks 

To memorize this stage, you need three pieces of sticks. Two of them are in love and intimate, but the other, which probably is of different size and shape, feels isolated. With this image, you recall the sixth stage of Erikson’s eight stages of development: intimacy and isolation. 

Stage 7: Generativity versus Stagnation

Seven is heaven 

In most people’s imagination, heaven is in the sky and above the clouds. So you can use some cotton balls to make clouds. Generativity is so similar to a generator. So what happens when a generator runs out of gas? It dies, and if it was a good one, it goes to heaven.

This dead generator will become the heaven generator run by a stag. You can find ‘stag’ in stagnation. So a stag running heaven’s generator helps you to memorize stage 7, which is Generativity vs. Stagnation.  

Stage 8: Integrity versus Despair

Eight is a plate

We can find ‘Grit’ in integrity. So at first, you need to put some grits on your plate.

Then we need to move on to the next word, which is despair. Now we might think of a pear. So you can use a pear as a side for the grit. 

Have you ever had a plate of grit? What was special about it? You can use your story to make this mnemonic image more personalized.

Do your best to create your own images and stories; you can also use household objects and toys to visualize these imaginations. You can also use graphic editor apps to make your own bizarre image. This is how the mnemonic strategy helps you memorize Erikson’s eight stages for the MCAT. 

Remember Erikson’s Eight Stages of Development by Making Some Sentences

 If you’re good at memorizing sentences, this strategy helps you memorize Erikson’s eight stages for your MCAT exam. 

You can make one sentence with the first word of each sentence; for example, you can try to remember this sentence: ‘Trust autonomy to initiate the industry. Identify Intimacy and generate integrity.’

The other similar way is to make a sentence with the initials of each stage. This strategy is more effective when you can make your own sentence rather than memorize a sentence made by others. 


Infancy – 18 months


Trust vs. Mistrust


18 months to 3 years

Sexy / Sims

Autonomy Vs Shame & doubt 


3 to 6 years 

Girl / Game

Initiative Vs. Guilt 


6 to 12 years

In / Is

Industry Vs Inferiority


12 to 18 years

Red / Running 

Identity Vs Role confusion 


18 to 35 years

Is / In

Intimacy versus isolation 


35 to 60 years

S***ing / Small 

Generativity VS Stagnation


60+ years 

D***k / devices

Integrity Vs Despair


Students use several sentences like these to memorize Erikson’s eight stages.

But you must try to make your own sentence and memorize it.    

At first sight, the Phys/Soc section of the MCAT appears to be easier than the other sections. But to do well in this section, you must memorize a lot of stuff. One of them is Erikson’s eight stages of development. In this post, you learned how you can remember Erikson’s eight stages. But as mentioned before, to do well in this section, you also need to understand the theory and crisis of each stage deeply. 

Whether you are trying to memorizing Erikson’s Stages of Development, or better comprehend the CARS section of the MCAT, the team at Jack Westin is here to help you. If you’re looking for support, check out Jack Westin’s Free Academic Advising.



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