Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Memory Boosters

If your work requires memorization, findings from research may help boost your memory.

Words spoken aloud were better recalled than words read silently by study participants. 

Performance predictions, reflecting on whether you will remember something, improves recall.  The study asked half the participants to answer 6 questions that started with the prompt: “Will you remember …” prior to being asked to remember a series of words and images.  Those participants who made the performance predictions had better recall.  Researchers theorize that participants who asked themselves if they would remember paid greater attention to the words and images.

Memory is strengthened via consolidation in the brain and rehearsal promotes consolidation.  Detailed recall of film clips, soon after viewing them, resulted in greater recall of the film contents when participants were tested a week later.  Immediate rehearsal allowed participants to recall about twice the details from the films as participants who did not review the contents of the films after viewing them.

Self-examination of material you need to remember is more effective than re-reading the material.  Quiz yourself using methods like flash cards, speech rehearsals, or practice tests. 

Takeaway: To enhance your memory:

  • Predict that you will remember the important material you hope to remember
  • State the content you want to remember out loud
  • Recap/Rehearse important material soon after you read it, view it, or listen to it
  • Quiz yourself on the material

Sources

Beat Meier, et al., Performance Predictions Improve Prospective Memory and Influence Retrieval Experience, 65(1) Can J Exp Psychol. Mar, 2011, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21443325/.

Colin MacLeod, et al., The Production Effect: Delineation of a Phenomenon, 36(3) J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 671-685 May 2010, https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0018785.

Chris M. Bird, et al., Consolidation of Complex Events via Reinstatement in Posterior Cingulate Cortex, 35(43) Journal of Neuroscience, Oct 2015,  https://www.jneurosci.org/content/35/43/14426.

Benedict Carey, How we Learn: The Surprising Truth about When, Where, and Why it Happens (2014).

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