When I was in school, I experimented with a few different study techniques. One involved locking myself in my room, putting my phone on airplane mode, and getting down to business—I’d make notecards, rewrite notes, and sift through textbooks in pure silence.
Another was leaving my apartment (and all of the distractions that resided there) to camp out at Panera; I’d plug in my earphones, tune into my study material, and people-watch on my breaks.
And the last, more risky of the three, involved claiming a table on the social floor of the library, where my friends and I were free to study as well as discuss the material at hand (or anything else we desired). Now, all three were effective in their own right—but the latter proved to really lock-in theories and definitions I’d usually have trouble memorizing.
A new study “This time it’s personal: the memory benefit of hearing oneself” from the University of Waterloo explains why studying with my friends produced such promising results: “learning and memory benefit from active involvement.” Colin M. MacLeod, coauthor of the study and chair of the Department of Psychology at Waterloo, goes on to explain that reading aloud or adding an otherwise active measure to a word can, in fact, help us retain material. Furthermore, speaking and hearing ourselves has the most beneficial impact on our memory.
This study, which is published in Memory, tested a few different study methods specifically for learning written material: reading quietly, listening to someone else read, listening to a recording of oneself read, and finally reading aloud. After analyzing the results form 95 different participants, the researchers determined that the lattermost produced the best results for memorizing written material.
These findings are explained by a little something called “the production effect.” When we read, we use visual pathways to form memory links—but when we read aloud, we also form auditory links. Therefore, our memory favors words read aloud opposed to those read silently.
The researchers of this study are now considering how this implicates certain individuals hoping to improve their memory, like elders: “When we consider the practical applications of this research, I think of seniors who are advised to do puzzles and crosswords to help strengthen their memory,” said MacLeod. “This study suggests that the idea of action or activity also improves memory.”
I was always hesitant to study with friends, because I was sure that we wouldn’t succeed at focusing on our classwork. Time and time again, however, my test grades showed that when we were able to get down to business, talking through the material and reading our notes aloud to one another really implanted the information in my brain. At the time, these were my mere observations—but they are now solidified by the study at hand.
University of Waterloo (2017, November 30). Reading Information Aloud to Yourself Improves Memory. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved November 30, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/memory-reading-aloud-8084/
Forrin, N. D., & MacLeod, C. M. (2017, October 2) This time it’s personal: the memory benefit of hearing oneself. Memory. Retrieved on December 4 2017 from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09658211.2017.1383434?journalCode=pmem20