How Do You Form Strong Memories?
We all struggle with remembering things.
For some of you it might be names. Maybe faces or anniversaries. Others have trouble remembering facts when taking an exam.
Life would be a whole lot easier if our memories were like a lock box. But they’re not. We constantly forget things, big and small.
There are a lot of different memory techniques out there to help us remember facts, events, names, and more. They help us recall the information, without really remembering it.
This isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually quite efficient. But how do you really form strong memories that you won’t forget?
One of the best strategies for forming strong memories is what psychologists call rehearsal.
It’s not a new method of learning. But it has consistently proving it’s effectiveness in helping consolidate memories in study after study.
Rewind and Replay
New research – which has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience has found that the only thing you need to do to create durable memories is to replay the details out loud or in your mind.
Lead scientist for the paper, Chris Baird, said this:
“We know that recent memories are susceptible to being lost until a period of consolidation has elapsed. In this study we have shown that a brief period of rehearsal has a huge effect on our ability to remember complex, lifelike events over periods of 1-2 weeks.”
The scientists showed 26 Youtube videos to a group of participants. For 20 of those videos, they were instructed to go over the events for 40 seconds after watching. For the 6 other videos they were not.
Two weeks later, when they were tested, subjects had forgotten very few details of the rehearsed videos. And as you might expect, the events of the 6 other videos were mostly forgotten.
Here’s something else. How the participants performed the rehearsal didn’t matter. Whether they went over details verbally, or simply in their heads, the effect was the same.
What is rehearsal exactly?
Basically, it’s going over information that you just learned. Think of an actor or actress going over there lines.
There’s two kinds of rehearsal. And you should know that one is better for remembering information in the long term.
The first kind is called maintenance rehearsal. It’s short term repetition of information. You keep repeating the information until you can write it down or use it.
This would be like repeating a phone number until you can punch it into a phone. It’s rote repetition. After you use it, you forget it.
The other type is elaborative rehearsal. This is what you use if you want to transfer something to your long term memory.
For example, if you wanted to remember key points from a chapter you just read. You would rehearse the information just learned and figure out how it builds on the information in the previous chapter. Or how it relates to the subject as a whole.
The reason this is more effective is because you have to process the meaning of the information. To associate it with other ideas and concepts you are familiar with.
Here’s another way you can practice it. Imagine that you’re trying to explain what you learned to a friend. How would you explain it to him or her so that they could understand?
How it Works
Psychologists stuck participants under an MRI to study their brains during the process. They discovered that the same region of the brain activated during rehearsal as when the memory was first laid down.
This area – the posterior cingulate – could even predict how much would be remembered by how similar the brain activity was between learning and rehearsal. The researchers believe this area plays a significant role in memory consolidation.
Rehearsal isn’t the only way to help you form stronger memories. But rehearsing information you just learned for 40 seconds has a powerful effect for longer term memory.
There’s obviously other factors that can help your memory. Both lifestyle factors and techniques that you can use.
Memory is a key part of learning. So when looking to remember new information and concepts, don’t forget how powerful rehearsal can be for long term memory.