Studying and Repetition Improves Recall

Summary
It is known that the human brain has the ability to decide or judge which memories to preserve and which ones to discard. This study was conducted to estimate what factors predict whether a memory will be judged as useful or not. Results revealed that “information that feels easy to process is judged to be well learned.” This is seen by participants deeming figures in large fonts to be judged as better remembered than those shown in small fonts. However, only believing something to be better remembered does not actually mean that it is better retained in memory.

Introduction
Studies have shown that people often decide what to remember and what to forget. It is also seen that people often feel that they may remember something better by following this judgment, but eventually it is not retained in memory. Studies have further shown that when people deem something easy to remember, they believe they will actually retain it better. This study was conducted to assess whether there was any association between decisions and judgments on memory and preconceived notions regarding memory and real life memory performance in experiments. A broader perspective of memory and the beliefs associated with it have been assessed in this study.

Methodology

  • For experiment 1, a total of 83 volunteers were shown lists of words that were printed in small or large fonts. They had to predict the degree to which it was likely that they would remember the words. The volunteers were also promised that they would see some words again, for better recall.
  • For experiment 2, a total of 84 volunteers were included. This experiment offered the participants a total of four chances to recall the words. Similar font differences and predictions were made as in experiment 1.
  • In experiment 3, a total of 78 subjects were included. Thirty of them were given a summary of experiment 1 and asked if font size affected memory. Forty subjects were given the summary and asked whether studying the words more number of times improved recall.

Results

  • Experiment 1 showed that font size did not affect retention of the words in memory. However, the participants felt that they would remember the large font words better than the small ones.
  • Experiment 2 showed that when shown a word four times, the actual retention of the word increases proportionately. Participants in this experiment too felt that they would remember words in large fonts better than those in small fonts. However, volunteers in the study did not think it was the repetition of viewing the words four times that led to better recall.
  • Experiment 3 showed that while 50% subjects felt that large font would help in better recall, 51% subjects decided on repeated studying. There was no difference in predictions regarding memory in the two groups.

Next steps/shortcomings
The authors agree that ease of processing is a basic investigation in predictions about memory, which provides directions and biases the formal decisions. The authors suggest that people who are trying to decide the accuracy of their memories can benefit from being aware that while heuristics that guide memory judgments are mostly accurate, they also form biases.

Conclusion
This study shows that most people who feel or judge that something is easier to remember tend to be biased. In this study, the participants believed that the large fonts of the words shown would facilitate better recall, as compared to smaller fonts. This belief was prevalent in spite of the fact that actual memory is not found to be linked to large fonts. This study also found that studying something a greater number of times improved the recall capacity, but when asked to judge, people still believed that larger fonts helped them to remember better. Thus, there is an overestimation of the effect of size of fonts on the memory performances. Similarly, there is an underestimation of the importance of repeatedly viewing the words. The authors feel that this misjudgment can affect a person’s memory recall to a large extent. They deem this fact to be important for testifying witnesses and in academics. It needs to be remembered that pointers that help better recall can lead to biases. Being aware of this can help prevent biases in memory judgments.

For More Information:
Predictions about Memory
Psychological Science
By Nate Kornell; Williams College
From the Colorado State University

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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