The Trick to Memorization Is Repetition

Names, phone numbers, passwords: they’re all things we swear we’ll be able to remember later, but when it’s time to recall them, we often find ourselves at a loss. Why does our memory fail us? Perhaps because we don’t understand how it actually works. New research shows that while repetition is the best strategy, people misconceive which techniques help them to memorize best. If you want to memorize something, repetition is the key.

Researchers gave study participants a bunch of words of various font sizes to memorize. Though most of these participants expected that they would recall the larger words better, the font size of the word had no effect on whether they remembered it during the test. The researchers repeated the study with a twist: while the words were of varying font sizes again, this time some of the words were shown to them four times. Again, the size of the words did not improve the participants’ memories, but they did learn words that they were exposed to better than the rest. The surprising part is that even after the test was complete, participants still thought they had learned the bigger words better than the words they saw multiple times.

While repeatedly reviewing something is a helpful hint to remember (if you can!), the researchers are most interested in the fact that the participants were unaware of which words they had actually memorized. This discrepancy likely means that students don’t study optimally and that eyewitness testimony is faulty. Until the human brain recognizes that it’s not actually memorizing what it thinks it is, it won’t be taking advantage of its full capabilities.

 



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1 Comment

  • “The surprising part is that even after the test was complete, participants still thought they had learned the bigger words better than the words they saw multiple times.”

    The WSJ, Faux News and the Economist know this quite well: continuously repeat the wonders of several key false panaceas:

    – privatization,

    – deregulation (of financial, labor, environmental, consumer and antitrust protections),

    – “free” trade, the benefits of child and forced labor sweatshops

    – the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, the WEF, the G20 and G7

    – corporate welfare (via subsidies, write-offs,rebates and no-bid contracts), tax cuts for the wealthy (but not for us)

    – the necessity and benefit of disaster aversion monetary monstrosities like TARP, QE1 & QE2

    – even more tax cuts for the wealthy (but not for us!) in the form of capital gains cuts, marginal income tax rate reductions, estate tax rate reduction and bracket easing, and the reduction of the purportedly “onerous” US corporate tax rate (which only small business ends up having to pay anyway)

    Repeat these platforms in a constant mantra as the solution to any variety of economic and social woes and shift or even reverse lines of reasoning for their justification if necessary.

    Similarly, despite any and all evidence to the contrary, drill in the evils 1,000 times over of:

    – the job-killing effects of minimum wage and any and all workforce protection policies (OSHA, discrimination protections, unemployment insurance, pension plans, just cause requirements)

    – the job-killing effects of any and all labor unions (even though outsourcing is, logically and empirically speaking, the direct result of the FTAs, as evidenced by Quebec and Germany’s healthy and growing industrial sectors despite robust wage policies and high unionization rates)

    – that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are dangerously insolvent, “unfunded mandates” (even though they could easily be preserved and even expanded with a return to any of the progressive tax codes in place from 1944 to 1986, by taxing capital gains at the same level as income, by eliminating subsidies, tax write-offs and exemptions for large corporations & millionaires, by not robbing the fund to pay for these oligarchic handouts, by cutting military spending)

    – that public schools should be replaced with Charters or simply scrapped altogether

    – that rent controls and public housing programs (regardless of their structure, severity or any qualifying particularity) always lead to run-down neighborhoods and housing shortages

    – that the military and surveillance budgets are not the primary and fastest growing source of the deficit

    In addition to these repetition schedules, simply do not mention the fact that the GOP has been a consistent and nearly invariable supporter of debt-ceiling increases, of Fed bailouts (minus big auto), ignore the copious data on cost saving and quality improvement advantages of public versus private health insurance systems, ignore the real and inescapable dangers that the astronomical trade deficit poses to the economy of the Unites States, about the magnitude and pervasiveness of foreign tax shelters, about the effective tax rates of most fortune 500s or their executives, about the decline in real wages, real property and small business ownership rates in both Mexico, Central America and the US since the passage of NAFTA and CAFTA, that many of these FTAs have been passed only via the direct supervention of democratic governments by US military-backed regime change, that the highest performing primary school populations in the world are educated in public systems., that public health systems are, as a whole, much cheaper and have demonstrably higher coverage rates and qualitative delivery stats in almost every measure of efficacy than the hodgepodge network of private systems at work in the US, etc., etc., etc.

    For some strange reason, after all these strategic repetitions and silences, public opinion on these matters has shifted towards the right.

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