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Health Tip: How to Remember what You read

What’s the best way of retaining what you have read? Many persons try different techniques to ensure  written information can easily be stored for a long time. For students, being able to remember written information certainly aids academic performance.  Whether we are looking at shopping lists or trying to store phone numbers, one technique that can boost your memory is reading aloud.

According to a recently published study, saying it out loud improves memory better than reading silently, hearing someone else read, or listening to a recording of yourself.

The study titled ‘This time its personal-The memory benefit of hearing oneself‘ was  published in the reputable journal, Memory in 2017.

According to the researchers, Colin M. MacLeod, a professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Waterloo, who co-authored the study with the lead author, post-doctoral fellow Noah Forrin. “This study confirms that learning and memory benefit from active involvement,” When we add an active measure or a production element to a word, that word becomes more distinct in long-term memory, and hence more memorable.”

The study tested four methods for learning written information, including reading silently, hearing someone else read, listening to a recording of oneself reading, and reading aloud in real time. Results from tests with 95 participants showed that the production effect of reading information aloud to yourself resulted in the best remembering.

“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.

“And we know that regular exercise and movement are also strong building blocks for a good memory.”

Does this mean that you should read aloud ALL written material? NO! It is only useful if you you focus on hard parts only. This was highlighted in another study which showed that reading aloud  ALL of the material out loud doesn’t boost memory. So, sieve out the parts that are difficult to remember and read these portions aloud. These includes facts, technical terms, lists, quotations, definitions, formulas, and other items in the written material.

When you read aloud, you are taking advantage of what is termed ‘Production effect’ which refers to your use of multiple senses (sound and sight) to boost memory. This effect is experienced whether you are reading aloud to yourself or others. What suggestions can help you use th ‘read-aloud’ technique effectively? Consider the following suggestions from experts:

  1. Within the overall written material, identify specific facts, terms, and other details you want to memorize.
  2. Find someone willing to listen. For example, your spouse, child, friend, study partner…. whoever will agree to be attentive as you read.Maybe even your dog or cat, if he or she will pay attention (or pretend to pay attention). I am serious.

    (The key to effectiveness here is awareness of an attentive audience.)

  3. Speak the difficult material slowly and clearly.Keep in mind you have an audience. Someone is listening!
  4. Repeat the facts, items, and other details as needed.Use repetition to help set the information more firmly in memory.
  5. Later, perhaps when you are alone, quiz yourself to see how much you’ve remembered.Read aloud to remember those bits of information that are most important to you.  Sometimes, a whisper may be all you need to make the material memorable.

photo credit: Flickr

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