Repeating information to another person boosts memory, a new study finds.
The technique works better than repeating something out loud to no one or repeating it to yourself in your head.
It seems it works better if there is someone else there to hear it — even if they are not listening.
Professor Victor Boucher, who led the study, said:
“We knew that repeating aloud was good for memory, but this is the first study to show that if it is done in a context of communication, the effect is greater in terms of information recall.”
In the study people repeated words four different ways, sometimes moving their lips, sometimes not and sometimes out loud to someone, and sometimes to no one.
The results showed that repeating words out loud to another person was linked to the best recall.
The least effective technique was repeating information silently without moving the lips.
The production of sensory and motor traces helps memory, Professor Boucher explained:
“The production of one or more sensory aspects allows for more efficient recall of the verbal element.
But the added effect of talking to someone shows that in addition to the sensorimotor aspects related to verbal expression, the brain refers to the multisensory information associated with the communication episode.
The result is that the information is better retained in memory.”
The researchers tried the experiment again, but this time with non-words.
Non-words are made up of sounds that could be words, but aren’t, like ‘snolp’ or ‘snigrit’.
They found that it made not difference to memory how people said non-words.
Professor Boucher said:
“The results of our research confirm the importance of motor sensory experiences in memory retention and help to better define sensory episodes associated with verbal expression.”
Repetition also has other uses:
“Repetition is one of the easiest and most widespread methods of persuasion.
In fact it’s so obvious that we sometimes forget how powerful it is.
People rate statements that have been repeated just once as more valid or true than things they’ve heard for the first time.
They even rate statements as truer when the person saying them has been repeatedly lying.”
• Continue reading: Repetition and Creating The Illusion of Truth.
The study was published in the journal Conciousness and Cognition (Lafleur & Boucher, 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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