‘Reminders by association’ are a great tool to help you remember to do something in the future, new research demonstrates.
Here are a few examples of ‘reminders by association’:
- A picture of your family by your desk reminds you to call them and tell them you will be late home.
- A piece of litter on the floor reminds you to put the bins out.
While these might be accidental reminders, they can also be set up intentionally.
That’s what psychologists did in a study newly published in the journal Psychological Science.
Participants were given a variety of cues to remember to do something in the future.
One involved picking up a paper-clip, another was seeing an elephant statue, another was a poster of the alien from the Toy Story movies.
Little environmental cues like this were enough to double the number of people who remembered to perform some future action.
Dr Todd Rogers, the study’s first author, said
“Our results suggest that people are more likely to follow through on their good intentions if they are reminded to follow through by noticeable cues that appear at the exact place and time in which follow-through can occur.”
The beauty of reminders by association is that they don’t rely on any technology or other gizmos, which are likely to malfunction, run out of batteries or not remind you at exactly the right time.
They work so well because they are built into the environment around us.
The key to remembering to do something is getting the reminder at exactly the right time.
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Rogers & Milkman et al., 2016).
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
Image credit: annamo