Simply reading something out loud is the easiest way to boost your memory, new research finds.
The action of speaking something out loud and hearing yourself say it helps boost long-term memory.
Psychologists call this ‘the production effect’: we remember things better when we read them out loud than when we read silently to ourselves.
Professor Colin M. MacLeod, who co-authored the study, said:
“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 compared various different ways of learning written information:
- reading silently,
- hearing someone else read it,
- listening to a recording of oneself,
- reading aloud in real time.
Reading aloud in real-time emerged as the most effective method.
The study’s authors explain that:
“…production is memorable in part because it includes a distinctive, self-referential component.
This may well underlie why rehearsal is so valuable in learning and remembering: We do it ourselves, and we do it in our own voice.
When it comes time to recover the information, we can use this distinctive component to help us to remember.”
Professor MacLeod said:
“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.
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.”
The study’s authors conclude:
“Production is a simple but versatile learning strategy.[…]
Mouthing, writing, and typing words all have also been revealed to be memory-enhancing productions, and there is evidence that drawing pictures also helps.”
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
The study was published in the journal Memory (Forrin et al., 2017).