New research suggests that telling someone about information you have just learnt will help you remember the details in the long term, which could help students perform better in exams.
Carried out by Baylor University, USA, the study recruited 60 undergraduate students and split them into three groups, each with 20 participants.
The average age of the students was 21, as the team wanted to look at memory and forgetting information in healthy brains, with previous research mainly focusing on how aging or brain damage affects memory.
The students were shown 24-second clips from 40 films over a period of around 30 minutes and were asked to try to remember information about the general plot of the films as well as more focused details such as sounds, colors, gestures, background details and other peripheral information.
After viewing the film clips the team asked participants what they remembered about the films after delays ranging from several minutes after the showings up to seven days later.
The results showed that perhaps unsurprisingly, all participants in all three groups recalled less about both the generic plot and ‘peripheral’ details of the films after a longer gap of time.
However they forgot the peripheral details from the films more quickly, and to a greater degree, than the films’ plots and central themes.
The second group of students, who were given cues before being asked to recall the films, performed better at retrieving the peripheral details, although their recalling of the central themes did not vary much from the first group who had no cues.
It was the third group however who provided the most interesting results for the team. After being asked to tell someone about the films soon after seeing them, this group managed to remember both the central and peripheral information better over time.
This “replaying” method, of sharing the information with someone else, does take more effort, admitted lead author of the study Melanie Sekeres, but is worth it, with Sekeres adding that, “Telling someone else about what you’ve learned is a really effective way for students to study instead of just re-reading the textbook or class notes.”
“We tell students to test yourself, force yourself to tell someone about the lecture. Even by writing out some questions for yourself about the information, then later answering them yourself, you are more likely to remember the information. Unfortunately, simply re-reading or passively listening to a recording of your lecture in the hopes of remembering the information isn’t a great study strategy by comparison.”