Hint: It has nothing to do with Post-It notes! (Photo: Getty Images)
The next time you need to memorize something — like a speech, a toast or facts and stats for a test — recite the words to anyone who is willing to listen.
According to a new study that will be published in the November edition of the journal Consciousness and Cognition, repeating words to another person can provide a bigger memory boost than just saying what you need to remember aloud (which was already known to improve recall).
In order to test this theory, researchers instructed 44 college students to read a series of lexemes (meaning words that are found in the dictionary) under four different conditions — once silently to themselves, then repeating silently by moving their lips, followed by repeating out loud while facing a screen and lastly saying the words to someone else. Throughout the four exercises, the students were wearing headphones in order to mask their voice and eliminate auditory feedback.
Following a “distraction test,” the study participants were handed a list of words and were asked to recall which ones were part of the experiment. And even though the speakers couldn’t hear a thing, there was a “clear difference” in memory when the words were read to another person.
Lead researcher Victor Boucher, a professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Montreal, explains that moving our mouth and feeling our vocal chords vibrate helps create a sensory and motor reference in our brain. “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,” he stated in a press release. “The result is that the information is better retained in memory.”
Ron White, a memory expert who speaks at conventions and companies around the world and co-stars on the History Channel’s “Stan Lee’s Super Humans,” believes there is validity in this research. “The more senses you can involve in remembering, the better chances that you will remember it,” White tells Yahoo Health. “So instead of just thinking of a person’s name, you are involving the sense of hearing and increasing odds of recall.”
White also feels this memory technique should work if the listener is over the phone or via FaceTime. However, he states the best way to remember something is to link it with an image in your mind. “I memorized the 2,300 names of the fallen heroes in Afghanistan, and I created a picture for each name,” he explains. “For example, Steve = stove, Lisa = Mona Lisa, Karen = carrot, Brian = brain. When you see something, you are even more likely to recall it.”
He adds that this latest research might also benefit those who may be suffering from slight memory loss. “Studies show that the more we interact with people, the healthier it is for our mind,” he states. “Interaction with others is a proven way to exercise your brain.”