Memory Improved By Saying Words Aloud

10 Jun

New study finds memory improved by vocalising or sub-vocalising words:

Committing words to memory is a notoriously hit-and-miss business. Over the last forty years psychologists have found three methods which consistently improve memory for words:

1. Imagery: recall is aided by creating an image of what you want to remember.
2. Elaboration: thinking of associations helps anchor words in your mind.
3. Generation: memory is improved when you have to put some work in to generate the target. E.g. guess the name of your favourite blog from this cryptic clue: _sy_log.

In research on trying to remember lists of words, these three methods have each produced memory improvements of 10% over simply reading words once.

That might not sound much, but it is an average over many studies and often for things that are hard to remember. Psychologists like testing people with non-words like ‘trackle’ or ‘nosting’ that could be words, but aren’t.

Now, in a new series of studies published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, there’s solid evidence for a fourth which could join the other big three memory enhancers (MacLeod et al., 2010).

And, you’ll be happy to hear, it’s very, very simple. It only involves saying the word you want to remember out loud to yourself. It doesn’t even seem to matter if you don’t vocalise the word, it only has to be mouthed. That’s it.

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Posted by on June 10, 2010 in Linguistics, psychology


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