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How We Remember: Cues to Improving Memory

16 February, 2016 - 09:24


  1. Label and review the principles of encoding, storage, and retrieval.
  2. Summarize the types of amnesia and their effects on memory.
  3. Describe how the context in which we learn information can influence our memory of that information.

Although it is useful to hold information in sensory and short-term memory, we a lso rely on our long-term memory (LTM). We want to remember the name of the new boy in the class, the name of the movie we saw last week, and the material for our upcoming psychology test.

Psychological research has produced a great deal of knowledge about long-term memory, and this research can be useful as you try to learn and remember new material (see Table 8.2). In this section we will consider this question in terms of the types of processing that we do on the information we want to remember. To be successful, the information that we want to remember must be encoded and stored, and then retrieved.

Table 8.2 Helpful Memory Techniques Based on Psychological Research




Use elaborative encoding.

Material is better remembered if it is processed more fully.

Think, for instance, “Proactive interference is like retroactive interference but it occurs in a forward manner.”

Make use of the self-reference effect.

Material is better remembered if it is linked to thoughts about the self.

Think, for instance, “I remember a time when I knew the answer to an exam question but couldn’t quite get it to come to mind. This was an example of the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon.”

Be aware of the forgetting curve.

Information that we have learned drops off rapidly with time.

Review the material that you have already studied right before the exam to increase the likelihood it will remain in memory.

Make use of the spacing effect.

Information is learned better when it is studied in shorter periods spaced over time.

Study a little bit every day; do not cram at the last minute.

Rely on overlearning.

We can continue to learn even after we think we know the information perfectly.

Keep studying, even if you think you already have it down.

Use context- dependent retrieval.

We have better retrieval when it occurs in the same situation in which we learned the material.

If possible, study under conditions similar to the conditions in which you will take the exam.

Use state- dependent retrieval.

We have better retrieval when we are in the same psychological state as we were when we learned the material.

Many possibilities, but don’t study under the influence of drugs or alcohol, unless you plan to use them on the day of the exam (which is not recommended).