Memory Research News in Study & Education

Reading information aloud to yourself improves memory

  • A lab experiment finds we remember written information better when we read it aloud, and that this is more due to the self involvement than to the motor aspect of producing the words.

Confirming what many of us have learned through practical experience, a study comparing different strategies of reading or listening has found that you are more likely to remember something if you read it out loud to yourself.

In the study, 75 undergraduate students first spent around 15 minutes being recorded as they read aloud 160 common words. They were not told any reason for this activity. Two weeks later, they attended another short session, in which they were told that they would be given the same words they had read earlier, and they would then be tested on their memory of them. Half of the 160 words were given to them in four learning conditions (20 words in each):

  • reading silently
  • hearing someone else read
  • listening to a recording of oneself reading (taken from the first session)
  • reading aloud.

They were then given a self-paced recognition test involving all 160 words, and had to classify each one as “studied” or “new”.

The expected pattern of performance was consistent with that hypothesized: reading aloud was best, followed by hearing oneself, then hearing another, and finally reading silently. There was not a lot of difference between saying aloud and hearing oneself, however — words that were said aloud were only marginally better remembered than those in which one heard oneself say the word (hit rate of 77% vs 74%). Hearing someone else speak was significantly better than simply reading silently (69% vs 65%) (I know, it doesn’t seem much more different, but the first comparison didn’t reach statistical significance, and the second did, just). Much clearer was the comparison between those conditions with a self-referential component (reading aloud, hearing yourself) vs conditions with no such component — here the difference was very clearly significant. This was supported by the results of an unplanned comparison between the hear-self and hear-other conditions, which also produced a significant difference.

These results are consistent with previous research, though the differences are smaller than previous. It seems likely that this might be due to the necessity for participants to have previously experienced the words in the earlier session (obviously it would have been much better to have a substantially longer period between the sessions; I assume logistical issues were behind this choice).

In any case, the findings do support the idea that reading aloud helps memory through all three of its ‘extra’ components:

  • the motor aspect in producing the word
  • the auditory aspect in hearing the word
  • the self-referential aspect of being associated with one self.

Notably, this study suggests that it is the third of these (self-referential) that is the most important aspect, with the motor aspect being least important.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-12/uow-sfr113017.php

Reference: 

[4335] Forrin ND, MacLeod CM. This time it’s personal: the memory benefit of hearing oneself. Memory [Internet]. 2018 ;26(4):574 - 579. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/09658211.2017.1383434

How expectations affect exam scores

A largish study

  • confirms that college students tend to be over-confident about their academic success
  • supports some findings that female students are more realistic in their predictions of performance
  • finds that undergraduates can improve their expectations through repeated exam taking
  • finds that over-confidence is associated with higher performance
  • supports the theory that over-confidence motivates students to study harder.

There has been quite a lot of research into the relationship between students’ expectations and academic performance. It’s fairly well-established that students tend to have inflated expectations of their performance, but the effect of this has been disputed. Does over-confidence discourage students from preparing for exams, or do high expectations motivate students to study harder? A largish study has investigated this question.

The study involved 592 second-year students taking a statistics course at the HSE International College of Economics and Finance in Moscow. The students take three written exams during the course of the year, with each exam being divided into two parts of 80 minutes by a small break. Researchers surveyed the students during these breaks to see what final scores they were expecting. Students were encouraged to take their best guess by the promise that reasonably close predictions would be rewarded with an extra point on their score. Exams were marked out of 100 (rather than with a broad letter grade).

Students’ ability was assessed using previous grades in mathematics and statistics, first-year GPA, second-year homework, and performance on the previous exam.

The study found that, given similar ability, students who expected higher scores did actually attain them, supporting the idea that high expectations motivate students to work harder.

Consistent with previous research, students (of both genders) were overwhelmingly inclined to overestimate their abilities. However, with each passing exam, their predictions become more accurate. Overall, female students tended to be more realistic in their expectations, and faster to learn from each exam.

The researchers suggest the finding supports giving tests at the beginning of a course so that students are able to adapt their expectations more quickly. Note, however, that these exams covered cumulative knowledge. Courses where exams cover different, unrelated, material each time, will probably not see the same benefit.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-01/nruh-hei012418.php

Full text available at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02346/full

Reference: 

[4332] Magnus JR, Peresetsky AA. Grade Expectations: Rationality and Overconfidence. Frontiers in Psychology [Internet]. 2018 ;8. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02346/full