If you’d like to get better at remembering details, here is a trick for you: Impart your newly acquired knowledge to someone else.
A recent study published in the journal Learning and Memory found that students who repeated new information to someone else immediately after learning it could recall those details better ― and longer ― than students who did not.
To figure out how to increase the chances of remembering details, researchers from Texas performed three different studies across groups of 20 undergraduate students.
In the first experiment, the researchers showed participants short clips of several different obscure films. Students were asked to recall information about the movies starting from several minutes to seven days after watching. Not surprisingly, the participants forgot details as more time went on.
In the second experiment, students were given a cue, such as a screen shot of the movie or the film’s title, before watching the clips. These participants remembered the general plot just as well as the first group, but performed significantly better when recalling the little details, such as color, sound and gestures, according to the study.
Finally, researchers showed another group of students movie clips and also asked them to tell another person about the film shortly after watching it. It was this group that remembered both the central theme and little details for longer than any other group.
“By actively retrieving the information when you tell it to someone else, it provides the opportunity to ‘re-encode’ or to re-store the information, which can lead to better long-term [memory] retention,” lead study author Melanie Sekeres, a psychologist at Baylor University, told The Huffington Post.
The effect of retelling information still requires more research on a larger and more diverse group of people. For example, it is not clear if this technique would help older adults with cognitive decline retain memories in more vivid detail.
But the method is obviously worth a shot. If you have an important presentation at work and want to rely less on Powerpoint slides, it might be worth repeating the slides out loud to a trusted colleague. Or, if you want to ace a test, tell your friend what is scribbled on those flash cards.
And the technique about cues which helped in the second experiment is also especially helpful in social situations, Sekeres said. If you’re at a gathering where you’re meeting new people, she recommends testing yourself to remember important details like someone’s name. For example, think to yourself, “Jim had the green cap and Susan wore the red dress and brought a casserole,” Sekeres said. The green cap and casserole become the markers to help you retain, or re-code, a new name.
Not a bad little party trick ― or everyday trick ― if you ask us.