Study finds that learning by repetition impairs recall of details

June 23, 2014
Michael Yassa, an assistant professor of neurobiology & behavior, said other other memory techniques should be used to complement repetition.

When learning, practice doesn't always make perfect.

UC Irvine neurobiologists Zachariah Reagh and Michael Yassa have found that while enhances the factual content of memories, it can reduce the amount of detail stored with those memories. This means that with repeated recall, nuanced aspects may fade away.

In the study, which appears this month in Learning & Memory, student participants were asked to look at pictures either once or three times. They were then tested on their memories of those images. The researchers found that multiple views increased factual but actually hindered subjects' ability to reject similar "imposter" pictures. This suggests that the details of those memories may have been shaken loose by repetition.

This discovery supports Reagh's and Yassa's Competitive Trace Theory – published last year in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience – which posits that the details of a become more subjective the more they're recalled and can compete with bits of other similar memories. The scientists hypothesize that this may even lead to false memories, akin to a brain version of the telephone game.

Yassa, an assistant professor of neurobiology & behavior, said that these findings do not discredit the practice of repetitive . However, he noted, pure repetition alone has limitations. For a more enriching and lasting learning experience through which nuance and detail are readily recalled, other mnemonic techniques should be used to complement repetition.

More information: Learning & Memory, learnmem.cshlp.org/content/21/7/342.short

Related Stories

Study creates new memories by directly changing the brain

September 10, 2013

By studying how memories are made, UC Irvine neurobiologists created new, specific memories by direct manipulation of the brain, which could prove key to understanding and potentially resolving learning and memory disorders.

Researchers finding ways to erase unhappy memories

April 29, 2014

We all have things we'd like to forget - being the victim of a crime, a bad relationship, an embarrassing faux pas. What if we could erase those bad memories? Or at least take the edge off them?

Using memories to motivate behavior

April 30, 2014

We all know that thinking about exercise isn't the same as doing it. But researchers from the University of New Hampshire have confirmed what may be the next best thing: just thinking about a past exercise experience can ...

The beautiful game and the beautiful mind

June 23, 2014

The World Cup stimulates not only passion and nationalism, but reminiscence. The heroic 2-3 effort of the Socceroos against the Netherlands was the centre of many conversations this week, but will also be remembered for years ...

Recommended for you

Improved memory thanks to irregular sleep-wake patterns

July 31, 2015

If you've had a good night's sleep, you are mentally more alert and your memory works more reliably. During sleep, a part of our forebrain called the prefrontal cortex remains active. It ensures that memories and learned ...

Take a trip through the brain (w/ Video)

July 30, 2015

A new imaging tool developed by Boston scientists could do for the brain what the telescope did for space exploration. In the first demonstration of how the technology works, published July 30 in the journal Cell, the researchers ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.