Why We Forget
Because we are often negative about ourselves, we forget and underestimate our ability to retain new information. This negative energy acts as a brain blocker and keeps us from catagloging and retaining information.
It’s easy to forget information we don’t understand or concepts we don’t take the time to comprehend.
To remember something new, it must be clearly impressed in the brain. It requires time and effort to learn new concepts. To imprint new information into the brain, it’s important to schedule periodic study sessions and constantly review information in your mind.
Motivated forgetting – according to famous psychologist Sigmund Freud, unwanted memories are often pushed away or stopped from entering the conscious either through repression (subconscious act) or suppression (conscious act).
How may this relate to memory retention? Retaining uninteresting information (e.g. concepts, theories, ideas, facts or definitions) is much more difficult if it’s not done in a pleasant way. By increasing the positive and calm energy that surrounds your learning process, you can increase the chances of remembering what you’re learning. You can do this by finding positive and personal ways to relate to the information you’re consuming and by finding fun and calm ways to study it.
Memories that are not reflected upon often diminish quickly. Most people forget newly learned concepts after a day. Over-learning typically occurs during motor learning since it’s a repetitive form of learning that reinforces information and requires high levels of organization.
Re-learning forgotten concepts is easier than learning new ones. This is even true years after something is forgotten. In fact, forgotten memories are often reflected in actions and attitudes. Even though most college graduates forget a majority of the concepts they learned during college, it’s still advantageous to obtain higher education since learned concepts are often reflected subconsciously in personality.
Everyone forgets information that is not constantly reviewed. It’s counterproductive to stress over memory retention.
Experts use to believe that memory loss resulted from inactivity, but many experts now believe that stress, anxiety, and environmental distractions contribute more to memory loss than inactivity. Mental distractions can be reduced with focused reading and studying, personal reflection, meditation, and organized study sessions. It’s important to avoid cramming and unorganized studying. In fact, this will increase stress, thus, inhibiting memory retention.
Retroactive inhibition occurs when previously retained information is forgotten after learning new concepts. Greater interference occurs with similar concepts. To better retain information during school, take an English course after completing a physics course, rather than following it up with a chemistry class.
Another strategy many people have used to successfully retain information is to sleep immediately following study sessions. While awake, people are constantly thinking, which contributes to memory loss. Likewise, it’s also helpful to exercise, socialize with friends, or participate in other recreational activities immediately after studying to increase memory retention.
Proactive inhibition occurs when previously retained information affects future learning. For example, concepts learned from a previous class affects learning in a current one.
Take time to mentally rest following periods of excessive mental exertion. If you’re stressed, it’s more difficult to remember what you’ve studied, and overloading your brain with information is ineffective. It’s more useful to read a textbook chapter, analyze it, and then clarify confusing concepts before moving on.
Blocking occurs when well-known data, such as family member birth dates or names, is briefly forgotten. If this happens, don’t panic and attempt association.
6. Changed Cues
Students often forget what they’ve studied because it’s presented differently on tests. This often happens when students focus too much on verbatim memorization. They often get stumped when test wording differs significantly from the textbook. To prevent this, re-summarize what you’ve read without looking at the text during study sessions.
7. Lack of Attention and Effort
It takes a lot of effort to retain what you’ve studied. It’s difficult to retain information through passive reading.
How to Improve Memory Retention
1. Attention (Concentration)
It requires intense concentration to remember new information. When studying, it’s more effective to concentrate on one subject or concept at a time.
It’s difficult to concentrate on uninteresting subjects. Most people do not struggle to concentrate on personally significant issues. Therefore, when studying uninteresting concepts, personalize the subject. This is known as ego involvement.
If it’s not possible to personalize a subject, develop another motivation for learning it. It could be information useful for your future career, something friends are interested in, or you might be uninterested because you lack confidence in your ability to understand it. Regardless of interest, you still must understand boring concepts to earn good grades.
Many students develop an interest in boring subjects once they understand them. If you struggle to understand a new concept, take time to analyze and associate it with familiar concepts. Once you understand it better, your interest will more than likely be increased.
You must be confident to learn and retain new concepts. Do not be pessimistic if you struggle. Never hesitate to ask for help. Once you begin grasping new concepts, your confidence will increase.
4. Starting Right
Even if it’s time consuming, focus on mastering new concepts. Many concepts build upon others. Do not rush learning.
Before study sessions, select the most significant topics to review. For example, to understand certain principles in physics, you must have a solid understanding of math. Additionally, do not waste time reviewing understood concepts. Rather, spend time studying unfamiliar or unclear concepts.
There are multiple types of memorization. Rote memorization, a method where information is reviewed until it can be recalled verbatim, is often employed by students learning to multiply and memorize equations. Understanding-based memorization is employed by students who must understand generalized concepts, such as theories. It’s easier to retain information that is related to familiar concepts. While studying, relate recently acquired knowledge with concepts you’ve already mastered. Always strive to have a well-rounded understanding of what you’re studying.
7. Building Background
It’s easier to develop an in-depth understanding of a concept and relate to other topics once you’ve developed thorough background knowledge on a subject. It’s difficult to fully comprehend isolated concepts. Experts are able to connect new information with current knowledge. In other words, the best way to enhance your understanding of a specific subject is to develop well-rounded knowledge.
Acquiring background knowledge is also a great way to increase interest in a subject.
While processing new information, look for ways to effectively organize it. It’s common for students to experience information overload. To remedy this, look for ways to classify information in much the same way it’s organized in textbooks. For example, if you were learning about organs in a physiology class, it is much easier to remember the 12 organ systems than the 78 organs making up these systems. Once you’re able to associate organs with their respective systems, it will be much easier to remember names and functions.
As your study progresses, you’ll be able to link supplementary concepts with underlying ones, which will enable you to retain more information.
9. Whole and Parts
Briefly summarize a textbook chapter prior to reading it to develop a generalized understanding of what you’ll be learning. Then, break up your reading into sections.
After you’ve read a chapter, take a few minutes to re-summarize it. This method is one of the most active learning strategies students can employ. Simultaneously, you’ll be testing your understanding of the subject.
Auditory learners are encouraged to read aloud. This method should also be used if you do not understand what you’re reading.
11. Note Taking
Visual learners are encouraged to take detailed notes since they learn better through generating visual mental images. Auditory learners are encouraged to do likewise. When taking notes, write clear sentences in your own words. Taking notes is more effective than underlining text. Students frequently underline excessive amounts of text, which can lead to confusion. After reading a chapter in a textbook, review lecture notes.
It’s most effective to conduct reviews immediately after learning a new concept. Spend more time reviewing material near the middle of a chapter since you’ll probably remember content near the beginning and end of chapters.
13. Spaced Practice or Distributed Practice
Do not cram before a test. Rather, organize multiple study sessions spaced out over a period of weeks or days. You’ll more than likely remember information periodically reviewed during the course of a few weeks.
Excessive study often leads to over-learning. Although this may seem negative, students who’ve over-learned a concept often remember what they’ve studied with little effort. Students should employ over-learning when studying complex or difficult to understand concepts. Do not spend too much time reviewing understood content.
15. Sleeping On It
If possible, study just prior to sleeping. However, this is not recommended if you’re tired or ill. Newly learned concepts are more easily recalled after sleeping since retroactive interference occurs, but this is not the case for everyone.