MAY 11, 2016 5:03 AM PDT

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Memories

There are a lot of tips and tricks that people use to remember important information. Some advise repeating a person’s name three times, verbally, if remembering names is difficult. Other tricks involve associating a rhyming word with a certain memory, or visualizing a picture of a task or event that shouldn’t be forgotten. Of course there are always electronic apps on a smartphone or computer calendar reminders, but keeping some information in the working memory of the brain is necessary when a cell phone is out of reach.
 
Using drawings will help you remember things

New research from scientists at the University of Waterloo has shown that drawing actual pictures of information that needs to be retained is an effective method to keep something firmly in working memory and accessible when needed.
 
The study’s lead author, Jeffrey Wammes, a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at Waterloo, said in a press release, “We pitted drawing against a number of other known encoding strategies, but drawing always came out on top. We believe that the benefit arises because drawing helps to create a more cohesive memory trace that better integrates visual, motor and semantic information.”
 
The study was published recently in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. It was relatively simple, but the results showed a significant benefit to drawing something to remember it. In all of the groups, the scientists started with a list of 80 simple nouns. Words like “peanut” “shoe” “fork” “kite” “apple” and “table” were projected on to a screen, in a random selection of 30 of the original 80 words. All the words were chosen because they were easy to both spell and draw.  Participants were given instructions to either draw a picture of the word, or write it down repeatedly and they had 40 seconds per word.  Once 30 words had been shown, the volunteers were given what is a called a “filler task.” The filler task was completely unrelated to the study, it was just to get the brain working and thinking in another direction. The participants listened to random tones and had to categorize them has high, low or medium. After rating the tones, they were then re-directed to the list of objects they had seen in the first part of the experiment and asked to write down as many of them as they could recall.
 
The results left no room for doubt that drawing the words was a superior method of ensuring better recall. Participants were able to recall twice as many of the drawn words as the written words. The study authors call this “the drawing effect.” The quality of the drawings did not seem to matter either; even a very rudimentary drawing of a stick-like figure with three lines for tines was enough for someone to remember the word “fork” and a simple circle with a string helped volunteers remember balloon twice as often as writing the word “balloon” multiple times.
 
The study only used single words, no phrases or sentences, but the team hopes to expand the research to see if it adding multiple words bears out the drawing effect. Check out the video below to learn more about this research on how memory works.
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
NOV 07, 2019
Neuroscience
NOV 07, 2019
Reading, Hearing Language Connects Meaning to Same Region in the Brain
Scientists at the University of California Berkeley used improved functional MRI resolution to show that similar neural circuits in the same regions of the...
NOV 11, 2019
Neuroscience
NOV 11, 2019
Suicidal Mitochondria Responsible for ALS
Scientists at Northwestern University have dicovered a new mechanism in the brain that may be responsable for the early stages of neurodegeneration seen in...
DEC 11, 2019
Health & Medicine
DEC 11, 2019
Can optical illusions help diagnose autism?
At first glance what do you see -- a young woman? Or perhaps a smooth jazz artist? This classic optical illusion occurs due to a phenomenon known as binocu...
DEC 25, 2019
Neuroscience
DEC 25, 2019
Air Pollution Linked to Depression and Suicide
Living amid high levels of air pollution increases one’s risk of developing depression and commiting suicide, says new research from University Colle...
JAN 16, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
JAN 16, 2020
College Kids Exchange Alcohol for Weed in Legal States
Researchers have now found that legalization of marijuana has significantly increased the number of college-aged pot smokers, while significantly decreased...
FEB 03, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 03, 2020
Brain Organoids May Not be Living Up to the Hype
Cells can be grown in special ways to create three-dimensional, miniature models of organs. But how good are they?...
Loading Comments...