To Absorb New Knowledge, Close Your Eyes
The best way to cement new learning may be to sit and close your eyes for a few minutes, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science. The study, led by psychologist Michaela Dewar, showed that memory can be boosted by taking a brief wakeful rest after learning something new. From PsychCentral:
“’Our findings support the view that the formation of new memories is not completed within seconds,’ says Dewar. ‘Indeed, our work demonstrates that activities that we are engaged in for the first few minutes after learning new information really affect how well we remember this information after a week.’
Participants in the study were told two short stories and told to remember as many details as possible.
Immediately afterward, they were asked to describe what happened in the story. Then they were given a 10-minute delay that consisted either of wakeful resting or playing a game on the computer.
During the wakeful resting portion, participants were asked to just rest quietly with their eyes closed in a darkened room for 10 minutes while the experimenter left to ‘prepare for the next test.’
During this period participants could daydream or think about whatever they wanted. The key aspect of this pause was to keep the eyes closed, and to not be distracted by anything else or receive any new information.
The participants were asked to recall both stories half an hour later and then a full week later. Participants remembered much more story material when the story presentation had been followed by a period of wakeful resting.
Researchers say emerging evidence suggests that the point at which we experience new information is ‘just at a very early stage of memory formation, and that further neural processes have to occur after this stage for us to be able to remember this information at a later point in time.’
Researchers believe the new input crowds out recently acquired information, suggesting that the current experiment shows that the process of consolidating memories takes a little time. That is, the most important method to augment memory retention is peace and quiet.” Read more here.
This really fits with lived experience—I often feel that I have to pause and not take in any new information for a little while in order for me to fully absorb what I’ve just learned. You too?