Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Trying to Remember

In one study researchers investigated the role of intentional-encoding instructions and task relevance at study on visual memory performance (Varakin & Hale, 2014). Task relevance was manipulated by having participants keep a running tally of either the objects they were attempting to remember or an irrelevant category of objects during study. Half of the participants within each level of task relevance were further instructed to remember one category of objects for a subsequent recognition memory test (intentional memory group) , and the other half of the participants were not informed of a memory test (incidental memory group). Intentional-encoding instructions improved recognition discrimination only when participants were not already keeping a tally of the to-be-remembered objects. This result suggests that intentional-encoding instructions may improve visual memory due to generic attentional modulation, not encoding-specific processes.

In another study, we conducted at Eastern Kentucky University, we examined whether intentional encoding instructions improve long-term recognition memory for visual appearance (Varakin, Frye, & Mayfield, 2012). The effect of memory instructions was examined using a factorial design, so that attention to/task relevance of objects could be manipulated independently of memory instructions. The sample size was large enough to achieve power equal to .80 for medium effect sizes (f = .25). There was no effect of intentional memory instructions. These results suggest that observers cannot easily enhance encoding and storage of visual information in long-term memory.  Intent to remember, per-se, may not enhance memory.   

Trying to remember or reading material over and over does not necessarily lead to better memory. The appropriate behaviors are required, even when one is trying to remember. The foundations of memory (declarative memory) include: brain health, focused attention, elaborative encoding, spaced rehearsal (distributed practice) and testing. A key underlying factor supporting memory is understanding.

      The foundations of memory support understanding
      Understanding implies strong organization of memory connections

In my seminars Exploring Memory and Strategies To Maximize Learning a comprehensive overview of memory is provided.