As law students prepare for upcoming exams, here’s some advice about how to ensure that the material you study is retained in your long-term memory.
Redbook Magazine, redbookmag.com, recently reported on new research from the University of Edinburgh that found that giving your mind a short break after exposure to new information can help lock the information into your long-term memory more effectively. In the U. of Edinburgh’s study, led by Michaela Dewar, Ph.D., “people were asked to recall information from two stories they’d just heard. After one story, they were instructed to sit in a dark room for 10 minutes with their eyes closed, while after the other they didn’t take a breather and launched right into a new task.” The participants remembered many more details in the first scenario, when they took time for what the researchers refer to as “wakeful rest” – a few minutes to rest their brains after receiving new information. Even a full week later, they were still able to recall more details from the first story.
Dr. Dewar explains the study’s results as follows: “When we learn something new, our brains form a ‘memory trace’ of the information. But in order to retain this info for longer than a few seconds, we need a little time to strengthen this memory.” Dr. Dewar also emphasized that the “wakeful rest” effect also works even if you daydream during the mental break; you don’t even need to be thinking about what you’ve just learned in order to transfer it to your long-term memory.