A new study suggests learning from repetition alone may limit the amount of detail stored with the memory.
University of California, Irvine, researchers discovered that while repetition enhances the factual content of memories, when memory is repeatedly recalled, nuances may slip away.
In the study, student participants were asked to look at pictures either once or three times. They were then tested on their memories of those images.
The researchers found that multiple views increased factual recall but actually hindered subjects’ ability to reject similar “imposter” pictures. This suggests that the details of those memories may have been shaken loose by repetition.
This discovery supports neurobiologists Zachariah Reagh and Michael Yassa ‘s competitive trace theory, published last year in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.
The theory posits that the details of a memory become more subjective the more they are recalled and can compete with bits of other similar memories. The scientists hypothesize that this may even lead to false memories, akin to a brain version of the telephone game.
Yassa said that these findings do not discredit the practice of repetitive learning. However, he noted, pure repetition alone has limitations.
That is, for a better and longer-lasting learning experience, a variety of learning techniques such as learning over time and not cramming, and use of flash cards, should complement rote repetition.
Source: University of California, Irvine