Guide to memory: Why just repeating new information is a bad idea

Repeating new information, also called "rehearsal", is commonly called one of the worst memorization techniques. Why? Let's get into it.

First of all, there are two main types of memory: short and long term. 

Short term memory is for a moment. It is also called working memory. Some say the two are different; some say they are similar enough to be called the same thing. Either way, this memory is used to help you understand and process things now. It helps you read a blog like this one, talk with your friend, do your work, or almost any other task. 

On the other hand, long term memory is stored forever.

Obviously, not all your short term memories make it into the long term. While you remember what you read a few seconds ago, it's harder to remember what you read yesterday or last week. 

Understand it rather than rehearse it

So why is repeating new information a bad idea? Because rehearsal works well for encoding information into short-term memory. That means you remember it for a moment, but the information quickly disappears.

In other words, you are tricking yourself. It feels like you are remembering it, but you are just using your short-term memory.  In the future, when you need to retrieve that information from long-term memory, you will struggle to find it.

You remember information better over the long term if you understand. Give the information meaning, elaborate on it, and personalize it

Understanding takes time. Since working memory only lasts about 30 seconds, spending a couple of minutes understanding something will help you move past your short term memory and store it for the long term.

So, don't just repeat new information, even if it feels like you are remembering it in the moment. Take time to understand and then use it. 

Take a look at The English Farm's other posts about memory.