How To Fight Back Against Forgetting


Jun 12, 2015
The moment you acquire new information is the moment that forgetting starts trying to take it away. Unfortunately, you can’t stop forgetting anymore than you can stop time. But you can fight it back, this is what top students do, reinforcing what they have learned and strengthening their memories in the face of forgetting’s relentless attack.

There’s a battle going on in the brain. You may not always be aware of it, but your memory is under constant assault from forgetfulness, the biggest single enemy of your academic success. Forgetting works both massively and rapidly to undo learning. In fact, research has shown again and again that when you learn something new you are likely to forget most of it in a matter of days.

In one experiment, people who read a textbook chapter, forgot 46 percent of their reading after one day, 79 percent after fourteen days, and 81 percent after twenty-eight days.

The way to make memories stick, the way to move what you have learned from your working memory to your long-term memory is through rehearsal. The word rehearse comes from an old French word that means “to plow again.” Each time you repeat or rewrite what you’ve read or heard, you’re rehearsing it; you are deepening and strengthening its memory trace, this is How Top Students Study. If you plow deeply, it should last. But if you only plow a shallow path, it can vanish in the first heavy wind or driving rain. It’s the same with unrehearsed information.

Avoid Pseudo-Forgetting

Whenever you cannot remember a name, a telephone number, a fact, an idea, or even a joke, it’s quite natural to say, “I forgot.” Yet forgetting may have nothing to do with your problem. You may never have learned the information in the first place. This phenomenon is known as pseudo-forgetting. The word pseudo means “false” or “phony.” The best thing you can do to improve your memory is to pay close attention to the things you want to remember, this is what Top Students do to make what they have learned stick.

If an idea or a fact is to be retained in your memory for any length of time, it must be impressed on your mind clearly and crisply at least once. A record of that idea or fact must be laid down in your brain before you can truly recall or forget what you’ve learned. You can create this record by jotting the new information down or by repeating it aloud. If you are accustomed to meeting a lot of new people, perhaps you already know the technique of repeating the name of the person to whom you’ve just been introduced. Instead of saying “Pleased to meet you,” you say “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Ben.” This approach is not only personable, but it also provides an easy way to counteract pseudo-forgetting.


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