A new study finds that compared to just reading a text silently, reading out loud actually improves memory. What is the "production effect"?

Reading Out Loud

A pair of researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada found that reading something out loud actually helps people remember the information better. As it turns out, the mere action of speaking the word out loud and hearing oneself benefits memory.

Researchers tested four methods of learning via reading materials, namely reading silently, hearing someone else read the information, reading out loud in real time, and listening to a recording of oneself reading the information. Results of the testing with the 95 participants revealed that reading the information out loud in real time resulted in the best memory.

"This study confirms that learning and memory benefit from active involvement," said Colin M. MacLeod, coauthor of the study, also stating that adding action to a word makes it more distinct to long-term memory.

Getting Personal With The 'Production Effect'

The production effect is the advantage that one gets when one says words out loud rather than just reading them silently. In a previous study, the researchers found that reading aloud to oneself results in memory that is superior to memory gathered from hearing someone else speak, suggesting a personal and self-referential contribution to the production effect.

Basically, the results of the study suggest that the act of speaking words out loud benefits memory because of two things. First is the added act of speaking the words out loud, and the second is the fact that the person is speaking the words to himself, making them more personal. This research also builds on the pair's other past researches wherein they measured the production effect of actions such as typing and writing words to overall memory.

Practical Implications

For one thing, perhaps students studying for exams could try reading their lessons out loud so as to help them remember. What's more, researchers are reminded of how the elderly are advised to do puzzles to strengthen their memories, also suggesting that action and activity can enhance memory.

The results of the study add to the growing list of activities people can do to enhance or even strengthen memory. Some other activities that are said to enhance memory include drinking alcohol after studying and even eating chocolate, which can evidently improve cognitive performance, enhance working memory, and improve visual processing.

The study is published in the journal Memory.

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