Science-Backed Memory Tips and Recall Techniques | USAHS (2024)


| 8 May 2020

Science-Backed Memory Tips and Recall Techniques | USAHS (1)Memory plays an essential role in everyday life, enabling us to learn about the world around us and adapt accordingly. We use memory in every moment, whether it be for remembering our clients’ first names, studying for a nursing school exam, or countless other aspects of our work and life.

Information we take in goes through the three stages of memory: encoding, storage, and retrieval. The encoding process converts information into a construct stored in the brain. Then the information is stored as either a long-term memory or short-term memory. Finally, information is available to be retrieved from storage.

There are several ways to facilitate this process, protect against memory decline, and enhance our ability to retain information. Below, we outline strategies for boosting brain health, as well as specific techniques for memorizing and recalling information.

Tips for Memory Improvement

Science-Backed Memory Tips and Recall Techniques | USAHS (2)The best way to protect and improve memory is by making good lifestyle choices: exercising regularly, limiting stress, eating healthfully, and getting enough sleep. You can also keep the mind agile by learning a foreign language or playing brain training games to improve thinking skills and short-term memory.

  • Exercise regularly: Exercise is one of the best things you can do to protect your memory. Regular aerobic exercise (cardio) appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning. Regular exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, and sleep better, all of which are related to memory.
  • Limit stress: Meditation and mindfulness are also great ways to reduce stress and improve sleep. Meditation has been shown to improve episodic memory, the memory of everyday events.
  • Be conscious of what you consume: Not surprisingly, what you put into your body can also affect your memory. Consuming a balanced diet that includes healthy fats and natural sugar (glucose)—and limits saturated fat, refined sugar, and alcohol—may be best for promoting long-term memory function.
  • Sleep: Sleep is critical, as it plays a role in consolidating of memories. Also, a lack of sleep can impair an individual’s ability to concentrate. You can improve sleep by exercising regularly, engaging in mindfulness/meditation, limiting alcohol, and avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening.

8 Memory Techniques for Retaining Information

When studying for an exam, preparing a presentation, or getting ready to deliver a speech, you will likely need to memorize information.

Before you start preparing, you can do several things to set yourself up for success. Try to avoid distractions while you’re studying, plan ahead so you don’t need to cram, and take study breaks. Evidence suggests that studying shortly before going to sleep, as well as sleeping between learning sessions, can help people retain information.

Below are 8 science-backed techniques for retaining information and improving recall and memory performance.

1. Organize the information

Start by outlining the information you will need to recall. Creating a detailed, but organized outline of the information allows you to highlight and focus on important concepts.

A useful organization strategy is the chunking method, which breaks down large amounts of information into smaller, logical units that are easy to understand. For example, when learning a foreign language, you can list vocabulary words in functional groups such as household items, animals, and occupations. Chunking is a valuable tool for memorization.

2. Make associations

Creating associations by drawing on existing knowledge is another helpful way to memorize information. You can create mental images and connect with sounds, smells, and tastes to help encode memories.

Science-Backed Memory Tips and Recall Techniques | USAHS (3)The Baker/baker paradox tells us that if two individuals are to remember that someone’s last name is Baker, they are much more likely to do so if they picture the person as a professional baker (i.e., Mr. Baker wearing a chef’s hat). This is why developing a story is a powerful way to retain information. For example, if you want to remember that a client’s name is Sandy, you might picture her walking along a beach.

3. Use visual cues

Using visual tools such as concept maps, graphs, illustrations, and photos can be beneficial for learning. Graphs and charts also simplify information, making it easier to comprehend and later recall.

This method can be beneficial to visual learners, meaning individuals who better conceptualize information they can see. It’s also a great technique for presenters who can use visuals in their slide deck as retrieval cues.

Aside from being a great memory technique for retaining information, visual cues are also great for boosting spatial memory. Research has shown that visual cues have helped spatial navigation among AD and MCI patients.

4. Create mnemonics

Using mnemonic devices, such as acronyms, acrostics, and rhymes, is a good way to memorize information long-term. For example, do you remember what year Columbus landed in America? You likely do if you ever learned the rhyme, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” So if you need to remember a series of numbers for work, you might consider coming up with a creative rhyme.

For more visual learners, another mnemonic device you can use is building a memory palace. A memory palace is an imaginary place (it can be a house or a familiar venue) where you can store mnemonic images. The idea behind this is you take a journey in your mind to recall the information. Some contestants in the World Memory Championship would even incorporate a story method with their memory palace.

5. Write it down

Science-Backed Memory Tips and Recall Techniques | USAHS (4)It turns out that some things are just better done the old-fashioned way. Researchers have found that writing down information by hand is more effective than typing for learning concepts. Because it takes longer to write by hand, you are naturally forced to be more selective with what you write and focus only on the key information. In fact, less is more when it comes to note taking. One study showed that the more words students wrote down verbatim when note taking, the worse they performed on recall tests.

6. Say it out loud

When you need to remember new information, it’s helpful to read it aloud. One study determined that the dual action of speaking and hearing ourselves talk helps get words and phrases into long-term memory. This study, among others, confirms that memory benefits from active involvement.

7. Engage in active recall

Testing yourself forces you to pull information from your memory. Flashcards are a great way to self-test. Studies show that retrieval practice can greatly enhance recollection than simply restudying materials. This is likely a very effective way to commit things to memory because of the significant extra effort involved.

8. Rehearse

Practice really does make perfect. Rehearse information over and over, either by writing it down or reading it aloud.

Studies suggest that spaced repetition—spacing out learning over a longer period of time—is a more effective way to memorize information than trying to “cram” a lot of information into your brain over a short period of time.

All of these memory techniques are not only backed up by science, but even memory champions can attest to their efficacy. Even if you aren’t a memory athlete, these memorization techniques can help you at school or at work. Check out our posts on effective study techniques and learning from home for further information.

Science-Backed Memory Tips and Recall Techniques | USAHS (5)


Indeed Editorial Team. Indeed. “Nurse Practitioner vs. Family Nurse Practitioner: Definitions and How They Differ.” May 13, 2021. Accessed: January 26, 2022

Karpicke, Jeffrey D. and Henry L. Roediger III. “The Critical Importance of Retrieval for Learning.” Science 319, no. 5865 (February 2008): 966–968. doi: 10.1126/science.1152408.

Trafton, Anne. “In the blink of an eye.” MIT News. January 16, 2014. Accessed: January 26, 2022

Science-Backed Memory Tips and Recall Techniques | USAHS (2024)


Science-Backed Memory Tips and Recall Techniques | USAHS? ›

Regular exercise boosts the growth of brain cells and the production of neurotransmitters, enhancing memory. A mix of aerobic (cardio) and strength exercises is best. If you're not getting enough sleep, you might be harming your cognition and memory. Aim for seven to nine hours each night.

Are there scientifically proven ways to improve memory? ›

Regular exercise boosts the growth of brain cells and the production of neurotransmitters, enhancing memory. A mix of aerobic (cardio) and strength exercises is best. If you're not getting enough sleep, you might be harming your cognition and memory. Aim for seven to nine hours each night.

What are the 5 memory strategies? ›

Try these five techniques:
  • Assign meaningfulness to things. ...
  • Learn general and specific later. ...
  • Recite out loud in your own words until you don't need to refer to your notes.
  • Teach someone else. ...
  • Use memory devices.
Nov 20, 2013

What are the 4 memory strategies? ›

Rehearsal is found to be the most frequently used strategy, followed by mental imagery, elaboration, mnemonics, and organization. Previous study also found that rehearsal is the memory strategy taught most often by teachers to their students (Moely et al., 1992).

What does Mayo Clinic recommend for memory? ›

Stay mentally active

Just as physical activity keeps your body in shape, activities that engage your mind help keep your brain in shape. And those activities might help prevent some memory loss. Do crossword puzzles. Read.

What are the 3 foods that fight memory loss? ›

Berries, fish, and leafy green vegetables are 3 of the best foods that fight memory loss. There's a mountain of evidence showing they support and protect brain health.

What is the 7 3 2 1 memory method? ›

What is the 7–3–2–1 method? It simply means 7 days, 3 days, 2 days, and today. Let's say you learned something you want to remember in the long-run. Now, what you should do is read it today (1), tomorrow (2), the day after tomorrow (3), and then on the 7th day from your first reading (7).

What is the 3 2 1 memory technique? ›

The most common use of 3-2-1 I've seen is in response to a reading or lesson–usually 3 things you learned, 2 things that made you curious or confused, and 1 most important thing you learned or should do with what you've learned.

Which memory has the highest accuracy? ›

Exceptional memory is the ability to have accurate and detailed recall in a variety of ways, including hyperthymesia, eidetic memory, synesthesia, and emotional memory. Exceptional memory is also prevalent in those with savant syndrome and mnemonists.

How can I memorize things quickly? ›

Simple memory tips and tricks
  1. Try to understand the information first. Information that is organized and makes sense to you is easier to memorize. ...
  2. Link it. ...
  3. Sleep on it. ...
  4. Self-test. ...
  5. Use distributed practice. ...
  6. Write it out. ...
  7. Create meaningful groups. ...
  8. Use mnemonics.

What are the three evidence based memory strategies? ›

1) To encode, you assign meaning to the information. 2) To store the information, we review it and its meanings (study), as repetition is essential to remembering. 3) To retrieve it, you follow the path you created through encoding. This may include a number of memory triggers that you used when you were encoding.

How do you remember something you just forgot? ›

4 Strategies To Remember An Idea That You Forgot
  1. Retrain Your Visual Attention. The first thing I do is retrain my visual attention on whatever I was looking at when I had the missing thought. ...
  2. Retrace Your Thoughts Back To The Idea. ...
  3. Retrace Your Footsteps To Where You Had The Idea. ...
  4. Recreate The Stimulus for the Idea.

Can memory really be improved? ›

Memory, like muscular strength, requires you to “use it or lose it.” The more you work out your brain, the better you'll be able to process and remember information. But not all activities are equal. The best brain exercises break your routine and challenge you to use and develop new brain pathways.

Can you reverse poor memory? ›

Memory and other thinking problems have many possible causes, including depression, an infection, or medication side effects. Sometimes, the problem can be treated, and cognition improves. Other times, the problem is a brain disorder, such as Alzheimer's disease, which cannot be reversed.

What is the 5 word memory test? ›

Introduction: The five-word test (5WT) is a serial verbal memory test with semantic cuing. It is proposed to rapidly evaluate memory of aging people and has previously shown its sensitivity and its specificity in identifying patients with AD.

Can you develop perfect memory? ›

While it may not be possible to train your brain to have a photographic memory, you can improve your memory through mnemonics and other techniques. Simple things like sleep and exercise also help boost memory.

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