Saying words while reading feels slightly awkward and isn’t conducive to all environments, of course, yet it’s an effective method of remembering information, according to an October study in the journal Memory (paywall). Speaking aloud works by creating a “production effect” which cements information in your memory. Meanwhile, hearing words said in your own voice personalizes the references and enhances recollection, according to psychology professor Colin MacLeod and researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
It’s up to me to make this memorable. However, if I fail, you’ll want to remember this trick anyway, so start reading aloud.
“This study confirms that learning and memory benefit from active involvement,” MacLeod said in a statement. “When we add an active measure or a production element to a word, that word becomes more distinct in long-term memory, and hence more memorable.”
The findings are based on a study of 95 students (75 of whom returned for a second session) at the University of Waterloo. The students were tested on their ability to recall written information inputted in four different ways—reading silently, hearing someone else read, listening to a recording of oneself reading, and reading aloud in real time. They were tested on recollection of short, four-to-six letter words on a list of 160 terms. The results show that reading information aloud to oneself led to the best recall.
Oral production is effective because it has two distinctive components, a motor or speech act and a personal auditory input, the researchers explain. “[The] results suggest that production is memorable in part because it includes a distinctive, self-referential component. This may well underlie why rehearsal is so valuable in learning and remembering,” the study concludes. “We do it ourselves, and we do it in our own voice. When it comes time to recover the information, we can use this distinctive component to help us to remember.”
Notably, there was a significant advantage in hearing a recording of the self over hearing another person read. “This suggests that part of the advantage ordinarily seen in the production effect is hearing one’s own voice–the self-referential component–above and beyond the benefit conferred by auditory information,” the study says.
Hearing your own voice saying information boosts the likelihood that it will stick to your memory. This trick can be used not just by students but adults and seniors working on recall, says MacLeod.
The findings support other research that shows taking in information actively, like with handwritten notes or even doodling, aids in recollection. It may even explain why some of us like the sound of our own voice so much.