Study: Reading aloud to yourself is best way to retain information

WATERLOO, Ontario — It’s perfectly normal to read aloud to children, but reading aloud to ourselves as adults seems silly and pointless, right? Wrong. Turns out it may have many benefits, including a sharper memory.

According to new research from the University of Waterloo, one of the best ways to commit information to long-term memory is to read the text out loud. Why? It is something like getting more bang for the buck. We see the information and we hear the information. The dual action of speaking as well as hearing oneself saying it helps our memories grasp and hang onto information.

Woman reading book
Find it difficult to retain information when you read a book? A new study finds that reading out loud to oneself is actually the best way for a person to remember the content. (Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash)

“This study confirms that learning and memory benefit from active involvement,” says study co-author Colin M. MacLeod, a professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at the university, in a release. “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.”

Researchers tested 95 participants, using a variety of methods to learn written information. The four options tried were reading silently, hearing someone else read, listening to a recording of oneself reading and reading aloud in real time. The authors found that reading information aloud to oneself in real time was the most effective way participants retained information.

This research builds on previous studies that showed how activities, such as writing or typing words, aided overall memory retention. Researchers say that their new study helps explain how our own speech builds memories. It it is our own story, essentially, and we can relate to it as we hear it spoken by our own voice.

“When we consider the practical applications of this research, I think of seniors who are advised to do puzzles and crosswords to help strengthen their memory,” said MacLeod. “This study suggests that the idea of action or activity also improves memory. And we know that regular exercise and movement are also strong building blocks for a good memory.”

So the next time you hear someone who seems to be muttering to themselves, reconsider before you judge them. It could be that they are performing a little brain-boosting memory work.

The full study was recently published online Oct. 2, 2017 in the journal Memory.

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About the Author

Terra Marquette

Terra is a Denver-area freelance writer, editor and researcher. In her free time, she creates playlists for every mood.

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