You’re sitting there, book in hand, unable to figure out where to start on your study journey. Almost everyone who has had to study has hit a brick wall with it. You may have a hard time retaining the information you’re reading. Or perhaps you have difficulty retrieving the information for a test the next day. Whatever your studying block is, this list will hopefully have a trick for you. Each of these has been psychologically proven to improve your studying experience. These won’t all work for you, so make sure to try them all out to find the correct fit.
1. Positive Reinforcement
Psychologist B. F. Skinner first described the concept of positive reinforcement when he was researching his theory of operant conditioning. The theory goes that if you have a positive outcome you will be more likely to finish the task at hand. In most cases, this can be seen with extra credit assignments in class. At home, it could mean that you get to watch an episode of your favorite show after you study so many chapters. In some cases, the hope of a good grade might be all the positive reinforcement that someone needs. It all depends on the person and what motivates them most.
2. Study Space
This doesn’t pertain to the literal space that you are studying in, though that might be important as well. No, this deals with the time that you allot for studying. Especially when there is more than one subject on the agenda. When it comes to studying there appears to be an optimum amount of time one should give themselves between sessions. The longer you take between sessions, the better off you will be. Researchers have been unable to pinpoint why more time works so well but there are some ideas about it. One is that after awhile we forget parts of what we’d learned in the previous session. Thus allowing the new session to jog things for us, allowing for a concrete concept to form.
Chunking is a technique used in many areas of life, most notably with phone numbers. By taking a lot of information and breaking it down into manageable segments has been found to be beneficial in studying. Researchers one posited that our short-term memories were able to store five and nine units of information. They now suggest that we might only be able to store around four units instead. Taking that information and grouping it into manageable chunks allows the short term memory to store more information as a whole. Or, as neuroscientist Daniel Bor puts it, we are effectively “hacking” our brains to give us more memory.
4. Test Yourself
Taking the time to test yourself after a study session may allow you to retain information better than a study session alone. Psychologist Keith Lyle took two of his undergraduate classes and taught them the exact same material. The only difference being that one class received regular quizzes at the end of lectures while the other one did not. Lyle found that those students who were tested after each lecture significantly outscored those that were not tested on class-wide exams. The theory is that simply rereading information while studying gives students a false sense of familiarity within the subjects. Sure, they know the material but do they actually know it? Regularly testing yourself while you study helps you to commit the actual material to memory.
5. Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic devices have been used for centuries. The first ones were used in ancient Greece and are known as the Method of Loci. The concept of the Method of Loci is that you associate things that need to be remembered for physical locations. Another mnemonic device is the use of acronyms. An acronym is a word that is made up of the first letter of other words, usually for an organization. NASA, for instance, is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Many people know what NASA stands for but it’s much easier to remember by its acronym. One last mnemonic device is that use of rhyming. Many people are aware of the rhyme “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue”, it’s usually taught in elementary school history classes. By rhyming, we are effectively tricking our brains into remembering information because of its easily implicated method of retrieval.
6. Change Things Up
Many people think that studying one subject for as long as possible will help them retain more information. Psychologist Robert Bjork, PhD., found that this is not the case when asking 120 participants to memorize different artist’s paintings. One group studied six paintings from each artist back to back while the other group studied the paintings in no particular order. When they were asked to identify new paintings by each artist, the group who studied them in no particular order did significantly better with identifying the new painting. This suggests that mixing things up helps the brain retain more information than hours of studying the same subject does. The thought, much like with study space, is that we forget some information and then relearning it cements concepts within our memory.
This technique might work the best right before the test is taken. Knowing the subject matter will give you a pretty good idea of what will be on the test if the instructor hasn’t told you already. Take some time before the test to write about some of the topics you’ve studied. This helps the brain get into retrieval mode. This also works in much the same way as learning, forgetting aspects, and relearning the subject matter does. It is a fantastic way to jog the memory and focus before the test. That way you can push out the ambient noises inside your brain which will leave you with the information you need to know for the exam.
Briggs, Saga. “35 Psychological Tricks To Help You Learn Better.” InformED, OpenColleges, 24 Mar. 2017, www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/35-education-psychology-tricks/. Retrieved November 27, 2017
Cherry , Kendra, and Steven Gans. “How Chunking Can Help You Remember Large Amounts of Information.” Verywell, Verywell, 9 Nov. 2017, www.verywell.com/chunking-how-can-this-technique-improve-your-memory-2794969. Retrieved November 27, 2017
Cherry, Kendra, and Steven Gans . “What Is Reinforcement and How Is It Used in Psychology?” Verywell, Verywell, 16 May 2017, www.verywell.com/what-is-reinforcement-2795414. Retrieved November 27, 2017
Winerman, Lea. “Study Smart.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 2017, www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/11/study-smart.aspx. Retrieved November 27, 2017