PowerPoint presentations and name tags might be cheesy, but they're quite helpful to your brain. That's because the brain is much better at processing and recalling sight and touch, whereas sound often goes in one ear and out the other -- at least according to a new memory study.
Researchers at the University of Iowa presented more than 100 students with a variety of visuals, sounds and textures, and then quizzed them on what they had seen, heard and felt. Participants were least likely to remember the things they had heard.
Now you have an excuse for all those names and phone numbers you've forgotten through the years.
"We tend to think that the parts of our brain wired for memory are integrated," said Amy Poremba, associate psychology professor and co-author of the study. "But our findings indicate our brain may use separate pathways to process information. Even more, our study suggests the brain may process auditory information differently than visual and tactile information, and alternative strategies -- such as increased mental repetition -- may be needed when trying to improve memory."
The study was published this week in the journal PLoS One.
The researchers tested memory after different amounts of time. The greater the time gap, the less people remembered of all three types of experiences. But sound-based memory fell off over time at a much faster clip.
"If someone gives you a number, and you dial it right away, you are usually fine. But do anything in between, and the odds are you will have forgotten it," Poremba said.
The findings could have significant implications for everyone from teachers to political strategists to advertisers.
"As teachers, we want to assume students will remember everything we say. But if you really want something to be memorable you may need to include a visual or hands-on experience, in addition to auditory information," said Poremba.
According to Poremba's co-author on the study, grad student James Bigelow, the study legitimizes ancient wisdom. "As it turns out, there is merit to the Chinese proverb 'I hear, and I forget; I see, and I remember,'" Bigelow said.
[University of Iowa]