When it comes to predicting how well we’ll remember something in the future, research suggests we’re not so great at it. A study in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science found that our predictions of our future memory are biased by how we feel when processing the information to be learned.
In a series of experiments, volunteers were asked to study some word items and predict how well they would recall them later. Some were told they would get another chance (or four) to study them while some were told this was it. In addition, the words either showed up in large or small fonts. Volunteers underestimated the impact that having more opportunities to study would make and overestimated how well they would recall words in large fonts. The font size made no difference on the actual memory while having more study sessions did. We tend to think when something is easy to process, it’ll be easy to remember, but that’s not how information encoding works. It’s based more on how meaningful the information is and how much we study it.
So if you think you should be good to go for your exams now that you’ve underlined or highlighted the key words, think again. What really makes a difference is studying more and making sense out of what you’re reading.