Reading Aloud May Improve Memory Retention


If you have a tendency to forget things, you might want to read aloud what you want to remember. In a recent study from the University of Waterloo in Canada, researchers found that speaking aloud helps to remember text that has been read.

Speaking text aloud, labeled ‘production effect’ by the study, engages long-term memory through both speaking and reading at the same time. Colin M. MacLeod, professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Waterloo, said the study establishes that an action can assist memory production.

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“This study confirms that learning and memory benefit from active involvement,” he said in a press 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.”

Reading aloud was first dubbed the ‘production effect’ by MacLeod and researchers in 2010 and is used by having study participants study a random list of words to be read silently and aloud. The recent study conducted two experiments to understand how reading aloud affected memory.

The first experiment had a group of Waterloo students view a list of mixed words that was studied in four ways: by reading silently, hearing a word read aloud, listening to themselves reading via recording, and reading aloud in real time. The students received bonus course credit for participating in the study.

The second experiment involved another group of Waterloo students; half viewed words via a deep imagery condition and the other half viewed words via a shallow imagery condition. The deep imagery condition had students imagine each word as the object it represented, while the shallow imagery condition had students imagine each word in all uppercase letters.

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The researchers said that both experiments proved that production improved memory for words, even when they were read aloud or represented through deep imagery. Ninety-five participants responded that reading aloud to themselves helped memory the most.

Reading aloud was associated with an improved memory for both words that were spoken aloud and imagined by study participants. Vocalization can supplement other memory techniques without losing its potency, the researchers concluded.

“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,” MacLeod said. “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.”