Taking Notes May Actually Make You Much More Forgetful

Taking Notes May Actually Make You Much More Forgetful

Many of us have been told that writing things down can help us learn more effectively, but learning and remembering aren't always the same thing. Your notes can actually act like a crutch, and when they're gone, you might find you don't remember anything at all.

Photo by Jacob Botter

A recent study from Michelle Eskritt and Sierra Ma at Mount St Vincent University — published in the journal Memory & Cognition — suggests that when you take notes, your brain can intentionally forget because it knows that you've written the information down and stored it elsewhere. During the study, participants were asked to play the memory game Concentration over and over. The catch was that one group was allowed to take notes during the game. Halfway through the game, however, that same group got their notes taken away. When the study was completed, the group that was not allowed to use notes performed significantly better.

Human memory isn't always that great, but when your brain knows it doesn't need to memorise something, it won't. So the next time you're studying or taking notes, be sure to take the time and really go over the information.

Intentional forgetting: Note-taking as a naturalistic example [Memory & Cognition via Wired Brain Watch]


    Seems like an inappropriately designed study. It should have been done as a lecture where half got to take notes and half didn't and then test how much of the lecture they were able to recall at the end.

    Not to mention it tells us nothing about which is better for memory retention in the long run.

    Human memory isn’t always that great, but when your brain knows it doesn’t need to memorise something, it won’t.Except in real life, a) you don't have your notes taken away and b) for something like university your brain is aware you need to remember something, that's why you are at a lecture.

    If I've taken notes at a meeting, I'll often use them to jog my memory of the important aspects when discussing it later with a colleague.

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