You should always study in silence, but a little noise can be helpful for remembering things. Specifically, your noise can be helpful—that is, when you’re speaking out loud. If you practice the “production effect,” it can help you remember what you’re studying; here’s how to use it the next time you’re trying to remember something challenging.
What is the production effect?
The production effect refers to what happens when you use vocalizing as a mnemonic to improve your memory of a new concept. Basically, your memory favors words you read aloud more than the ones you read silently. There’s been research on this that suggests there are additional coding dimensions given to things you say out loud, and those are helpful for later retrieval of the information from your brain.
When you speak out loud, you’re producing something with your material, which is how this gets its name. Research has also shown that the more distinct things you produce, the better you’ll remember whatever you’re saying—so being loud or even singing the new information is more helpful than just reading it out loud.
How to capitalize on the production effect when studying
You have a few options when it comes to trying this out for yourself during a study session. At the most basic level, you can read your notes or textbook out loud to yourself, but in line with the research supporting the value of distinctiveness, I’d recommend taking it further.
You can always rely on the Feynman technique, where you teach someone else the material you’re studying, and make sure you’re doing it out loud. Try incorporating the production effect into your flashcard use, too. When using the Leitner system, for instance, read your flashcards out loud to yourself.
I’ve already recommended making a “personal podcast” for your studies, too, and that’s helpful here not only because it gives you something to listen to over and over until you grasp it, but because you have to speak the material the first time around, lending the whole exercise to the production effect.
One reason this effect works is because you’re taking information you’re gaining through one modality (like reading) and turning it into another one (auditory). Try adding in more modalities by drawing a picture of a vocabulary word while you speak it out loud or role-playing the new concept while you narrate what you’re doing. It might feel awkward, but it works, so it’s certainly worth trying.