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Learning By Repetition Impairs Recall Of Details, Study Finds

Update Date: Jun 24, 2014 09:05 AM EDT

When learning, practice doesn't always make perfect, according to a new study. 

The new study found that while repetition enhances the factual content of memories, it can reduce the amount of detail stored with those memories, suggesting that with repeated recall, nuanced aspects may fade away. 

In the study, participants (who were mostly students) were asked to look at pictures either once or thrice. They were then tested on their memories of those images. Researchers observed that multiple views increased their factual recall but actually hindered subjects' ability to reject similar 'impostor' pictures. 

Michael Yassa, an assistant professor of neurobiology & behavior, said that these findings do not discredit the practice of repetitive learning. However, he noted, pure repetition alone has limitations. For a more enriching and lasting learning experience through which nuance and detail are readily recalled, other memory techniques should be used to complement repetition, according to the press release. 

The findings of the present study further support Reagh's and Yassa's Competitive Trace Theory - published last year in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. The study posited that the details of a memory become more subjective the more they're recalled and can compete with bits of other similar memories. Further researchers hypothesize that this may even lead to false memories, akin to brain version of the telephone game. 

The research has been published in the journal Learning and Memory

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