How you feel about information may affect your memory

Psychologists at Williams College are studying the link between judgments on pieces of information and how they affect our ability to remember them later. For instance, if while studying for a test one decides a particular fact will be easy to recall later, will they have an easier or harder time bringing it to mind in the future?

“There’s a disconnect among beliefs, judgments, and actual memory,” says psychologist Nate Kornell. In fact, when asked to predict how well they will learn something, many participants did “a breathtakingly bad job.”

Subjects were shown a list of words in fonts of various size and told they would have either one or three future opportunities to memorize the list. Although many felt they would have an easier time processing those words with larger fonts, they wound up learning less than predicted. The explanation lies in the fact that we often assume our memories are stable and won’t change in the future, when the opposite is usually what happens.

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