Boost Your Memory with This Easy Trick

We all forget things from time to time, but technology is rapidly changing how we learn and remember.

If you have a question, it is likely that you will use the internet to look for answers (probably google).

Sure, this type of thing was possible in the past—using books or other references—but it didn’t happen with anywhere near the same frequency or ease of access that most people enjoy today.


What is the internet doing to your memory?

Using the internet to answer questions is now deeply ingrained in our subconscious minds. Research shows that simply being asked a hard trivia question increases thoughts about internet searches. Even if googling an answer in a trivia game would be cheating, the unconscious mind is still thinking about it.

Perhaps more interesting is that it makes our memory act a bit lazy. Simply knowing that some information has been saved to a computer (or knowing where it is located) significantly reduces the ability to remember the actual information. And simply knowing that something has been (or will be) deleted significantly increases the ability to remember it.


What can you do about it?

I guess this could be the end of the article.

You can boost your memory if you stop using the internet. And just delete or destroy all the things that you really want to remember.

But that seems like it might be bad advice.


What can you really do about it?

The real lesson is that your state of mind when you learn something has a strong influence on your ability to remember it later.

Fortunately, there is a way to enhance your memory without wiping your hard drive or swearing off the internet.

If there is something that you really want to remember plan to teach it to someone else after you learn it.


There have been a number of studies on this effect. The latest and most definitive series of studies so far finds that simply thinking that you will later teach someone else what you are learning significantly increases not only the amount that you remember, but also how efficiently you will remember it later.

Being in this mindset helps memory overall, and the effects are strongest for the main points, fairly strong for relevant details, and weakest for irrelevant details.

If you learn with the intention to share the knowledge with others, you can boost your own memory at the same time.



Photo Credit: Tobias


  1. Avatar Sriram   •  

    The analog for maps would be to drive without GPS as soon as feasible. I tried this in a new city (Boston) and found that I was paying keen attention to landmarks in a way that I would not do when using the GPS (just focusing on abstract indices like miles remaining and upcoming turns). This internal mental map is much more resilient to failure, compared to the GPS.

    • Greg Willard Greg Willard   •     Author

      Interesting! This also throws in the idea of divided attention. Haven’t seen any research on that specifically, but there are occasional news stories about someone driving into a lake because the GPS told them to do it. Anyway, good catch. My first conclusion isn’t always such bad advice.

      There is a cool company called Mapkin ( we met at TechStars. They crowdsource locals who know the area to give spoken directions, as if they are giving a real person directions as they drive (including relevant distances and landmarks) then uses the recordings for GPS directions. Could be that the impact of technology here will improve somewhat once the human element is re-introduced.

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