memory

The Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota, seen from the viewing plaza on June 4, 2003.
deanfranklin / via Flickr

Quick: How many presidents can you name?

From the start, there was George Washington. Then John Adams. Thomas Jefferson. Then ... 

Two Washington University researchers have found that most presidents are forgotten 50 to 100 years after leaving office, “unless something really, really important happened in their regime, or they’re one of the early presidents,” said Henry “Roddy” Roediger, a Washington University psychology professor.

Psychology professor Steven Smith
Courtesy of Steven Smith

As people age, they become more aware of memory lapses.

“Memory loss is fairly universal, and as we start experiencing more memory loss, we become a lot more aware of it,” said Steven Smith, a Texas A&M University psychologist who is on sabbatical and is spending the semester at Washington University. “We become very defensive about it. We become very anxious about it. And that makes memory worse.”

via Flckr/Caleb Cherry

In an era where high-stakes tests have increased concern over test anxiety and introduced debate over the merits of teaching to the test, it may seem odd to promote a teaching method called “test-enhanced learning.”

But according to research conducted by psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis, the best way to improve learning may be taking more tests, not fewer. The researchers studying memory have found that incorporating quizzes and self-tests into the learning process increase the amount of material students are able to remember long-term.