Memory Percentages.

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I am told by my teacher that we remember 10% of what we read, 30% of what we hear, 50% of what we see, and 90% of what we teach to others.

Is this true, or another lie by the schools?
 

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  • #2
hypnagogue
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Sounds more like an adage or saying than a scientific truth. I will say that visual memory is probably better than a mere 50%, if we count recognition of previously presented visual pictures/displays as visual memory (i.e., upon being presented with an image, you can accurately say whether you have seen it before or not), and also that visual memory is better than verbal memory. Here's the abstract for Lionel Standing's journal article "Learning 10,000 Pictures" (published 1973 in Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology):

Examined memory capacity and retrieval speed for pictures and for words. Single-trial learning tasks were employed throughout with groups of 5 or 10 Ss, with memory performance assessed by forced-choice recognition, recall measures, or choice reaction-time tasks. Findings indicate that (a) memory capacity, as a function of the amount of material presented, followed a general power law with a characteristic exponent for each task; (b) pictorial material obeyed this power law and showed an overall superiority to verbal material; (c) when the recognition task was made harder by using more alternatives, memory capacity stayed constant and the superiority of pictures was maintained; (d) picture memory exceeded verbal in terms of verbal recall; comparable recognition-recall ratios were obtained for pictures, words, and nonsense syllables; and (e) verbal memory showed a higher retrieval speed than picture memory. Both types of material obeyed a power law, when reaction time was measured for various sizes of learning set, and both showed rapid rates of memory search. It is concluded that the superiority of the pictorial mode in recognition and free recall learning tasks is well established and cannot be attributed to methodological artifact. (29 ref.) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2004 APA, all rights reserved)
In his 1980 book Image and Mind, Stephen Kosslyn writes:

"The capacity of our visual memories is truly staggering; it is so large that it has yet to be estimated. . . . Perhaps the most staggering results are reported by Standing (1973) who showed some of his subjects 10,000 arbitrarily selected pictures for 5 seconds each. . . . His findings showed that there is no apparent upper bound on human memory for pictures. Moreover, with immediate recall, Standing estimated that if one million vivid pictures were shown, 986,300 would be recognized if one were tested immediately afterward; even after a delay, he estimates that 731,400 would be recalled."
So visual recall is probably better than 50%, and it's better than verbal memory (reading and hearing words).

As for remembering what you teach-- I don't know of any studies on that offhand, but in general it makes sense (and is plausible from a more scientific perspective of brain function) that teaching material should promote memory of that material.
 
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  • #3
Lisa!
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I think his teacher just wanted to tell him somethig. I mean s/he wanted to tell them how they can memorize things better.
 
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What is a "power law"?
 
  • #5
selfAdjoint
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zoobyshoe said:
What is a "power law"?
Where you have a function of some variable, say t, and the probability of f(t) happening is given by [tex]ct^{-b}[/tex]. The value of b will vary. Power law distributions are found in letters in a text, names in a telephone book, and many other contexts.
 

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