No need for total recall, remembering a part can strengthen the whole. When Hugo Lehmann and colleagues at Trent University asked volunteers how many previously seen images contained a simple feature (e.g., living object), forgetting was reduced compared to volunteers who only viewed the images. Furthermore, this benefit was akin to that of volunteers who were asked to described the images in full detail. In both cases, the reduction in forgetting was achieved with only three recall opportunities and persisted for at least 28 days, including improvements in quality and quantity. Thus, our most lasting and vivid long-term memories should be amongst those that we reactivate from time-to-time, whether in whole or in part. This may also account for why some memories are less vulnerable than others to neurodegeneration and brain injury.
This original research article is freely available in the companion journal npj Science of Learning here.