Science Says Writing Increases Your Memory
The human body and mind work together as a strategic team with great purpose. What your body does, your mind commands. What your mind remembers is from what your body has seen, heard, done or, in this case, written. Studies have proved that when you write, you increase your memory.
The ability of memory is an amazing thing on his own — so let’s see how writing fits in.
Work Your Memory
Through various tests and studies, Dr. Ronald Kellogg, PhD, found that writing uses the verbal working memory, which is essentially part of your short-term memory. It contains the verbal information your brain has received and translates that information to solve problems or to complete tasks.
To prove writing works the verbal memory, Dr. Kellogg used two group of college students: the control that performed simple memory tasks, and the variable that simultaneously wrote definitions while also performing the same tasks as the control group. When the students were crafting definitions, they were able to write them down and still perform the other tasks at nearly the same speed as the control group.
The human mind remembers syllables and puts them together to form words, which is why writing actually works the verbal memory — it relies on that “inner voice” a person develops when they write.
The results suggested writing does put a high demand on the memory, but the variable group performed just as well as the control group did — which indicates writing uses the verbal working memory.
Writing to Learn
Students learn by taking notes in class. The better you are at taking notes, the easier it is for you to remember what you learned. In fact, when you write, you create a relationship to what you’re taking in through writing with your verbal memory. Listening is just a passive form of learning, but you can’t remember everything you hear.
There is a special connection between what you write and what you remember. The connection actually happens in the spatial and the verbal part of your brain, which is how you make sense of what you write. When you write something down, you tell your brain that it’s important information so your brain actually wants to remember it.
Benefits of Writing
Writing has many benefits other than increasing memory, too. Writing also helps improve addiction, weight loss, anxiety, stress levels and more. The best outlet for long-lasting benefits in your life is writing, and there are studies that prove it.
One study found that people who keep gratitude journals have “23% lower levels of stress hormones.” Gratitude is viewed as a “mindset” people should have to live happier, healthier lives. While people in the study were writing in their gratitude journals, they showed first-hand that writing increased their memory. Writing what you are happy about and thankful for allows you to remember those moments of bliss, so they stay with you longer, keeping your mind at ease.
Neuroscientists are also behind studies of writing and it’s connection to the brain and memory. Another study tested creative writers when they sat down to write fictional stories. They studied different regions of the brain to see if there were similarities between professional writers and people who were skilled in other areas like a playing piano or a sport.
Although the test found similarities, it also found that writers trained in the profession think differently than a musician or an athlete. There was a clear difference between novice writers and expert writers, as well as which region of the brain they used while writing. The study was a great example of just how much you rely on different parts of your brain when you write.
Whether you’re a professional writer, or you simply write your grocery list on a sticky note, it’s clear that your brain is able to retain your knowledge easier when you write it down. Writing can benefit your life in a variety of ways and give you a healthier perspective.
If you struggle with memory, write down your thoughts in a daily journal. You can also keep it simple and make yourself lists of things you want to do, books you want to read or things you need to buy. If you’re still skeptical that writing increases your memory, try it firsthand. Grab that pen and paper and write your heart out!
Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer, amateur astronomer, and editor of Schooled by Science. When she isn’t writing, she loves to travel. Subscribe to her blog here, or follow her on twitter.