154 Study Smart! Reflect!

Based on research by Schlichting, M., and Preston, A. (2014), written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Do you know how to study smart?  What can you do when studying to enhance your learning?

Psychology and neuroscience researchers found that taking a break when studying has multiple benefits.  Mental rest helps individuals remember previously learned material and improve future learning.

Thirty-five individuals participated in a University of Texas experiment by completing two learning tasks, with a rest period in between.  The first task included memorizing a series of paired photos. The only instructions for the short break included staying awake, and thinking about whatever they wanted to.  Next, participants completed a similar photo memorization task.  Using an MRI, researchers conducted brain scans to determine what participants focused on during their break.  Results showed that participants who thought about the first task during the rest break did better on the second task.  This improvement was even greater when the two tasks were related.  Taking a break and relating previous knowledge to the new task made it easier for these participants to learn during the second task by synthesizing the new with the old, thus learning the new material better.

To study smart, take a break. Allow time to relate what you know to what you are trying to learn.


Schlichting, M. L., & Preston, A. R. (2014). Memory reactivation during rest supports upcoming learning of related content. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(44), 15845-15850.

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