Science Buzz

Taking notes kills your memory

Forgetting everything you hear in classes or meetings? Your overstuffed notebook might be the culprit. According to psychologists at Mount St. Vincent University in New York, our brains go: “Hey, he’s writing this down, so no need to warehouse this stuff. Better to make room for other stuff.” Researchers call this phenomenon ‘intentional forgetting’.

Subjects played the memory game Concentration in which players memorize images on cards and try to identify them after the cards have been covered up. Half the subjects studied the cards before they were covered; the other half were allowed to take notes. The note-takers did significantly worse than the group that knew they had to concentrate on the images and position of the cards.

Researchers concluded that “participants adopted an intentional-forgetting strategy when using notes to store certain types of information.” Taking notes didn’t improve memory; it made recall worse because the brain was forgetting as fast as its owner was writing.

So the next time your teacher asks why you’re not taking notes, explain that you want to make sure you remember!