Why videos are a memory’s best friend

Or 5 facts you didn’t know about memory

For information to become knowledge, you have to store it into your long-term memory to be able to recall it later when needed.

In the realm of eLearning or even traditional training, videos and interactive material have become an increasing important part of the course material because of the many advantages they offer, notably in terms of information retention.

1 – Visual memory is related to learning abilities

While memory is the ability to remember information over time, visual memory concerns the ability to remember previous visual experiences after the original stimulus has disappeared. This means to be able to visualize vivid images to the evocation of a word for example.

Some statistics have shown that nearly 65% of the population is visual (1), that is, based mainly on the sense of sight to learn. It is therefore not surprising that many research studies have come to the conclusion that nearly 80% of all learning takes place through the eyes of a person. (2)

Furthermore, this phenomenon would even explain how some children who did not develop their visual memory subsequently had difficulty in mathematics, spelling and grammar since they have misery to remember the order of letters in a word or numbers in an equation. (3)

One of the good ways to develop this visual memory is through video, which, in addition to appealing to the eyes, also appeals to hearing, thus reinforcing the memories formed in the memory and facilitating their recalling once the stimuli have disappeared. This phenomenon is called “the multimedia principle“. (4)

2 – Memory has an almost infinite capacity

According to a study by Paul Reber, a Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University, our brain would have an information storage capacity of 2.5 Petabytes, or 2,500,000 Gigabytes (5). In order to give an idea of the amount of information that this represents, he compares the brain to a video recorder, explaining that it would take 300 years of non-stop television programming recording to get to the human memory’s full capacity.

The researcher calculated this by considering the following figures:

  • Since the brain is composed of about one billion neurons, each of these neurons is able to form approximately 1,000 connections to other neurons, totaling about 3 billion connections. These connections can also be combined to help hold multiple information at the same time. The brain’s information retention capacity is therefore exponentially improved.

As a result, if we consider that our eyes are capable of recording 36,000 images per hour compared to an average reading speed in adults of 300 words per minute (6) and that, according to the popular expression “One image is worth a thousand words”, then it appears obvious that video is more effective than text for learning!

3 – All information is not “equal” in the eyes of memory

The more often a connection between two neurons is used, the stronger this connection and therefore its imprint in the memory. Furthermore, some research using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has even demonstrated that structural changes in the brain can occur through the use of certain knowledge. (7)

While we can conclude that our brain has an infinite capacity to retain information in long-term memory, short-term memory, also called functional memory, can retain only seven pieces of information at a time on average. (8)

The information thus is passed first through short-term memory, then, by being repeated, is retained, according to its importance, in long-term memory.

This importance is determined by the frequency with which we use different information. This explains why you will remember more efficiently the path to take between your home and your workplace compared to some of the notions of arithmetic you learned at elementary school… or why, consequently, a last minute cramp study before an exam is less effective than a long-term study over time.

By associating a video with certain notions, you help to make them pass into the long-term memory faster because more connections are stimulated during viewing. (9)

4 – To retain information, one must first forget it

If we tend to retain information that we often need in our long-term memory, it also depends on how easily we can find this information when we need it. In fact, if the brain knows that it can easily retrieve this information by consulting it elsewhere, it will not be bothered to retain it. (10)

Indeed, in the era of Internet and smartphones, few of us know all the telephone numbers of their loved ones and friends by heart or remember the times of passage of their usual bus since this information is available at the tip of their finger.

The true strength of information retention is accomplished in the exercise of trying remember it since it is by exerting the brain to seek information that a memory solidifies itself. (11)

According to the National Training Laboratories Learning Pyramid (12), after a 24-hour period, 50% of the information learned through a video is retained compared to only 10% of the information read in a text.

Since viewing a video takes less time than reading a text, viewing a video followed by a series of questions or memory exercises about the content of the video at regular intervals would be ideal for an optimal, efficient and economical information retention.

5 – The more engaging, the more effective the learning and lasting the memory

Finally, we have been conditioned to be attentive to movement since prehistoric times when our ancestors had to be on the lookout for potential predators and prey to ensure their survival. This affinity for movement is still true in the current learning cognitive reality, but on a more emotional level.

The more an information is emotionally charged, whether by the level of engagement in the learning process because of motivation (13) or through a captivating narrative story (14), the more effectively the information will be retained.

Emotions come to be associated with certain information, which as a result increases their relative importance for memory and makes them easier to remember. This explains why you are unable to remember what you ate for lunch a few days ago while you are able to recall the temperature it was outside the day of your first kiss for example.

For this reason, if you learn using an engaging video that makes emotions arise, the information will have a greater impact and you will memorize it better compared to notions learned with the help of a PowerPoint presentation, or by reading a text page.

… And this is why video is an especially ideal training tool!

In light of all this information, what are you waiting for to integrate video into your training strategy?


References :

(1) Manktelow, J. (1998). How Your Learning Style Affects Use of Mnemonics. Yapton, England: Mind Tools, Ltd..htm
(2) Cusimano, A. (2010). Learning disabilities–there is a cure. Lansdale, Pa.: Achieve Publications.
(3) Kulp, M. T., Earley, M. J., Mitchell, G. L., Timmerman, L. M., Frasco, C. S., & Geiger, M. E. (2004). Are visual perceptual skills related to mathematics ability in second through sixth grade children?. Focus on Learning Problems in Mathematics, 26(4), 44.
(4) Fletcher, J. D., & Tobias, S. (2005). The multimedia principle. The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning, 117, 133.
(5) Reber, Paul. “What is the memory capacity of the human brain.” Scientific American 4 (2010): 2010.
(6) Nelson, B. (2012). Do You Read Fast Enough To Be Successful?. Forbes. [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brettnelson/2012/06/04/do-you-read-fast-enough-to-be-successful/#142a6bce462e [Accessed 31 Aug. 2017].
(7) Maguire, E. A., Spiers, H. J., Good, C. D., Hartley, T., Frackowiak, R. S., & Burgess, N. (2003). Navigation expertise and the human hippocampus: a structural brain imaging analysis. Hippocampus, 13(2), 250-259.
(8) Miller, G. A. (1994). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological review, 101(2), 343.
(9) Mayer, R. E. (2002). Multimedia learning. Psychology of learning and motivation, 41, 85-139.
(10) Wimber, M., Alink, A., Charest, I., Kriegeskorte, N., & Anderson, M. C. (2015). Retrieval induces adaptive forgetting of competing memories via cortical pattern suppression. Nature neuroscience, 18(4), 582-589.
(11) Anderson, M. C., Bjork, R. A., & Bjork, E. L. (1994). Remembering can cause forgetting: retrieval dynamics in long-term memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20(5), 1063.
(12) NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science, 300 North Lee Street, Suite 300, Alexandria, Virginia 22314, 1-800-777-5227.
(13) Mayer, R. E. (2002). Multimedia learning. Psychology of learning and motivation, 41, 85-139.
(14) Foer, J. (2012). Moonwalking with Einstein: The art and science of remembering everything. Penguin.