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A brief wakeful rest after new verbal learning enhances memory for several minutes. In the research reported here, we explored the possibility of extending this rest-induced memory enhancement over much longer periods. Participants were presented with two stories; one story was followed by a 10-min period of wakeful resting, and the other was followed by a 10-min period during which participants played a spot-the-difference game. In Experiment 1, wakeful resting led to significant enhancement of memory after a 15- to 30-min period and also after 7 days. In experiment 2, this striking enhancement of memory 7 days after learning was demonstrated even when no retrievals were imposed in the interim. The degree to which people can remember prose after 7 days is significantly affected by the cognitive activity that they engage in shortly after new learning takes place. We propose that wakeful resting after new learning allows new memory traces to be consolidated better and hence to be retained for much longer.

Original publication

DOI

10.1177/0956797612441220

Type

Journal article

Journal

Psychol Sci

Publication Date

01/09/2012

Volume

23

Pages

955 - 960

Keywords

Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Female, Humans, Male, Memory, Episodic, Memory, Long-Term, Middle Aged, Rest, Time Factors, Verbal Learning