Can’t Remember Something? Just Close Your Eyes, Scientists Suggest

You’ve reviewed all weekend for that Modern History exam. You’ve consumed gallons of coffee for that make-it-or-break-it final. You even passed on the opportunity to spend time with your friends on a Saturday night just so you can learn who defeated who during World War II. And then Monday morning comes. Your memory is failing you. You can’t remember who led fascist Italy during 1935. It was Bemi — Beni — something. You skip the first item, and then slowly realize that you can’t remember anything you reviewed for the past two days.

This B-grade horror flick has happened to all of us. Even if we think we’re highly familiar with a concept or a subject matter, there would be times when even the most basic things would skip over our heads. Psychologists have long studied the concept of memory retrieval, and recent findings from the University of Surrey have discovered a simple trick that will make it much easier to remember things long forgotten.

Medical XPress reports about scientists from University of Surrey, who conducted two studies subjecting 178 participants to a series of experiments. In the first experiment, participants were tasked to watch a film wherein an electrician enters a house, carries out his job, and steals some items. The group was divided into two, with one half of the group individually interviewed with their eyes closed and the other half interviewed with their eyes open. Both groups were asked to recall certain moments in the film, for instance the name written on the front of the van. The researchers discovered that those who had their eyes closed recalled 23 percent more information than those who did not close their eyes.

In the second experiment, scientists had the subjects watch a clip from Crimewatch, wherein a scene where an elderly man gets attacked in his home was portrayed. Subjects were asked to recall audio and visual details of the clip under the same conditions — others with their eyes open and other with their eyes shut. The results found out that those who had their eyes closed recalled visual and audio information in better detail than those who had their eyes open. Rapport with the interviewer was also an important factor for memory recall, according to the scientists.

Dr. Robert Nash, one of the authors of the study, said, “It is clear from our research that closing the eyes and building rapport help with witness recall.”

“Although closing your eyes to remember seems to work whether or not rapport has been built beforehand, our results show that building rapport makes witnesses more at ease with closing their eyes. That in itself is vital if we are to encourage witnesses to use this helpful technique during interviews,” Nash added.

The study has been published on the journal Legal and Criminology Psychology.

[Image from Cavan Images/Flickr]