“Instant Replay” Breaks Aid Memory

Instant replay may help to mould memories at Nature.com reports that MIT neuroscience researchers found that rats which completed a learning experience and then rested actually replayed the learning experience in their brain while resting.

This instant replay could help the animals to learn about a recent place and what parts of it are most important, the investigators propose. The rerun could coincide with a burst of the reward chemical dopamine, which is released in the brain when the animal finds food.

The researchers speculate that humans may learn in a similar manner.

Psychologists have known for decades that “distributed learning”, i.e., learning broken into separate segments with breaks in between, is more effective than a continuous lesson. This newly observed phenomenon could be one explanation for the better results from distributed learning.

Marketers might want to understand this phenomenon better, too. While they often have little control over how their advertising and marketing efforts are consumed (imagine a reader flipping through a magazine glancing at the ads), under some circumstances they may be able to take advantage of this knowledge. A lot of marketing is done in small group presentations, for example. It might not be too difficult to structure the presentation to offer the primary message and follow it with a break. Exactly what constitutes a “break” for a human learner isn’t yet known. Clearly, in most cases the presenter can’t say, “Now, we’re going to reflect quietly for a few minutes on what we just heard.” But would a segue into casual conversation over cocktails and hors d’oevres (AKA “food rewards” :)) be sufficient? What about listening to a brief musical performance? Watching a short film?

Memory is only one part of the marketing equation, of course. Appeal of the message, utility of the offering, etc. all play an important part. But this is one more example of how neuromarketing can come into play, even in non-obvious areas like an in-person sales presentation.

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Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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