Cognitive biases: memory and effective training


Our minds are always throwing up some fascinating memory biases that impact the way we learn. We created this infographic, the second in our Cognitive Biases series, to show how we can use them to create effective training.

memory biases unforgettable training

Learning is something that never stops for us. We humans are always learning new things. So the method and efficiency of how we recall information are influenced in some pretty intriguing ways. There are a number of memory biases that we can use to develop training in the workplace.

The Testing Effect.

Spell it out on a page or shout it out loud! Attempt to retrieve the information, rather than reading it again. Reading over text gives us a lesser chance of remembering information. Retrieving information we have read helps us remember it more easily than rereading it again.

Need to know the ins and outs of the more important details of a work project? Reading it over and over and over again takes so much effort and precious time. Enhance the probability of retaining that information by trying to retrieve it instead. Say it out loud to yourself. Write it down. Even think about it to yourself! Test yourself to recall that information and you will have a much better chance of remembering it later on.

Interactivity in training courses is a simple way to help people retain important information. Using tests and skill checks throughout your training programs reinforce and embed knowledge. Testing isn’t just a way to assess people, it’s a powerful learning tool too.

The Spacing Effect.

Remember when you used to cram all your study into one night? Sorry, that doesn’t quite work. If you space your study over an extended period of time, you will learn more effectively.

The spacing effect can be relevant to a heap of everyday situations, even at work. It is why we never have a chance of remembering all the names of a new people. A load of information is hard to recall accurately after the first time, but after reinforcement, you are able to remember every Tom, Dick and Harry, as well as Susan, Terry, Rashid and Veronica. So a few weeks into a new work environment, you should have everyone’s name down pat.

Reinforce learning over multiple occasions. A single full day of training doesn’t quite get the job done as well as it should. Training employees on the safe handling of chemicals? Hold follow-up sessions and activities to test and reinforce this knowledge. Find a way to incorporate elements of the training in your regular meetings too. It is much more effective. Multiple training periods over an extended period of time will make sure that vital information sinks in.

The Context Effect.

Memories are related to the environment in which they’re learned. This makes it harder to recall something when it’s in another context. Out-of-context memories take more time to remember and can be less accurate than those in context.

A pilot learns how to fly in a simulator, not in a cheese packing factory. Cheese packers learn how to pack cheese in cheese packing factories, not at airports. If the environment matches the theme of the information being taught, it is more likely to be retained.

Run training sessions in the environment in which the work will actually happen, or find a way to simulate it as closely as possible.

The Processing Difficulty Effect.

Information that is difficult to learn is easier to remember. The less time spent learning something, the harder it is to recall. No pain, no gain. The more you read and process certain information, the easier it can be retained.

If you were to complete a training program that took you multiple attempts and intense effort to complete, you are more likely to recall that information in the future. Challenges make us think and use our critical thinking skills to solve problems. If we aren’t challenged, we don’t improve.

Design your training to be challenging! It’ll be much more effective than something that is too easy. After all, a pass mark isn’t the priority. We want people to learn!

The way our minds retain memories certainly impact the way we evolve and learn. Utilising these biases can assist us in retaining much more information and knowledge in order to apply them in real world situations.