Rewards help us learn and remember better

Rewards help us to learn and remember better -- this was proven in a study where mere sips of apple juice, provided to volunteers as rewards, were shown to overcome a psychological phenomenon known as retrieval-induced forgetting (RIF).

IANS| Last Updated: Nov 19, 2014, 18:26 PM IST

New York: Rewards help us to learn and remember better -- this was proven in a study where mere sips of apple juice, provided to volunteers as rewards, were shown to overcome a psychological phenomenon known as retrieval-induced forgetting (RIF).

"Rewards overall enhanced memorised items and abolished the suppression of the retrieval of non-learned items," said Takeo Watanabe, co-author of the study from the Brown University in the US.

"Attention enhances relevant signals and suppresses irrelevant signals, whereas reward seems to activate anything, whether it is relevant or irrelevant," Watanabe added.

For the study, the researchers presented some simple facts from two different categories - fish and animals - to 91 volunteers and asked them to memorise a select few of the fish facts.

Volunteers were then asked questions on the facts that they had memorised and other facts present on the list that were not expressly asked to be remembered.

Compared with volunteers who did the tasks with no reward, those who sipped apple juice were much better at recalling the unpractised fish category and unpractised animal facts.

Rewards abolished RIF, undermining the helpful filtering effect of forgetting irrelevant things, the findings pointed out.

The findings were published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.