The majority of people stop reading aloud once they’re past the stage of sounding out the letters, but a small study suggests that doing so will help us remember, and tells us more about why.
For the study published in Memory, scientists recorded 75 students saying 160 words aloud. Two weeks later, they studied 80 of these words in a variety of ways: hearing their own recording of the words, hearing a recording of someone else say them, reading them silently, reading aloud to themselves. To make sure the order wasn’t important, various students used the techniques in different orders.
Next, they were shown a word and had to say whether they had just studied it. The most effective study method was reading the words aloud (77 percent correct answers), followed by listening to a recording, hearing someone else say the words, and reading in silence.
Because the scientists separated out different parts of the process, the results suggest that the advantage comes not just from reading or listening, but specifically from reading and hearing ourselves. The authors suggest that reading things aloud involves different types of processing, which makes it more active and engages us more than reading silently.