Elaborative Encoding

When it comes to studying, we all have our quirks.

I went though a phase where I wouldn't study without watermelon gum, and I had a professor who wore the same sweater each time he studied for and took a test.

But did you know that there is actually a bit of reason behind these tactics? The official name for it is elaborative encoding. 

The theory is that you will be able to recall information better if you are in the same state (mental, physical, etc.) you were in when you learned it. So if you were smelling watermelon bubbalicious when you were cramming acronyms, you'd be smart to take some gum to the test with you.

When I first learned this theory my professor gave the example of a girl who was sick the week before the final, and she had a constant stream of cold medicine going into her system. But then her cold went away days before the final. Time to leave the pills behind. Or is it? Would it be better for her to take the test on cold medicine, because that was the state of mind she was in when she learned the information?

I may not remember much from my freshman psychology class, but this concept has stuck with me and I have implemented it to the best of my ability. I listen to classical music when I study, and I take tests in the music room in the testing center. I pay attention to the perfume I wear when studying. I don't study in pajamas. You get the picture. 

But recently I have noticed a study habit I seem to have acquired. Check out these pictures from blog posts over the last year: 

What even...? What am I gaining from the pen in the mouth? I'm not sure, but I do it every time I study. 

Is this some sort of subconscious encoding? Should I bring a pen to the test? 


  1. Can you send me a picture of your hair cut? Planning on copying it if it's all the same to you!

  2. hahahaha that's awesome :) I'd love to see someone in the testing center taking their test with a pencil but biting a pen in their mouth. PLEASEDOIT.

  3. Ok um...I chew on pens when I'm studying or REALLY concentrating on something. I HAVE to be doing it. And I usually put it smack dab in the middle of my mouth (although it does move around often). Maybe it's a family thing? Psychologize on THAT for a while!