There are distinct moments—at a work meeting, in a heated debate with your guy—when you realize that it's not always what you know but your ability to recall information at just the right moment. Having a stronger memory can get you far (now if only we could strengthen it the same way we can our glutes!).
But there’s an instinctive trick you’ve probably already been using for memory recall.
Have you ever been relaying a message or telling a story from memory, got to a detail you couldn’t quite remember, and naturally squeezed your eyes shut to try and get it exactly right? According to a new study published in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology, there might be scientific support for closing your eyes to draw from your memory bank.
Researchers performed two experiments with 178 participants, which involved having them witness a crime scenario in which a thief stole a list of items. The subjects were then questioned in one of four groups. Some were questioned with eyes open, others with eyes closed, some after having built rapport with their interviewer, others without friendly discussion beforehand. Then they were asked a series of 17 questions about the film they’d watched and the crime they saw.
The participants who had built rapport with the interview and shut their eyes while answering the questions recalled details with the most accuracy, getting three quarters of the 17 questions right. Those who hadn’t developed a quick familiarity with the interviewer and kept eyes open did the worst on the questions, answering only 41 percent correctly.
Lead study author Dr. Robert Nash tells the BBC that closing your eyes likely eliminates the world’s many distractions. “Closing your eyes might also help people visualize the details of the event they are trying to remember, but our second experiment suggests keeping your eyes shut can help focus on audio information, too,” he says.
The cool part of the study? While the eye-shutting method may help witnesses relay better information to authorities and forensic specialists about crimes, it should work in plenty of contexts. “The mechanisms we identified ought to work in other contexts, for example trying to remember details of a lecture,” Nash says.
So, next time you want to pipe up with all those points in your morning staff meeting, close your eyes first. This might just be your new secret weapon at work.