Facilitating Memory Retention

facilitating memory retention

When creating reports and presenting information, we often get caught up in creating beautiful masterpieces, yet overlook how easy they might be for our clients to understand and remember. Memory is a complicated concept which many scientists have attempted to crack. As market researchers, our overarching aim is to help our clients understand and remember the conclusions that we make from our data. In order to facilitate memory retention, it may be useful to have an understanding of memory processes, and how we can use them to make our presentations and deliverables more memorable.

The definition of memory is particularly hazy. The dictionary defines it as ‘the mental capacity or faculty of retaining and reviving facts, events, impressions, etc., or of recalling or recognising previous experiences’. However, science suggests that there are many different avenues of memory which process information in different manners, and there are many different models which attempt to explain this. Considering the vast amount of information that we as market researchers present to our clients, it is important to understand how memory might work and be enhanced in some instances.

When we are processing information that is being presented to us, we use our working memory. This working memory system allows us to maintain information which has been provided to us, and process it to permit retention5. The turnover rate of working memory is very high; refreshing as we presented with new information. Some researchers have suggested that this sequential presentation of information may result in interference3 with the information being processed in working memory. In turn, this is thought to result in forgetting, which certainly would inhibit our impact in a presentation. However, if we look at forgetting as a function of the length of the interval between the presentation of information, we might be able to maximise retention. This means that if we leave enough time between data presentation, we give our audience a longer time to process, and remember more information. If we consider this in the b2b market, we might extrapolate that presenting less information, and spending more time on key information, might help us to make a lasting impression on our clients.

Perhaps one of the most important facets of b2b research is leaving a good lasting impression on our clients. When putting together reports and presenting information, we should ensure that conclusions and recommendations are important and relevant to what our client wants to achieve. Experiences associated with stronger emotions are likely to be much more memorable than those without. This is thought to be because more networks in the brain are activated, and hence when a memory is recalled, these brain states are also re-activated1. Enhancing memory in this way may be easier than it seems, especially when our clients are engaged and interested in our research. Strong, relevant communications and recommendations that are directly relevant to the client may be able to drive emotion and hence result in improved retention.

Emotion may not be such a hot topic in b2b markets and research at present. However, the emotional state is important to memory not only for our clients, but for us as researchers too. When we are having a new experience, or learning something new, there is a trade-off between emotion and information. By this, I mean that some memories cannot be retained as memory capacity is not finite, so those powered by an emotional state may be more likely recalled than others4. Interestingly, our emotional state at the point of memory formation may alter how we, and the clients, view the research. For instance, if we go into a presentation feeling angry and upset, we are unlikely to remember the presentation as a positive affair even if it was excellent. This emotionally-driven encoding may be something to bear in mind when we are dealing with clients – we all recall events differently often due to our baseline emotional state.

To delve further into why we might be emotionally-motived to retain information, we can investigate certain cues. Reward is a key motivator when it comes to memory, resulting in influxes of activation in the brain. Science has demonstrated that activation as a cause of reward is likely to enhance memory retention2, which hence gives us potential routes into facilitating this. Delivering rewarding research to our clients is always at the forefront of our minds as market researchers, so this is perhaps good news to hear. If we can make our research rewarding to our clients’ business, we can potentially enhance memory through activating these reward networks in the brain. Memory can be somewhat malleable with enough understanding of it.

An understanding of memory might be able to offer us the opportunity of enhancing retention for us and our clients. Interestingly, and perhaps somewhat overlooked, is the role that emotion plays in memory retention and recall. Many investigations have shown that retention can be manipulated by the emotional state, which is important to us as market researchers as we attempt to provide our clients with the best deliverables possible. As we have uncovered, memory is not finite, so a deeper understanding of it may help us to better the opportunity our clients have to encode and recall information.


1. Dunsmoor, J.E., Murty, V.P., Davachi, L. and Phelps, E.A., 2015. Emotional learning selectively and retroactively strengthens memories for related events. Nature, 520(7547), p.345.
2. Murayama, K. and Kitagami, S., 2014. Consolidation power of extrinsic rewards: Reward cues enhance long-term memory for irrelevant past events. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(1), p.15.
3. Ricker, T.J. and Cowan, N., 2014. Differences between presentation methods in working memory procedures: A matter of working memory consolidation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(2), p.417.
4. Tambini, A., Rimmele, U., Phelps, E.A. and Davachi, L., 2017. Emotional brain states carry over and enhance future memory formation. Nature neuroscience, 20(2), p.271.

5. Vergauwe, E., Camos, V. and Barrouillet, P., 2014. The impact of storage on processing: How is information maintained in working memory?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(4), p.1072.

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