What it is
The levels of processing effect is the effect that different forms of encoding have on memory. When information is encoded semantically, through association with other information, it is easier to recall at a later date than when information is encoded structurally or phonetically, by the way it appears or sounds.
Why it happens
The levels of processing effect occurs because our brains find it easier to recall information that is encoded on a deep level. Semantic encoding is considered a deep level because it associates new information with existing emotions, ideas and knowledge, thereby creating a larger memory trace.
Example 1 – Mental health
Patients with schizophrenia find it more difficult to correctly recall everyday events. In presenting information to patients with schizophrenia in a way that asks them to encode it deeply, like by asking whether a word is concrete or abstract, patients do not have to waste effort trying to come up with their own organizational strategies. This allows patients to focus on encoding the information which improves their episodic memory.
Example 2 – False memories
Even though encoding on a deep level asks us to associate new information with pre-existing ideas and knowledge, researchers found that deep encoding does not create more false memories than shallow encoding. It does, however, help us to better remember true memories.
How to activate it
In order to benefit from the levels of processing effect, we should encode information on a deep level. Semantic encoding is a deep level of encoding and can include relating new information to other pieces of knowledge, to mnemonics, to our passions or to our emotions.