Elaborative Rehearsal (Examples in Memory)

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It would be great if everyone had photogenic memory and could store necessary information long-term; however, there is a process that human beings go through to interpret and remember things efficiently. It is called elaborative rehearsal. Let's look at what that means.

Elaborative rehearsal is a control process that human beings use to embellish specific information that the mind interprets for long-term memory storage in the brain. It links new information to old materials through memory encoding strategies to make remembering easier for extended periods.

Elaborative rehearsal allows people to make sense of information through an easier method, so when trying to remember something, they can connect it to different pieces of detail, which doesn't always have anything to do with the knowledge at hand. We discuss the control processor and the characteristics surrounding it through the article.

Elaborative Rehearsal Explained

Elaborative rehearsal precisely explains itself – to elaborately rehearse information. It is the process of elaborately practicing new knowledge you receive while connecting it to other material or details to reserve that information for long-term use.

The brain remembers information in various ways. Sometimes you see something and remember it because it naturally links to something you feel connected to or familiar with. Other times, the brain temporarily stores information until you need to use it. When you need to reserve knowledge for more extended periods, there are strategies to help you do that through elaborative rehearsal.

To understand how elaborative rehearsal comes into place, you must first understand the stages of memory in the human brain.

Stages Of Memory Concerning Elaborative Rehearsal

There are three stages of memory that people have and use. These three stages are:

Now we can understand how these stages of memory work:

Sensory Memory

A sensory memory stage is a form of short-term memory that lasts only momentarily – at most, a few to several seconds. The information doesn't need to be stored for later use, even though a future experience can trigger it. It is called sensory because it comes from one of the five senses: vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. It is essential for interacting and engaging with the world.

Example of sensory memory: 

Drinking a red strawberry slushy – you taste the berry flavor until it is gone. Or it stains your teeth, and you notice that in the mirror. Once the stain or flavor is gone, so is the detail of that memory.

Short-Term Memory

The short-term memory stage is when your brain needs to hold onto specific information for a limited time. It is temporary, and you will likely forget the details once you have used or applied the knowledge. Short-term memory allows you to remember detailed information for as long as you need that knowledge anymore.

Example of short-term memory:

Remembering an One Time Password (OTP) number long enough to key it in when you are online shopping or repeating a phone number until you've dialed or saved it. Similarly, passing information is like a greeting from one person until you pass the message to the other person.

If you want to see short term memory at work, test your memory using our free tool, and during the first section, you'll have to recall numbers immediately after being shown them. Most people can get to 5 or 6 numbers remember, but some can remember up to 9 or 10!

Long-Term Memory

The long-term memory stage gets a little more complicated because you must store information for extended periods. It could be for days, a few weeks, months, or years and could be small, simple details or more detailed knowledge.

Long-term memory is connected to elaborative rehearsal. The only way you can remember details long-term is by using one of the elaborative rehearsal strategies. The information must be repeated, studied, or linked to familiarity. That is how the brain reserves it for as long as possible.

Example of long-term memory:

Repeating your new cellphone number or of someone important to remember for life or in emergencies, always practicing the spelling of words to be able to use them. Creating a rhyme or song with a list of information to answer in an exam.

Elaborative Rehearsal Is A Control Processor

The human brain uses four types of control processors in-memory processing. Elaborative rehearsal is one of those four control processors. It is necessary to understand each processor to get a better idea of how elaborative rehearsing works.

Here are the four control processors:

  1. Selective Attention
  2. Maintenance Rehearsal
  3. Chunking
  4. Elaborative Rehearsal

The four control processors play a role in linking the stages of memory to each other. You can understand each of them in detail below:

Selective Attention

The term selective attention straightforwardly explains itself because of specific details you select and pay attention to. The particular attention processor takes information from the sensory memory stage and converts them to short-term memory. But you pay attention to the essential details picked up by sensory stimuli and reserved for short-term usage.

Maintenance Rehearsal

Maintenance rehearsal is pretty straightforward and does what it says – maintaining details. It is linked to short-term memory, meaning you repeat or hold onto knowledge temporarily until you are required to use it. It goes back to the OTP or mobile number example. You maintain (rehearse) the information for a short period till you can or need to apply it.


Chunking is a form of grouping information or details to remember them. You take the details from the stimuli and process them by chunking to remember and keep it going until you have applied it. If you were to remember a mobile number, and you group it in 3-3-4, for example, and repeat it a few times until you can physically note it down or dial it – that would be considered chunking.

Elaborative Rehearsal

Elaborative rehearsal is repeating the information and elaborating on the details multiple times to reserve that knowledge in the brain for extended periods. There are several strategies to do that, which are discussed later. Elaborative rehearsal converts the stimuli from short-term memory to long-term memory.

The Difference Between Elaborative And Maintenance Rehearsal

Maintenance and elaborative rehearsal are often intertwined because they are similar. People tend to confuse them for being the same control processor when they are, in fact, different. Below you can understand what distinguishes the two memory rehearsal processors.

Maintenance Rehearsal

With maintenance rehearsal, as previously explained, you are required to rehearse specific details of information, like an OTP number, until you can use it. Whether you repeat the new knowledge a few times or listen to something a couple of times, you can carry that information forward for a brief time until you need to apply it.

It is called maintenance rehearsal because you retain the information from the stimuli you receive through repetition for a short period. It does not mean you will need it in the future or something you need to know permanently; it is simply specific details that you need to apply to short-term memory.

Elaborative Rehearsal

Elaborative rehearsal works similarly to maintenance rehearsal but more "elaboratively. " It means that when you gain new information from the brain's stimuli, you work more elaborately to absorb the details by linking them to older material or aspects already known to you. That helps your brain store the information long-term.

With elaborative rehearsal, you need to remember the details for future use, and they often need to be retained in your memory permanently. Elaborative rehearsal is the control processor that takes short-term knowledge and moves it to long-term memory. There are different strategies you can use for elaborative rehearsal.

Strategies Of Elaborative Rehearsal

Elaborative rehearsal is a better way to memorize any type of information for long-term memory. There are multiple strategies and methods that you can use to access the elaborative rehearsal processor and make remembering details easier. You can understand some of the most common ways in the following list.


There are different methods of repetition, like "rehearsing the same number or sentence multiple times, storytelling, teaching back what you have learned, listening to an audio or song on repeat, etc., until it becomes ingrained in the brain.

Linking Examples

Using and linking examples for certain information helps to understand the given information better because you can associate it with something you are more familiar with. Better understanding leads to better memory of the new information. 

Visualizing An Image

Associating a name, place, word, or any new knowledge with a visual picture in mind or color can help you remember the details of that information more easily. It is like teaching a child the name of the fruit, banana. Then you remind them that a banana is yellow. They can easily visualize a banana being yellow or look at something in that color and say, "yellow like a banana."

Using Mnemonics

Mnemonics are a technique that uses abbreviations, codes, etc., to make remembering information easier. An example would be how kids remember the alphabet by associating each letter with an object, like A for Apple. A mnemonic also uses the first letter of every point to make a phrase, allowing you to remember the words from the new information you need.

Music And Rhymes

Music and rhymes could also be a form of a mnemonic. You can create a song or rhyme with the information you need to remember. Or associate a person or a place with a familiar tune. Sometimes lyrics or rhymes have a word you need to remember and link the information with that music to help you return to that every time you need to bring the details to the surface.

Why Is Elaborative Rehearsal Beneficial?

Using an encoding strategy like elaborative rehearsal facilitates memory formation. When you link new information to something you already know, it becomes retained in the memory, and you are more likely to remember it for long periods, if not permanently.

Elaborative rehearsal is elaborately practicing information through repetition or embellishment with old materials. It helps ingrain the knowledge in the brain. The data stays in mind, and when similar details occur, your memory will be triggered, and you will remember the necessary information.

Ways in which elaborative rehearsal is beneficial:

  • It helps during exams.
  • It can help recall directions.
  • It makes it easier to remember names and numbers.
  • It can make remembering procedures and steps easier.

Who Can Benefit From Elaborative Rehearsal?

Elaborative rehearsal is not for specific groups – everyone can benefit from it. Whether you are a teacher, student, doctor, or parent, the control processor can help you. It is not meant only to assist you in a profession or education but also in daily life and tasks.

If you need to remember a recipe, a direction, or a prayer, for example, and you need the details to stick so you don't forget it, elaborative rehearsal helps you manage that. It is also highly beneficial for people with learning disabilities like dyslexia because it provides methods that the person can cope with or feels comfortable using.

It can also help people in the early stages of dementia to articulate routines and recall people and places. Additionally, it is helpful for people with ADD or ADHD, people with anxiety, or anyone needing more assistance in memorizing certain pieces of information to interact and engage in the world.

Can Elaborative Rehearsal Have Negative Effects?

Elaborative rehearsal is a positive strategy to help people retain information long-term. It is especially beneficial for students when studying and writing exams. There are, however, pros and cons to every situation. Elaborative rehearsal can have adverse effects on people with trauma or PTSD.

Suppose you associate specific information or certain behaviors, actions, etc., with other harmful or hurtful details you may have experienced because that has been ingrained into your memory. In that case, you will always be triggered by something that relates. You can overcome that through professional help and therapy, but many people experience it at some point.

Elaborative rehearsal is a fantastic method for practicing details to store information long-term in mind. It uses new and old information to make memorizing and remembering easier. There are different strategies for elaborative rehearsal, and depending on the information and your preferred way of learning, you can choose what best suits you.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2022, September). Elaborative Rehearsal (Examples in Memory). Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/elaborative-rehearsal/.

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