6 Consequences of Over Memorization (And What To Do Instead) | Iris Reading
6 Consequences of Over Memorization (& What to Do Instead

6 Consequences of Over Memorization (And What To Do Instead)

6 Consequences of Over Memorization (& What to Do Instead

Over memorization is not good for learning. It is time-consuming and stressful, makes learning superficial, does not promote comprehension, makes you forget faster, and does not encourage practical application. 

While memorization continues to get a bad rap in many quarters, it has been shown that we cannot learn without it. Thus, what should be flogged is not memorization but over memorization.

Memorization is the foundation of learning. However, over memorization can impact meaningful learning because of the following:

  1. It makes learning take longer
  2. It makes learning stressful
  3. It makes learning superficial
  4. It defeats comprehension
  5. It makes you forget faster
  6. It does not encourage practical application.

This article will show you exactly what makes over memorization bad for learning. We’ll also show you what you should do instead of over memorizing.

1. Makes learning take longer

Memorization (or rote learning) is more time-consuming than actual learning. This means that it’ll take longer to memorize the information in a material than to actually learn it.

Memorization makes learning take longer because:

  • Facts are endless
  • It is based on repetition.

Facts are endless 

Memorization involves committing facts to memory. Sadly, there are usually loads of facts to memorize.

Most often than not, you can get these facts from certain fundamental concepts. Understanding the fundamental concepts will help you know all (or most of) the facts derived from them.

Interestingly, many facts can be derived from just one or a few concepts. Thus, while it’ll be time-consuming to commit loads of facts to memory, learning will be faster if you take the time to understand those concepts the facts are derived from. 

Memorization is based on repetition

Another reason why memorization makes learning take longer is that memorization is achieved with repetition. Memorization rests on the premise that information is consolidated in the brain the more you repeat it.

All the repetition necessary for memorization means it’ll take longer to learn using the technique.

2. Makes learning stressful

Over memorization can also make learning tedious and very stressful. This is also because of how endless facts are and how much repetition is required.

For example, the sine of the angles of a right angle triangle are factual knowledge, but memorizing these facts will be more stressful than understanding the underlying concept and simply calculating these sines.

3. Makes learning superficial

One of the most studied and talked about consequences of over memorization is that it makes learning superficial.

Memorization gives only a superficial grasp of the material. If you successfully commit a lot of facts to memory, you may be able to recall these facts to give the impression of being an expert.

However, you will not understand how these facts are derived or how they relate to other facts or to one another. 

4. It defeats comprehension

Learning is “knowing” plus “comprehending.” However, comprehension is not a concern when it comes to memorization.

There are different text comprehension techniques for improving understanding of what you read, such as linking to previous knowledge, visualization, making inferences, etc. Interestingly, memorization does not involve using any of these techniques. 

Instead, memorization is just a mindless regurgitation of facts that have been drummed into memory via repetition. Thus, while you may be able to recall facts that you have memorized, there’ll be no understanding. 

5. Makes you forget faster

This may sound contradictory, but it isn’t. Over memorization can actually make you forget more. There are two reasons for this:

  • Working memory holds limited information
  • There is no linking to previous knowledge
  • There is no comprehension

Working memory holds limited information

Most often than not, when memorizing, we store information in our working memory. Sadly, the working memory can hold only a limited amount of information at any one time.

So, over memorization will lead to forgetting most of the information stuffed into the brain. This is the origin of the statement, “what you memorize, you will forget, but what you learn, you will remember.”

There is no linking to previous knowledge

Another reason why over memorization facilitates forgetting is that when you memorize, the individual facts are singly held in the brain. 

Information is held longer in the brain if linked to previous knowledge. This “ties” the new information to what is already known, allowing you to remember the new information for longer.

However, with memorization not involving this linking to previous knowledge, the new information is held singly and is loose. So they can easily fall off “as it were,” leading to forgetting.

There is no comprehension

As mentioned earlier, there is no effort to comprehend the information when using the memorization technique. People tend to remember more of what they clearly understand.

For this reason, linking to previous knowledge is advised as a memory technique. It facilitates comprehension of the material, as you build from what you already know and understand. It is this comprehension that makes you remember the information for longer.

Since memorization is not bothered with text comprehension, over memorization makes it difficult to remember the information for longer.

6. Does not encourage practical application

Most often than not, how you’ll need to use information differs from the way you take in the information. That is, we are often challenged to use information outside the scope of how we learn it.

As mentioned earlier, facts are singly held in the brain when memorized.

However, the challenges you face in life may require more than simply repeating facts individually. You’ll need to apply them to solve different types of problems. Sometimes, you will need to combine the different facts together or with previous knowledge to create a solution. 

Sadly, since memorization involves holding facts singly, with no effort to connect them to previous knowledge, it is impossible to apply these facts to solve problems. 

For this reason, students who memorize may be very good at giving you formulas or definitions but would fail in using that same formula or definition to solve even basic problems or explain simple concepts.

Can you learn without memorizing?

Memorization is the foundation of learning. You cannot learn without memorizing because of the following:

  • It is the foundation of early cognitive development. 
  • It builds your store of factual knowledge. 

The foundation of early cognitive development

Learning starts with memorization. That is why young children learn by memorizing nursery rhymes. Their developing minds do not grasp meaning, but through sheer repetition, they learn the lines of the rhymes.

Thus, without memorization, it will be impossible for children to develop cognition. They’ll be unable to hold attention or gain knowledge.

Builds your store of factual knowledge

Memorization is often pitched against critical thinking, with many people favoring critical thinking.

However, critical thinking is simply the process of analyzing and applying facts. This means that to think critically, you’ll have to draw on facts that you already have in your memory. 

Interestingly, memorization is committing facts to memory to increase your store of factual knowledge.

Alternate learning techniques

While memorization aids learning, over memorization affects learning negatively. Thus, instead of memorizing too much, it’ll be better to employ the following learning techniques.

  • Link to previous knowledge
  • Visualize 
  • Repeatedly use

Link to previous knowledge

Your brain learns better when you connect new information with what you already know and understand. 

Because the new information builds on what is clearly understood, it is easier to understand; and when it is understood, it is remembered longer.


A famous statement attributed to Albert Einstein says that “If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it.” This highlights the importance of visualizing in learning.

Visualization is merely forming images in your head based on what you read. As you read or learn, use the words to consciously create visuals.

Visualizing makes you connect to your background knowledge because it is things that you can identify with that you will use to create the images.  It also makes you use your imagination. Thus, visualization facilitates comprehension of the text, and you’ll remember it for longer. 

Use what you learn

Another thing that facilitates learning is using what you learn repeatedly. You can do this by

  • Self-testing
  • Learning by teaching


Self-testing is simply attempting to recall what you have learned. It makes you better at remembering what you have learned.

When you fail to recall any part of what you had studied, it tells you that you need to spend more time on learning or understanding that part. Thus, self-testing also helps you determine what you don’t know or do not truly understand. 

Learning by teaching

As the name suggests, learning by teaching means spending time to teach what you know.

Teaching compels you to retrieve what you have formerly learned. It gives you a deeper understanding of the material and new insights. It also helps you to develop presentation and interpersonal skills.

There are different ways to put yourself in the role of teacher to facilitate learning instead of memorization. You can simply talk to someone about what you learn. You can even talk to an imaginary audience.


While memorization is essential to learning, over memorization does much harm and little good. It makes learning take longer and more stressful, makes learning superficial, does not help comprehension, makes you forget faster, and does not encourage practical application. 

Instead of over memorizing, embrace more meaningful learning by linking to previous knowledge, visualizing, and repeatedly using what you learn. While you can do this on your own, taking a specialized course will serve you better.

For example, in Iris Reading’s Advanced Comprehension and Memory course, you’ll learn how your memory works and how to comprehend and remember more of what you read, whether that is news articles, magazine articles, textbooks, or technical materials. 

The course will not only show you the effective learning techniques (like the Link system, the Peg system, and the Memory Palace system), but it’ll teach you how to use each to improve comprehension and memory.

Iris Reading is a trusted expert in the field of speed reading, comprehension, and memory. Register for our Maximizing Memory Course today.

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