Is it true that we remember 80% of what we see, 20% of what we read, and 10% of what we hear? What studies show these statistics?

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The claim that "we remember 80% of what we see, 20% of what we read, and 10% of what we hear" is a popular notion often cited in educational contexts. However, this specific breakdown is not directly supported by rigorous scientific studies. The sources provided offer insights into the differences in memory retention based on modality, but they do not confirm these exact percentages.

Key Findings from the Sources

  1. Visual vs. Auditory Short-Term Memory:
    • A study comparing visual and auditory short-term memory found that visual short-term memory tends to be more accurate than auditory short-term memory. Participants recalled visual information more accurately than auditory information, especially for short words compared to long words.
    • The study used a two-factor repeated measures ANOVA and found significant differences in recall accuracy between visual and auditory presentations, but it did not provide specific percentages like 80%, 20%, or 10%.
  2. Modality Effects in Memory:
    • Another study reviewed the effects of different modalities on memory retention and recall, suggesting that visual presentation can lead to better encoding of perceptual details compared to auditory presentation. This study also discussed the role of cognitive resources in processing visual and auditory information but did not provide specific retention percentages.
    • The study highlighted that visual presentation might reduce false memories compared to auditory presentation, indicating a potential advantage of visual over auditory memory.
  3. Input and Output Modality in Following Instructions:
    • Research on the influence of input and output modality on following instructions found that visual demonstrations were more effective than verbal instructions for memory performance. Adding visual demonstration to auditory instruction improved recall, supporting the idea that visual information can enhance memory retention.
    • This study also noted that dual-modality presentation (visual + auditory) did not significantly outperform visual-only presentation, suggesting that visual information alone is quite robust for memory retention.


While the studies indicate that visual information tends to be better remembered than auditory information, they do not support the exact figures of 80%, 20%, and 10%. These percentages are likely oversimplifications or misinterpretations of more nuanced research findings. The actual retention rates can vary depending on numerous factors, including the complexity of the information, the context in which it is presented, and individual differences in cognitive processing.
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