You look at things all day. In fact, you see too many things every day. If your brain remembered everything you saw, you’d be overwhelmed. So your brain does you a huge favor by deleting almost everything you see instead of storing it in your memory. And this is the reason why looking isn’t studying.
Looking is too commonplace, too easy. It doesn’t convince your brain to care. If you want to remember something, you have to put in some work. You could make written product, take practice tests, find someone who will listen and teach it to them, perform brain dumps, or simply do some mental recall practice. These methods are all much more difficult than looking over your notes, looking through the chapter, or watching videos, and they all involve doing something other than just looking.
And there is another problem with trying to study by looking. Not only does it fail to form real memories, it creates overconfidence. Looking creates familiarity, which feels like real knowledge, even though it isn’t. If you’ve seen something, you’ll know of it, but you won’t truly know it.
So next time you catch yourself trying to study by looking, please know that what you’re doing is a waste of time because looking isn’t studying.
Chris Loper has been an academic coach for Northwest Educational Services since 2014. Along with Greg Smith, Chris is the cocreator of Parenting for Academic Success (and Parental Sanity) – a five-part course offered every summer.
Chris also offers habit coaching, helping busy adults with habit formation and productivity.
In 2021, he published a humorous memoir titled Wood Floats and Other Brilliant Observations, a book that blends crazy stories with practical life lessons, available on Amazon and through most local bookstores.
He lives in Issaquah, WA, where he is the owner of South Cove Tutoring.