Understanding Elaborative Rehearsal in Psychology

By Staff Writers

Elaborative rehearsal is a way to memorize information more effectively and maintain it in your long-term memory. This type of rehearsal connects information you already know with new information.

Research has found that by making associations between the new information you’re trying to learn and the information you already know, you’re making your brain process the information in a more in-depth way.

Types of Rehearsal

There are two types of memory rehearsal: maintenance and elaborate. Both involve repetition to move new information from short-term memory to long-term memory. However, each kind of rehearsal works differently.

Maintenance Rehearsal

Maintenance rehearsal is what you might typically think of as rehearsal—that is, the straight repeating of information to memorize it. This type of rehearsal is also called rote rehearsal. An example of maintenance rehearsal is repeating the digits of a phone number until you dial them.

This type of rehearsal can be mental, where you’re thinking about and repeating the information in your mind. It can also be verbal, where you’re speaking and repeating the information aloud.

Elaborative Rehearsal

Elaborative rehearsal is more complex. It uses different encoding strategies to link new information with information you already know.

Strategies may include:

  • Organizing information
  • Thinking of examples
  • Creating an image in your head
  • Using a mnemonic device

Rehearsal, in general, is an effective method of committing information to memory. However, different types of rehearsal are effective for different things. For example, maintenance rehearsal is most useful for short-term memorization, while elaborative rehearsal is most effective at memorizing things longer-term.

Examples of Elaborative Rehearsal

Imagine you need to learn the names and locations of all the bones of the body. There are many strategies you can draw on using elaborative rehearsal.

Translate Into Your Own Words

Read what your study guide says about which bone connects to the subsequent bone. Next, try phrasing the information differently. Then, explain it to someone else in your own words.

Another way to do this is to develop your own study questions and then answer them.

Use Images

Using skeleton images can help you visualize the bones and their location. Taking it a step further, think of where each bone is located on your own body.

Rather than simply looking at the pictures on a study guide, use color to help you. For example, you could choose blue to color each bone of the leg once you’ve rehearsed its name several times. The color blue might remind you that you wear blue jeans over your legs, which can help you recall the location of the bone.


Outline different characteristics or categories of the bones. Then check off which ones fit into each group.

You could identify all of the bones located in the foot, list them in that category, and then do the same for the other body parts.

Use Mnemonic Strategies

Mnemonic strategies can be beneficial in learning names or terms. Some examples of mnemonic device include:

  • Keyword cues
  • Chunking information into groups
  • Music
  • Acronyms (each letter stands for a word)
  • Acrostics (a sentence that helps you remember information)
  • Rhymes
  • Connecting new information to information you already know
  • Visualizing Linking words with numbers (peg method)
  • Linking stories or images

For example, use an acronym by taking the first letter of the list of bones in the arm and hand and creating a new word where each letter stands for one of the bones you need to remember.


Elaborative rehearsal is one of two types of memorization. It uses many different strategies to commit new information to longer-term memory. It relies on connecting information you already know to new information. Mnemonic devices are commonly used in elaborative rehearsal.

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