Guessing even the wrong answer could help in learning the right answer.
Memory & Cognition
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, worked on some volunteers and gave them some pairs of words. Some participants were given the word pairs to study, and others were asked to guess the pairs of words before showing the right answer. Researchers found that guessing process, even when it is wrong, helps in better learning of word pairs than simply studying them. This process of guessing has been found useful even if the participants were tested about 61 hours after the guessing process.
“The benefits of making incorrect guesses are not an artifact of the paradigm, nor are they limited to short retention intervals,” Researchers noted in the paper.
It is probably due to the fact that the participants, who guessed the answer, were mostly able to remember the guessed information and suppress it, thereby helping them in learning the right information. Exact mechanism is not clear, but guessing is thought to activate the mental web of knowledge and facts related to the right answer that is also helpful in subsequent storage of the correct information.
This research is particularly important for teachers or parents, who worry a lot about their students or children. Testing the students is important, even if they give wrong answers because it would help them in learning and eventually giving better results.
Yan, V., Yu, Y., Garcia, M., & Bjork, R. (2014). Why does guessing incorrectly enhance, rather than impair, retention? Memory & Cognition, 42 (8), 1373-1383 DOI: 10.3758/s13421-014-0454-6