Elaborative Rehearsal: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:02 Definition
  • 0:32 Two Kinds of Memory Rehearsal
  • 1:08 Examples
  • 2:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

In this lesson, you'll learn the definition of elaborative rehearsal and how it differs from another form of memory rehearsal: maintenance rehearsal. You'll get examples to help you understand this concept and a quiz to test your knowledge at the end.


Have you ever performed in a dance recital or play? If so, you probably had to do a dress rehearsal. It was during this dress rehearsal that you practiced or ran through the performance exactly as it would go on the actual day.

Elaborative rehearsal is similar to dress rehearsal, but it is practice for your memory. Elaborative rehearsal is a technique to help the short-term memory store thoughts and ideas and pass them into the long-term memory. It works by relating new concepts to old concepts that are already in the long-term memory so that these new concepts 'stick'.

Two Kinds of Memory Rehearsal

There are two kinds of memory rehearsal: elaborative rehearsal and maintenance rehearsal. Maintenance rehearsal is just temporarily maintaining the new information in the short-term memory. It usually works by repetition. When someone asks you to remember a phone number they need you to dial, you typically repeat the phone number over and over again until they ask you for it, right? This is a perfect example of maintenance rehearsal!

Elaborative rehearsal is exactly like its name suggests: a more elaborate, or complex, process. It involves using concepts that are already in your long-term memory to remember concepts that are only in your short-term memory.


Here's an example. Many times we can create mnemonics- which are that use a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations to remember something - as a form of elaborative rehearsal. It could be singing the states of the US in alphabetical order, or it could be taking the first letter of a list of items we need to remember and making a sentence with words that begin with those letters.

Let's list the planets of the solar system, for instance: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. If we took the first letter from each planet, we could create the sentence: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles. That's a little easier to remember, isn't it?

Here's another example. Good test takers are really good at elaborative rehearsal because they know how to study; they tie new information together with things they already have in their long-term memory.

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