Maintenance Rehearsal – Definition & Examples

➡️ Video Lesson
➡️ Introduction

Maintenance rehearsal refers to the things people do to keep information in their short-term memory.

Examples include repeating a phone number under your breath and trying to memorize a shopping list.

Maintenance rehearsal is used to retain information in our working memory for a medium-term time. However, it often gets forgotten; other processing techniques are needed to remember things for a longer time.

➡️ Definition

Maintenance Rehearsal Definition

Maintenance rehearsal refers to the maintenance of short-term memory information, also known as working memory.

It works by repeating incoming information without actively thinking about it and making any connection with already-gathered details in the memory.

Maintenance rehearsal information won’t generally transfer to long-term memory.

Information gathered through maintenance rehearsal can be instantly recalled but won’t last long enough for long-term memory recall, although this certainly depends on the information requiring processing.

When Maintenance Rehearsal is Useful

If information is only useful temporarily, then your working memory will use maintenance rehearsal for storage and recall purposes.

All information required later will need better memory processing and will be stored in long-term memory using elaborative rehearsal.

Maintenance Rehearsal Examples

1. Number retention

a boy trying to memorize somethig

A commonly-used example is when you need to memorize a phone number when there is no way of writing it down.

Most people struggle to remember the whole number for any length of time, as they’re using maintenance rehearsal memory storage.

Only if you repeat the number over and over might it utilize elaborative rehearsal to store it in long-term memory.

2. Observation

man looking at a tree

If you look at a tree while taking a walk, your senses process the visual information while you focus your attention on the stimuli.

Through maintenance rehearsal, you would store the tree’s details as immediate importance in short-term memory.

By the time you finished your walk, you would have no memory of the tree’s details unless something unusual in its appearance drew a comparison to something already in your long-term memory. Then there would be a link and meaning to remembering the specific oddity, acting as a memory aid; elaborative rehearsal would retain it in long-term memory.

3. Reading

man reading

While reading, maintenance rehearsal is the articulatory rehearsal process you utilize.

Without short-term memory and maintenance rehearsal, you would forget the first word in a sentence by reaching the last.

At times it is even necessary to go back and reread the previous sentence to remember it, further substantiating the rehearsal processing techniques at play.

4. Emotion

angry man in car

While taking a long road trip, another vehicle cut you off on the interstate. You became very annoyed and vowed to remember the other vehicle’s license plate number to report later.

Within a few minutes, after a song or two on the radio caught your attention and you had calmed down, the license plate number was gone from your memory as it was no longer significant.

5. Remembering to take a Prescription

woman looking in medicine cabinet

Often, equating critical times to memory requires repeating information over and again. Let’s consider something as simple as taking a course of antibiotics.

Although this is a short-term necessity, you don’t do it for a long enough period for it to be committed to as an elaborative memory rehearsal function.

As taking prescription medication for a temporary ailment requires only a short-term store of information, maintenance rehearsal is the process used.

6. Remembering Appointment Dates


In certain situations, we all believe we can memorize information. However, your working memory doesn’t always play its part in everyday experience, and lets you down. Commonly, this happens when trying to remember appointment dates.

While making a repeat doctor’s appointment, for example, you’ve orally received a return date and taken in the information.

Instead of committing the follow-up appointment to memory, you rely on the appointment card, which is logical. The problem comes when you have left your appointment card on the doctor’s counter and cannot remember the date.

You cannot remember because you’ve used your short-term memory techniques, as it was not essential to commit to more extended memory due to having an appointment card.

7. Remembering Names of People you just Met

people meeting for the first time

A typical example of needing better processing to memorize auditory information is when somebody introduces you to someone you don’t know. Too often, you retain that person’s name for only a few seconds before it’s forgotten, which can lead to an embarrassing situation.

At the time of the introduction, you were likely concentrating your attention on the person’s visible form, like making eye contact. Although you heard the person’s name, it wasn’t important enough in context to commit to memory.

8. Shopping

a woman shopping

You decided to visit the mall to buy a few items and that the need for a shopping list wasn’t warranted as there were so few things to buy. Instead of writing a quick list or adding items to your cell phone, you decide to memorize them.

When you reach the mall and collect the items on your list, you have a nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten something. Once again, this is another example of short-term memory and maintenance rehearsal.

➡️ Maintenance Rehearsal vs Elaborative Rehearsal

Maintenance Rehearsal vs Elaborative Rehearsal

Memory rehearsal is a term for repetition’s role in retaining memories, which involves repeating information to get the data processed and stored as a memory.

There are two forms of memory rehearsal:

  • Maintenance rehearsal: a person will maintain information in short-term memories through constant repetition. Still, this data isn’t retained for an extended period as there is no valuable meaning, context, or conceptual need for its retention in memory.
  • Elaborative rehearsal: Rehearsing informationin waysthat commit it to long-term memory. Generally, this is done by forming a contextual link forms between this information and other existing information already stored in memory. This difference means that experts regard elaborative rehearsal as an active learning style.

There is a greater chance of storing new information in long-term memory if a person processes it along with context, meaning, and a conceptual link to previously-stored knowledge (elaborative rehearsal).

➡️ Study Card
elaborative vs maintenance rehearsal


Maintenance rehearsal enables you to retain amounts in memory for short periods but won’t affect long-term retention. Despite this, it remains a vital part of daily routine and communication. It is excellent for executing day-to-day tasks, but for memorizing for exams on future knowledge, elaborative rehearsal may be required.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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