There’s definitely something about doors that makes us forgetful

Monday, 1 June, 2015

Have you ever walked from one room to another, to do, or locate something, and forgotten what you wanted to do on arrival? I think it happens to a lot of us quite often. While you might blame a poor memory for the frustration, it could be that the doorway, yes the doorway, you moved through, played a part in your apparent forgetfulness:

So there’s the thing we know best: The common and annoying experience of arriving somewhere only to realize you’ve forgotten what you went there to do. We all know why such forgetting happens: we didn’t pay enough attention, or too much time passed, or it just wasn’t important enough. But a “completely different” idea comes from a team of researchers at the University of Notre Dame. The first part of their paper’s title sums it up: “Walking through doorways causes forgetting.”

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Fuller minds may take longer to recall than not so full minds

Friday, 7 February, 2014

Something to bookmark for later reference… older minds aren’t really subject to memory loss, they’re simply storing far more data than younger minds, that’s why it takes, or may take, longer to retrieve, or recall, certain items of information:

Since educated older people generally know more words than younger people, simply by virtue of having been around longer, the experiment simulates what an older brain has to do to retrieve a word. And when the researchers incorporated that difference into the models, the aging “deficits” largely disappeared. “What shocked me, to be honest, is that for the first half of the time we were doing this project, I totally bought into the idea of age-related cognitive decline in healthy adults,” the lead author, Michael Ramscar, said by email. But the simulations, he added, “fit so well to human data that it slowly forced me to entertain this idea that I didn’t need to invoke decline at all.”

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Like goldfish, wasps seem to have pretty good memories also

Wednesday, 29 January, 2014

Goldfish, contrary to popular perception, do not have three second memories, in fact their powers of recall aren’t too bad at all. You might be surprised to learn though that wasps and honey bees, despite having small brains, likewise have pretty good memories:

When these insects view an individual (be it another insect or the person who just pissed them off by swinging a newspaper at them), their field of vision is broken up into hexagons from the thousands of ommatidia that make up the compound eye. Essentially, they process information based on these chunks from the structures in the eye that act as individual units and put the entire picture together. It might not be very clear compared to what we are used to since they don’t have a pupil to regulate the amount of light coming in onto the retina, but it is good enough to allow wasps and bees to discern prominent facial features that can be used for identification.

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Time stands still for no one after jumping the reminiscence bump

Monday, 17 June, 2013

British psychologist and author Claudia Hammond advances some thoughts on why we perceive time as passing more quickly once we turn 25 (or would that be when we leave high school…), it seems that’s about the time we clear the “reminiscence bump”:

She starts with conventional wisdom, i.e. “A year feels faster at the age of 40 because it’s only one fortieth of your life, whereas at the age of eight a year forms a far more significant proportion.” Too simple, she says; as William James once wrote, “the days, the months, and the years [seem shorter]; whether the hours do so is doubtful, and the minutes and seconds to all appearance remain about the same.” It turns out that we form a “preponderance of memories” of life between age 15 and age 25: “first sexual relationships, first jobs, first travel without parents, first experience of living away from home.” This psychological phenomenon has a wonderful name: the Reminiscence Bump.

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In the year 2041 we’ll have forgotten Pluto was ever a planet

Wednesday, 15 August, 2012

And that’s not all. The 1970s, Princess Diana, and Micheal Jackson, are all set to slip from our memories as we march further into the twenty-first century.

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In other words a distractible mind is an efficient mind?

Tuesday, 10 April, 2012

I’m sure I am feeling especially distractible this morning as it is my first day back on deck after a four day weekend, rather than because I may have more “working memory” than others, though I imagine there is nothing wrong with holding out hope this may be the case.

A study recently published in the journal Psychological Science found that people who are constantly distracted have more “working memory.” This gives them the ability to hold a lot of information in their heads and manipulate it mentally. Holding information in working memory while we do something else is critical to learning, multitasking, and problem solving. Working memory capacity is also linked to general intelligence such as higher reading comprehension and IQ scores.

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Might the scent of memories past smell like teen spirit?

Thursday, 26 January, 2012

When certain smells evoke certain memories, usually from our distant past, it’s called the “Proustian phenomenon”, named after French novelist Marcel Proust, who died in 1922. But how effective are smells, or odours, when compared to other “triggers”, such as music, in the recalling of memories?

“It could be argued that a necessary implication of the Proust phenomenon is that odours are more effective triggers of emotional memories than other-modality triggers,” the researchers said. “Under such strong assumptions the results reported here do not confirm the Proust phenomenon. Nonetheless, our findings do extend previous research by demonstrating that odour is a stronger trigger of detailed and arousing memories than music, which has often been held to provide equally powerful triggers as odours.”

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I know London like I know the back of my posterior hippocampus

Wednesday, 14 December, 2011

The amount of information that London taxi drivers are required to assimilate – which is referred to as “The Knowledge” – is so vast that the learning process noticeably alters sections of their brains.

Would-be taxi drivers have to learn 320 routes within a six mile radius of Charing Cross, which covers a mind-boggling 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks and places of interest. Throughout the process, any changes to their brains were mapped by regular MRI scans. Compared with similar scans from non-taxi drivers, those who had attempted the Knowledge had increased the size of the posterior hippocampus – the rear section of the hippocampus which lies at the front of the brain.

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Your teenage years, the best memories of your life

Tuesday, 13 December, 2011

You too may have a case of the “reminiscence bump”, if when asked to choose the best or favourite of anything, be it music, film, a memory, or even a sports-person, you select an example from your late teenage years, rather than from a later, or the present, time.

This term describes the fact that when you ask people to name the most memorable events in their lives, they tend to refer to things that happened to them in their teens and early twenties. Recently it’s been shown that a similar effect occurs when you ask people to name their favourite music, books and films, with them tending to pick out content from their youth.

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Never forget that it isn’t always useful to remember

Wednesday, 30 November, 2011

When it comes to memory, forgetting certain things is just as important as remembering others, though finding an ideal balance between the two is unfortunately problematic.

The bad news is that our memories are anything but concrete and can be altered with relative ease. The good news is that imperfect memory is an evolutionary adaptation that serves our species well much of the time. Loss of memory, and creation of new memory, is central to a relatively efficient system of information processing that never sleeps. The selective movement of information into long-term memory is an adaptive marvel that allows our brains to store crucial pieces of information that we will rely on in the future, and shed information not worth holding onto.

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