12 interesting unusual facts about memory that everyone should know

Many people say they have poor memory, but most are wrong. The way memory works can be surprising, disappointing, strange – but not necessarily “poor”.

For most of us, the problem is not with our memory, but with our understanding of how memory works.

Here are 12 interesting memory anomalies that lead to a better understanding of what makes us remember – or forget.

What we can remember depends in part on the situation and our mental state at the time. That’s because our memory works by association.

Context itself can refer to all kinds of things: some things are easier to remember in a certain place, others are easier to remember when we experience specific smells, or when we are in particular emotional states.

One study demonstrated this by asking scuba divers to study word lists either 15ft underwater or on land (Godden & Baddeley, 1975).

It turned out that when they learned the words underwater, they remembered 32% of the words when tested underwater, but only 21% when tested on land.

Of course our memory is much more complicated than a list of words. But research confirms that for memory, context is important.

12 interesting unusual facts about memory that everyone should know

If you’ve ever worried about the internet’s effect on your mind, this aspect of memory seems to add to those worries.

The “Google effect” is the finding that we tend to forget things we know we can search for on the internet.

In a study by Sparrow et al. (2011) participants were manipulated to think that they could either find objects they were asked to recall from a computer, or deleted objects.

The results showed that people’s memory deteriorated for the things they thought they could look for.

Crucially, while it’s true that people’s memories worsen when they can access information, they know better where to find it.

Assuming you can search almost anything on the internet does that mean we end up forgetting most things?

The study’s author, Betsy Sparrow, sees this as a reorganization of how we remember things:

“Our brains rely on the internet for memory in much the same way that we rely on the memory of a friend, family member or co-worker. We remember less about the information itself than where it can be found.”

As such, this is not a step backwards, but an evolution in the way memory works.

On average, negative emotions are forgotten more quickly than positive emotions.

One study asked people to write about things that happened to them over a period of months.

They were then asked to recall those events five years later.

A strange thing happens to most (non-depressed) people: negative events are forgotten at a higher rate than positive events.

Psychologists don’t know exactly why this happens, but it does appear to be part of our natural psychological immune system that helps protect us against the inevitable blows of life. .

The truth is that the more deeply an event or memory is processed, the greater the chance that the event will be recalled later.

A classic study asked people to try to remember a list of words (Craik & Tulving, 1975).

Some were asked to focus on external details, like the sound of words or how they were written. The other group had to deal with the meaning of the words.

You would be surprised to know that those who thought about the meanings of words did best in a test afterwards.

Finding deeper connections is the way to make memories firmly in mind.

When a memory is “misattributed” some initially authentic aspects of a memory become distorted through time, space, or circumstances.

Some examples studied in the lab are:

Misattribute the origin of memories. In one study, participants with “normal” memories frequently made the mistake of thinking they obtained an ordinary event from a newspaper, when in fact the experimenters provided give them that fact (Schacter, Harbluk, & McLachlan, 1984).

Misattribute a face to the wrong context. Studies show that memories can be mixed, so faces and backgrounds blend together.

Memory expert Daniel Schacter suggests that such misattributions can be helpful to us (Schacter, 1999).

Our ability to draw, abstract, and generalize from experience allows us to apply the lessons we have learned in one area to another.

The Zeigarnik effect is named after a Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik, who noticed something strange while eating at a restaurant in Vienna.

The waiters seem to only remember orders that are in the process of being served. When they were done, the food orders disappeared from their memory.

Zeigarnik returned to the lab to test a theory of what was going on.

She asked participants to perform 20 or so simple tasks in the laboratory (Zeigarnik, 1927). Occasionally they were interrupted during the mission.

She then asked them what tasks they remembered to do. People can remember more than twice as long the tasks they were interrupted as the ones they completed.

The Zeigarnik effect states that unfinished tasks are remembered better than completed tasks.

Most adults cannot recall most, if not anything, from before age 3.

It is what Sigmund Freud first termed “childhood amnesia”.

A new study of childhood memories reveals that childhood amnesia begins around age 7 (Bauer & Larkina, 2013).

The results showed that between the ages of 5 and 7, children were able to recall between 63% and 72% of the events they first recalled at age 3.

However, by the age of 8 or 9, children only recall about 35% of events.

As children, the hippocampus – a part of the brain important for memory – is still reproducing neurons: new neurons are constantly being born.

Until this process is complete, we find it difficult to retain long-term memories of ourselves.

12 interesting unusual facts about memory that everyone should know

Although we can recall very little from around the age of seven, adolescence and early adulthood are an entirely different matter.

Between the ages of 10 and 30, most adults experience some of the biggest moments in their lives. It’s studying, going through puberty, falling in love, deciding on a career, getting married, having your first child…

While the later years of their lives may be filled with happiness and fulfillment, it is those two decades when most people experience the greatest changes in their psychological identity, goals, and goals. and their living situation.

Therefore people tend to remember this period most intensely – that is the “remembrance flash” ; named after the sharp bounce on the graph of people’s self-recollection of memories (red).

New experiences do not fall on an empty board; We do not simply record the things we see around us.

Instead, everything we do, think, or experience is influenced by past thoughts and events that have happened to us.

A powerful human psychological drive is to be consistent.

This can lead to consistency bias: we have a tendency to reconstruct the past to make it more relevant to our current worldview.

For example, as people age, on average, they become more politically conservative.

Many seemingly genuine memories turn out to be false memories, if not all fictional events, if we can examine them.

But, does the long passage of time corrupt the memory, or is there some process that causes this change?

In one experiment, participants had memories stored in a carefully controlled manner to test this (St. Jacques & Schacter, 2013).

The results show that human memories are both enhanced and distorted by the recall process. This shows that simply recalling a memory is enough to reinforce it.

This is one aspect of the fact that memory is an active, reconstructive process; recalling something is not a neutral act, it strengthens that memory compared to other memories.

The hope is that these “irregularities” of memory help underline the fact that some of what we think of as a disadvantage of memory are actually strengths.

12 interesting unusual facts about memory that everyone should know

Like everything else, memory is not a comprehensive system and cannot be classified as good or bad. If we can’t remember names or faces of other people, is it because our entire memory system is bad? If we forget yesterday’s conversation, won’t we remember tomorrow’s lecture? There is no connection at all.

Maybe we have a good memory for remembering phone numbers or remembering lyrics when we’ve only heard it on the radio once. The problem stems from the popular notion of society that there are only two possibilities: a good memory and a bad memory.

In fact, there are many possibilities: we may remember well in certain areas but poorly in others. When a platoon fails to perform a particular task, it does not mean that the entire army needs to be reviewed, or that the commander has to conduct a thorough review throughout the training camp. It was clearly an accident. The same goes for memory. If we have a hard time remembering a phone number, it doesn’t mean we have a bad memory. It just means we have a hard time remembering a phone number. When you recognize this feature, you will find the task becomes much simpler, from there all we need to do is improve the areas where memory is weak.

In fact, there are many types of memory and there are also many memorization abilities. Some people just glance at it and immediately “write” a sequence of several dozen numbers, due to having a strong visual memory . Meanwhile, there are people who remember like printing the entire symphony when they hear it for the first time, due to having a good auditory memory .

Some people have “synthetic memory” , meaning that just seeing (or hearing) a word wind is able to associate everything related to the wind, such as the movie title C bends with the wind , and the exact content of the songs with this word.

As for the ability to retain information , no one is the same, because for one person, information A is very important, but for another, only information B is worth remembering. Therefore, there are people who remember the birthdays of great people very long, while others remember the license plates very well. The environment also contributes to other types of memory, which neuroscience calls “trained memory” . A policeman must have a good visual memory to take in license plates, while a musician must have a strong auditory memory. Meanwhile, good tasters or chefs need to have a superior taste memory .