Category: Memory

Here’s Why We Falsely Remember Completing Tasks We Had Intended To Do

By Emily Reynolds

Finishing off a big task can be memorable, whether you sincerely feel you’ve achieved something or are just relieved to have got it out of the way. Everyday tasks, however, are much more mundane: taking your daily medication or typing in a password are unlikely to be particularly noteworthy events.

You may also have found a gap between your intention to do a particular mundane task and actually enacting it — meaning you either can’t remember whether you actually did it, or misremember having done it entirely. It’s this phenomenon that Dolores Albarracin and colleagues from the University of Illinois explore for the first time in a new paper in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

Continue reading “Here’s Why We Falsely Remember Completing Tasks We Had Intended To Do”

Babies’ Moods Can Determine How Well They Remember Things They’ve Learned

By Matthew Warren

One of the classic findings in memory research is that we’re better at remembering information when we’re in a similar context to that in which we learned it. This was perhaps most famously demonstrated in a 1975 study, which found that people who learned a list of words while scuba diving had better memory for the words when again underwater, compared to when on land (similarly, those who had learned the list on land were better at remembering it on land).

But it’s not just the external environment that matters: our internal states can also provide memory cues. For instance, people who were intoxicated when learning information were better at recalling that information when drunk than when sober, and there’s also evidence that our recall is better when our mood matches how we felt at learning.

Now a new study published in Child Development has found that the same is true even of babies in their first year of life. The findings have implications for understanding infant memory — and could even help to explain why we can’t remember anything from our early years.

Continue reading “Babies’ Moods Can Determine How Well They Remember Things They’ve Learned”

Musings On Music: Seven Insights From Psychology

By Emma Young

Music and humans go back a very long way. The earliest accepted instruments, made from bones, appear on the European scene about 40,000 years ago. But for perhaps at least a million years before that, our ancestors had the throat architecture that in theory would have allowed them to sing.

All kinds of ideas have been put forward for why and how music came to matter so much to us. But what’s abundantly clear is that it does matter; there isn’t a society out there that doesn’t make and listen to music. And new research is now revealing all manner of psychological and neurological effects… Continue reading “Musings On Music: Seven Insights From Psychology”

Finally, One Area Where We Don’t Think We’re Better Than Others: Remembering Names

By Matthew Warren

We tend to see ourselves as better than our peers across a whole range of traits and skills. We think we’re more environmentally friendlymorally superior, and more observant than those around us. The bias can even spill over to our perceptions of our loved ones: we overestimate the intelligence of our romantic partners, for instance.

But according to a new study in Psychology and Aging there’s one domain where we don’t see ourselves as “better than average”: remembering other people’s names.

Continue reading “Finally, One Area Where We Don’t Think We’re Better Than Others: Remembering Names”

How To Get The Most Out Of Virtual Learning

By Emily Reynolds 

When the coronavirus hit, many of us had to quickly adapt to remote working — and even post-pandemic, many of us are likely to continue at least some of these tasks online.

Demands for more flexible working practices continue to grow, and for good reason — it can make life easier for employees with parenting or caring responsibilities, health problems or disabilities, and some argue it can also increase productivity. Online webinars and conferences also allow continued professional development without workers ever having to leave their home office.

Things are no different in the world of education: many undergraduate courses now provide lecture recordings for students to watch in their own time, and online masters programmes are offered by some of the UK’s top universities. Freshers’ Week this year is also likely to be very different, with many students experiencing a wholly virtual first year of university.

But learning online is not always easy. How do you concentrate when staring at a screen for hours at a time? How do you manage your workload? And what is the best strategy for note-taking? Here’s our digest of the findings that could help to make online learning stick.

Continue reading “How To Get The Most Out Of Virtual Learning”

This Hard-To-Read Font Was Designed To Boost Memory — But It Might Not Actually Work

By Emily Reynolds

Whether we’re learning a new language, prepping for a job interview or simply trying to remember what we went into the kitchen for, many of us are keen to cultivate a better memory. And often strategies that add an element of effort or difficulty can help: drawing things rather than writing them down, for example, or generating questions about study material rather than simply reading it.

So in 2018, there was much fanfare when a team from Australia’s RMIT University developed a difficult-to-read font, Sans Forgetica, that they said could boost memory through such a “desirable difficulty”.

But new research in Memory from Andrea Taylor and colleagues from the University of Warwick and the University of Waikato, New Zealand, has put the font to the test — and found little evidence that it actually improves our memory. Continue reading “This Hard-To-Read Font Was Designed To Boost Memory — But It Might Not Actually Work”

Memory Complaints Are More Common Among Older Adults With Particular Personality Traits

By Emma Young

Memory complaints are fairly common among elderly people. Together with low participation in cognitively demanding activities, such as reading or doing crosswords, they can predict future declines — including the risk of developing dementia.

It might seem likely, then, that people with poorer cognitive functioning may report more problems, and may be less able to engage in (and so benefit from) reading or other stimulating activities. However, a new paper, published in Psychology and Aging, suggests that another factor is more important in predicting both these complaints and engagement in stimulating activities: personality. Continue reading “Memory Complaints Are More Common Among Older Adults With Particular Personality Traits”

We’re Not Good At Spotting When Someone Has A False Memory Of Committing A Crime

By Emily Reynolds

Our memories are not always reliable. But sometimes they’re rich, textured and vivid — even if they didn’t happen. Research has suggested false memories often have the descriptive, multisensory elements of real memories, a fact that obviously poses both interesting questions about memory itself and difficulties for those relying on eyewitness encounters for evidence.

But beyond the question of how people remember is another quandary: are we, as observers, able to tell whether someone’s memory is true or false? It’s a question tackled by UCL’s Julia Shaw in a new study published in Frontiers in Psychology — and she finds that not only are we susceptible to having memories planted, we’re not very good at working out when someone else’s memory is false either.

Continue reading “We’re Not Good At Spotting When Someone Has A False Memory Of Committing A Crime”

These Two Revision Strategies Can Prepare You For An Exam Much Better Than Just Restudying Your Notes

By Matthew Warren

When studying for exams, it can be tempting to just re-read textbooks or attempt to memorise your notes. But psychologists know that there are actually much more effective ways of learning — they just require a bit of extra effort.

A recent paper in Applied Cognitive Psychology has highlighted two of these superior strategies. The team finds that university students whose revision involves testing themselves or making up questions about course material perform better in a later exam than those who simply restudy their notes. Continue reading “These Two Revision Strategies Can Prepare You For An Exam Much Better Than Just Restudying Your Notes”

Getting Some Sleep Doesn’t Make Eyewitnesses Any Better At Identifying Suspects

Person Pointing at a Police LineupBy Emily Reynolds

We tend to think of sleep as a positive thing. Not enough of it, and we suffer: our moods drop, and we find it harder to both concentrate on what’s in front of us and remember what’s happened. Being well-rested, on the other hand, is associated with greater ability to communicate, to achievement at home and at work, and to superior recollection of previously learned facts or events.

Based on what we already know about the benefits of sleep on memory it may seem obvious that going to bed would also help eyewitnesses identify those they had seen perpetrate crimes. But in a new study, published in Royal Society Open Science, researchers found no such association: it was confidence, not being well-rested, that made a difference. Continue reading “Getting Some Sleep Doesn’t Make Eyewitnesses Any Better At Identifying Suspects”