Category: Memory

We’re Worse At Remembering Exactly What We’ve Given To Friends Than What We’ve Given To Strangers

By Emma Young

Let’s say a friend asks you to help them to move house. When deciding how much time you can offer, you might consider how much you’ve helped that particular friend lately (and perhaps how much they’ve helped you). But a new paper in Social Psychology suggests that if that friend is particularly close, you’re likely to have a poorer memory of just how much time you’ve dedicated to helping them. You might offer more help than you would to an acquaintance not just because this friend is closer, but because your brain’s distinction between a close friend and yourself is blurrier.

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Taking Lecture Notes On A Laptop Might Not Be That Bad After All

By Emma Young

“The pen is mightier than the keyboard”… in other words, it’s better to take lecture notes with a pen and paper rather than a laptop. That was the hugely influential conclusion of a paper published in 2014, by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer. The work was picked up by media around the world, and has received extensive academic attention; it’s been cited more than 1,100 times and, the authors of a new paper, also in Psychological Science, point out, it often features in discussions among educators about whether or not to ban laptops from classrooms. However, when Heather Urry at Tufts University, US, and her colleagues ran a direct replication of that original study, their findings told a different story. And it’s one that the team’s additional mini meta-analysis of other directly comparable replications supported: when later quizzed on the contents of a talk, participants who’d taken notes with a pen and paper did no better than those who’d used a laptop.

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School Kids’ Memory Is Better For Material Delivered With Enthusiasm, Because It Grabs Their Attention

By Emma Young

Like countless other parents across the UK, I’m finding it pretty hard to maintain enthusiasm for my kids’ home-schooling lessons. Or muster it, for that matter. Yet we all know that when an instructor is enthusiastic, those sessions are more enjoyable — and we remember more. While this might be common knowledge, however, “the underlying mechanisms for the favourable effects of teacher enthusiasm are still largely unknown,” write Angelica Moè at the University of Padova, Italy, and her colleagues, in their new paper in the British Journal of Educational Psychology. The team therefore set out to better understand its power. And in a series of studies, they explored the idea that attention is key — that a more enthusiastic delivery grabs pupils’ attention more, which improves their memory for the material.

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Revisiting The “Brain Drain” Effect: Having A Phone On The Desk Doesn’t Always Impair Our Memory

By Emma Young

We all know that using a smartphone interferes with our ability to focus on other things — like driving. But in 2017, a surprising result made international headlines: the mere presence of a switched off smartphone on the desk can impair working memory. Now a new study in Consciousness and Cognition, which has partially replicated and extended this investigation, has not found evidence to support the “brain drain” effect. However, the researchers, led by Matthias Hartmann at University of Bern, Switzerland, say that we shouldn’t start putting our phones back on our desks just yet.

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Why Are We Better At Remembering Vocal Melodies Than Instrumental Tunes?

By Matthew Warren

When it comes to memory for music, humans show an interesting quirk: we’re better at remembering melodies that are sung by voice, compared to those played on an instrument. Even a melody sung without any lyrics — just a series of la la las, for instance — becomes lodged in our memory in a way that a tune played on the piano, say, does not.

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Adults Who Experienced More Positive Emotions Had Less Memory Decline Over The Next Decade

By Emily Reynolds

A huge variety of factors are related to memory, from mood to personality to what substances have been consumed. One recent study, for example, found that older adults with higher openness to experience also experienced fewer cognitive complaints each day; other work has found a relationship between self-reported memory and traits including neuroticism and extraversion.

Now, in a study published in Psychological Science, Emily F. Hittner from Northwestern University and team have looked at the relationship between memory and positive affect — the experience of pleasant emotional states like enthusiasm, pride or joy. And they found less memory decline over time in those participants with higher levels of positive affect.

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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

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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.

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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.

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