Category: Memory

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.

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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.

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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”

Public Belief In “Memory Myths” Not Actually That Widespread, Study Argues

GettyImages-668658382.jpgBy Emma Young

The general public has a pretty poor understanding of how memory works — and lawyers and clinical psychologists can be just as bad. At least, this is what many researchers have asserted, notes a team at University College London in a new paper, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. However, their research reveals that the idea that most people ignorantly subscribe to “memory myths” is itself a myth.

The wording of earlier studies, and also discrepancies in how memory experts and the general public tend to interpret the meaning of statements about memory, have painted a bleaker picture of public understanding than is actually the case, according to a series of studies led by Chris Brewin. This has important implications for cases in which ideas about memory are highly relevant — among jurors in a court room, for example.

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Timing Is Crucial For Creating Accurate Police Sketches From Eyewitness Descriptions

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By Emma Young

A witness to a crime has to describe the offender’s face in as much detail as they can before they work with a police expert to create a visual likeness — a “facial composite”, sometimes called a photo-fit, or e-fit. But the way this is typically handled in police stations could be reducing the accuracy of these images, according to a new paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

There have been concerns that the process of describing facial features might create a so-called “verbal overshadowing” that interferes with the visual memories of the offender. Recent work had suggested that waiting half an hour before starting on the composite should allow this predicted over-shadowing to fade away, and so make for a better composite. However, the new research, led by Charity Brown at the University of Leeds, has found that in more real-world situations, a delay actually makes things worse.

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Drinking Alcohol Focuses Our Attention On The External Features Of Faces, With Implications For Eyewitness Memory

GettyImages-487464968.jpgBy Emily Reynolds

Having a bit of a fuzzy memory is not an uncommon side effect of having had too much to drink the night before — and the details we do remember are often somewhat limited. The same can also be true for our attention when drunk: we’re only able to concentrate on what’s going on in front of us and not what’s happening elsewhere.

This phenomenon has been termed “alcohol myopia”: attentional shortsightedness related to alcohol consumption. A new paper in the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggests this shortsightedness may apply to human faces, too — and that it could have an impact on how well people can identify perpetrators of crimes they witness while drunk.

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Using Fidget Spinners May Actually Impede Learning

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By Emily Reynolds

Though fidget spinners have been around since the early 1990s, it was 2017 when they really started to make a stir, becoming a seemingly overnight sensation and starting to appear in offices, classrooms, public transport and pretty much anywhere else they were permitted. The actual provenance of the design has been debated, but many companies market the toys as a tool for concentration, particularly for those who have anxiety, ADHD or autism.

Calming — and fun — they may be, but do they actually work when it comes to keeping attention? Julia S. Soares & Benjamin C. Storm from the University of California, Santa Cruz think not. In a new paper, they look at the marketing of fidget spinners as attentional aides — and come to the conclusion that they may be actively distracting.

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