Another Embarrassing Failure of Prospective Memory

Readers of the Healthymemory Blog will remember that prospective memory is the memory to do things. Readers might also remember an earlier posting “An Embarrassing Failure of Prospective Memory.” This posting related the story of my forgetting a breakfast appointment with the Dean of the College of Behavioral Sciences. Readers of this blog should also remember that transactive memory refers to external storage of memories, be they on the internet, in a book, or on a calendar or list. I was so confident that I would remember breakfast with the dean that it did not provide any reminders of the appointment anywhere and consequently forgot the appointment. It was this overconfidence in my personal memory that led to this embarrassment.

I’ve just returned from an Alaskan Cruise with my wife. I had planned to take my blue blazer and my college jacket with me. Moreover, I had imagined placing both the blazer and the jacket in my bag when I thought about packing for the trip. We packed and left for the motel. The motel was a park and fly motel that solves the parking problem and also provides for extra winks for an early morning flight. When we unpacked in the motel, I was amazed not to find either the blue blazer or the jacket. I was certain that I had packed them. This was another example of overconfidence in personal memory. Unfortunately, imagining that you are doing something can be confused with actually doing it. Apparently that was what happened in this instance.

The remedy for this is another instance of transactive memory, a checklist. Unfortunately, I am not much of a list maker. There was a serendipitous end to this story. There was time to go to a mall and shop for the missing items. I ended up getting a fine sports coat and a fine jacket, as well as good prices on both. So sometime failures of prospective can be beneficial. However, others can be disastrous. See the blog posting, “Prospective Memory and Technology.” There you will find accounts of parents going to pick up their children only to discover that they had forgotten to drop them off. Under certain conditions, these children died.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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