My name is Doug Griffith. I was born in 1946. That puts me at the leading edge of the Baby Boomers. I received a Bachelor’s Degree with Distinction in Psychology from Ohio State University in 1967. In 1972 I received a Master of Science degree tin Psychology from the University of Utah and in 1974 I received my Ph.D. in Psychology, also from the University of Utah. My area of interest is human information processing with special emphasis on human memory. I have taught at the University level, but my professional life has been primarily in government and industry. Most of my work here has concerned humans and their interactions with technology. I am a former President of the Potomac Chapter of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. I have also served as President of Division 21 (Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology) of the American Psychological Association.
As I move with my fellow Baby Boomers into our senior years I am most concerned about maintaining cognitive health and effective cognitive functioning. Memory is central to these objectives. Memory loss implies not only the loss of cognitive functioning, but also the loss of personal memories and the concept of self. In pathological cases, amnesia, Alzheimer’s, and Senile Dementia, we can forget who we are. So the focus of this blog is on memory, how to use it effectively and how to keep it functioning effectively.
About This Blog
This blog is concerned with memory and with the maintenance of effective memory. It consists of three primary themes. One theme addresses human memory and how it works. The second theme is concerned with mnemonic techniques, specific techniques for improving memory. The third theme is transactive memory. Perhaps you have never heard of this, but it is an important concept that assumes even more importance in this technological age. There will be more about this later.
Human memory is a fascinating topic. It is also an important topic as a good understanding of memory is important to its effective use. Human memory is highly fallible. This is not generally appreciated, and it is important to understand the failures, biases, and weaknesses in memory so that we can compensate for them. Many people remain unaware of the shortcomings of their memories until they hit middle age and start to approach old age. They become sensitized to instances of their memories failing and start fearing that they are beginning to feel the ravages of aging, or worse yet, the onset of Alzheimer’ Disease. So memory failures that would have gone unnoticed when they were younger assume high importance and concern. These instances are frequently termed “Senior Moments.” This term reeks of ageism and should be banned from our usage. The term is as offensive as the “N” word. So this blog should make you aware of the weaknesses of memory, inform you when you should be concerned about them, and how to take actions to circumvent or mitigate them.
Mnemonic techniques are specific techniques have been around at least since the time of the Ancient Greeks. At one time, mnemonic techniques were an essential part of the study of rhetoric. Mnemonic techniques predate the development of the Greek Alphabet. Socrates feared that this new alphabet would detract from human discourse and rhetoric. Of course, an alphabet is required to write things down. Even with the advent of the alphabet, mnemonic techniques stilled prevailed as writing was costly. After the advent of the printing press and the development of inexpensive writing technologies, mnemonic techniques feel out of favor. Nevertheless, they remain effective for learning and remembering new information, especially information that is new and has little inherent meaning. In addition to improving memory, mnemonic techniques also exercise the brain in calling upon both hemispheres and requiring the exercise of a variety of cognitive functions, such as problem solving, planning, and recoding, just to name a few. So in addition to providing a means for improving memory, they also provide exercises that might improve cognitive health.
Transactive memory refers to memories that are outside your brain. Transactive memory can reside in the memories of other humans or in technology. So when you ask someone to remind you of something you are using transactive memory. When you write something down you are using transactive memory. Do not forget that pencil and paper are instances of technology. When you store information in your computer, you are using transactive memory. And when you retrieve information from the internet, you are using transactive memory. Transactive memory not only provides human and technological extensions of memory, but it also provides a means of enhancing cognitive health. More will be written about this in later blogs.
Now a few words about what this blog will not cover. The brain maintenance business is big business. There are memory devices and computer programs that purport to maintain and advance cognitive health. Moreover, there is scientific evidence supporting the benefits of some of these programs and devices. This blog has nothing against these programs and devices. I might eventually develop some of my own at a later date. But coverage of this topic can be found elsewhere (e.g., http://www.sharpbrains.com). The position of this blog is that such programs and devices are not required to maintain and enhance cognitive functioning. There is a clear analogy with physical conditioning here. Health club memberships and exercise equipment can be helpful in staying physically fit. However, one can also stay physically fit by a good exercise program without expensive memberships or equipment. This blog is devoted to the maintenance and enhancement of cognitive health through mental exercise and transactive memory, which does include the internet.
© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. 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 Griffithand healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.