Posts Tagged ‘Cognitive Growth’

An Increasing Failure to Use Technology to Foster Cognitive Growth

May 7, 2016

Two concepts are central to the healthy memory blog.  One is cognitive growth, which stresses the importance of cognitive growth for healthy memories and a fulfilling life.  The other is transactive memory, which is the use of technology and our fellow human beings to foster cognitive growth.  Consequently I found an article by Brian Fung in the April 25 edition of the Washington Post titled “New data:  American are abandoning wired home Internet” distressing.

According to the article in 2013, 1 in 10 U.S.  households were mobile-only.  Now 1 in 5 U.S. households are mobile-only. There is also a relationship between household income and mobile only use, with poorer households being more likely to be mobile only.  So the problem of income divide and the effective use of technology is still prevalent.

Regular readers of the healthy memory blog should already understand my discontent. but I shall elaborate for those who are not regular readers.  Mobile computing can be extremely helpful when people are mobile.  However, use of mobile devices do have some serious shortcomings.

Previous posts have argued that exclusive or excessive mobile computing results in superficial interpersonal relationships (enter “Sherry Turkle” into the healthy memory blog search block).  To do “deep processing” that produces cognitive growth requires at least a notebook and preferably a laptop computer.  This is best done in a quiet location with minimal distractions.  The multitasking that is frequently done with mobile devices results in deficient cognitive processing and can result in possible danger to others in addition to oneself (enter, “multitasking” into the healthy memory search block).

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. 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 healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Passing 70

May 6, 2016

Today I enter my 71st year.  My 70th year was noteworthy in that I retired from formal employment.  I could have continued in my job, but I found my work to be meaningless, as my knowledge and talents were not being used.  So I retired from formal employment.

You might ask about ikigai.  Ikigai is a Japanese word, which roughly translated means “the reason to get up in the morning.”  In other words, have reasons for living.   Formal employment was not ikigai.  Actually it was hindering my ikigai.

My ikigai is to continue to grow cognitively, to build a cognitive reserve, to avoid dementia, and to share what I learn with others.  “Others” is not restricted to the elderly.  “Others” refers to everyone.  The fields of cognitive psychology and cognitive science are rapidly developing.  One of the goals of this blog is to share the excitement of these fields with my readers as well as point to their relevance to a healthy memory.  Other topics related to effective thinking, decision making, and health are also covered.  These topics help us grown cognitively.

Since retiring from formal employment, I have more time to meditate and to think.  I also have the opportunity to read more, to grow cognitively and, I hope, personally.  However, even  though I have more time, I still cannot come close to covering all the exciting research and Ideas that are being produced.  Even in retirement, there are still not enough hours in a day.  Nevertheless, I am enjoying life with my wife immensely.

I received more congratulations on my retirement than I had received for my marriage or for completing my doctorate.  I found that strange, but in some sense accurate.  This is the best time of my life.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. 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 healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Value of Personal Time

August 15, 2015

The value of personal time is something that should not be overlooked.  I had been planning on continuing to work in lieu of retiring.  I knew that there was an inverse relationship between the age of retirement and the onset of dementia.  However, I did not find my work to be fulfilling.  On the contrary, it was aggravating.  As there was no financial need to continue working, I retired.

Since retiring my personal time has significantly increased and I’m finding that this personal time is not only enjoyable, but is also providing opportunities for personal growth.  As long as I grow cognitively, exercise, and eat a reasonable diet, there is no reason to think that my probability for dementia is increasing.  Indeed I believe that the probability of cognitive decline is not only decreasing, but it is also turning into a period of cognitive growth.

I encourage readers to value personal time.  Are you working unnecessarily?  Are you spending personal time so that it is enjoyable and is providing for personal growth?
Planning for retirement is something that should be done early in life.  Always save a portion of earnings and take advantage of plans offered by your employer to the maximum.  And never carry credit card debt.  Starting early is essential.  I get a kick out of commercials offering plans of investing for exorbitant retirements.  None of these plans can provide magic.  The most important point is to start early.  Believe me, age sneaks up on you faster than you can imagine.

Savings provide both security and control over you personal time.  Do not underestimate the value of personal time.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. 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 healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Today I Enter the 70th Year of My Life

May 6, 2015

Meaning that today is my 69th birthday.  My first thought is, where has all the time gone?  Time not just flies, it flies supersonically.   I can use the marvelous time travel machine in my brain, my memory, and almost instantaneously travel back to when I was four years old or to any other specific time in my life.  The purpose of memory as a time travel machine is for us to use what we have experienced and learned in our pasts and project it into our future plans and actions.  It is here that memories can disappoint.  Too often I have failed to use information from my past in the future.  That is, I have failed to use lessons learned.  I have no idea how much longer I shall live.  It is highly doubtful that it will be for another 69 years.  I have already outlived my father and my brother.  My mother made it into here 100th year.  Unfortunately, she was plagued with dementia for the last several years of her life.

It is my goal to avoid dementia and to continue to grow cognitively the remaining years of my life.  Recent research, which will be posted in the next healthymemory blog post, found that “Crystalized Intelligence,” a measure of accumulated knowledge, doesn’t peak until people are in their late 60’s or 70’s.  Now these are average data.  There are individuals whose crystalized intelligence either peaks later or when they die.

So how can this potential be enhanced?  That is the question to which the healthymemory blog is devoted, and the first answer is not to wait.  Regardless of age, engage in the practices and advice of the healthymemory blog.  There is an overwhelming amount of advice and number of practices, so choose those with which you are compatible and continue to read this blog.

Perhaps first and foremost is the importance of ikigai.  Ikigai is a Japanese word, which roughly translated means “the reason to get up in the morning.”  In other words, have reasons for living.  Knowing your purpose(s) in life is important to your well being.  Research has indicated that having a regular job  decreases the probability of suffering from dementia.  Consequently, I continue working at my regular job.  Still I need to consider whether I am better off continuing at this job, and getting up extremely early in the morning, or pursuing other activities that might be more beneficial cognitively.  In doing so, I need to draw upon my time travel machine, my memory, to be sure that I am not ignoring any lessons learned when making my decision.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. 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 healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Happy Thanksgiving 2014!

November 25, 2014

We, homo sapiens,have much for which to be thankful. I often question whether we are worthy of our name. Nevertheless, we have much cognitive potential for which to be thankful. I believe that the best way of giving thanks is to foster and grow this potential throughout our lifetimes.

Consider our memories, which are de facto time travel machines. We travel into the past and into the future. Actually we travel into the past, to retrieve what we have learned, to cope with the future. We have both experienced and remembered pasts (see the Healthymemory blog post, “Photos, Experiencing Selves and Remembering Selves”). We can go back in time before we were born via our imaginations and transactive memory. Similarly we can go forward into time via both our imaginations and transactive memory (transactive memory are those held by fellow humans and by technological artifacts such as books and computers).

When human minds are put to best use via creativity and critical thinking, tremendous artistic, scientific, engineering, and cultural feats are achieved. And we each have individual potential that we should do our best to foster and grow throughout our lifetimes by continuing to take on cognitive challenges and to interact with transactive memory (our fellow humans and technology). We should not retire from or give up on cognitive growth. And we should assist our fellow humans who are in need to grow their individual potential. This is the best means of giving thanks!

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2014. 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 healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Myth of Cognitive Decline

February 23, 2014

“The Myth of Cognitive Decline: Non-Linear Dynamics of Lifelong Learning”1 is certainly one of the most important scientific articles I have read in recent years. Contrary to the commonly accepted notion that cognitive information processing capabilities decline across adulthood, the article makes a compelling argument that older adults’ changing performance reflects memory search demands, which increase as experience grows.

This argument is based on a series of simulations that show how the performance patterns observed across adulthood emerge naturally in learning models as additional knowledge is acquired. The simulations identify greater variation in the cognitive performance of older adults, and also predict that older adults show greater sensitivity to fine-grained differences in the properties of test stimuli than younger adults. In other words, the results indicate that older adults’ performance on cognitive tests reflects the predictable consequences of learning on information processing and not cognitive decline.

Simply put, the more information we have as we age can slow down the retrieval of information and make it more difficult to distinguish differences among items in memory. Here it is wise to revisit the distinction between information availability and information accessibility. Information can be available in memory, but we simply cannot access it. Many times we know we know something, but simply cannot recall it. These are the cases when information is available but not accessible. Frequently, I try to recall some piece of information, say an actor’s name, but just can’t seem to locate it. Sometimes I shall challenge my wife and see if she remembers. Sometimes she does, and sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes she will come up with a partial cue that leads to the desired memory. I try to resist the temptation to Googling it in these situations as I think these attempts at retrieval aid keeping the memory healthy.  They force us to revisit infrequently visited memory circuits. What is interesting is that long after I have consciously given up the search and resisted Googling it, the desired memory will suddenly pop into mind. This might occur the next day, perhaps even several days later. This is a good example of how a long latency might be mistakenly interpreted as a memory loss.

One might argue that these conclusions are based on simulations rather than on human experiments. Research into this topic is currently underway using humans. The problem with using human participants to research this problem is that it is difficult to control or estimate important variables. In these cases, simulations can actually provide more accurate answers.

There is the observation that cognitive decline really kicks in around 60 or 70. What is the basis for this observation? How can it be explained? Here is the explanation taken directly from the Ramscar article on p. 34: “If a common environmental change like retirement was to systematically reduce the variety of contexts people encounter in their lives, learning theory predicts that the amount of contextual information they learn will drop further, as the background rates of cues in the remaining contexts rise (Kruschke,2 Ramscar et al3). It follows from this that if people were to increasingly spend time in environments where any cues have high background rates already (family homes), any effects arising from their cumulative experience of learning to ignore task irrelevant contextual (background) cues will be exacerbated . In other words because discriminative learning by its very nature reduces sensitivity to everyday context, retirement is likely to make memories harder to individuate and more confusable, absent any “cognitive declines,” simply because retirement is likely to decrease contextual variety at exactly the time when the organization of older adults’ memories needs it most.”

In other words, as you have read in previous healthymemory blog posts, retirement can foster cognitive decline. So retirements need to be active, so that people can continue to grow cognitively and have social engagements in varying contexts. Obviously I am biased, but I think that reading the healthymemory blog and following some of its practices provides a good start.

It is certainly true that there can be pathologies that cause cognitive decline. Unfortunately, what is the normal performance of what are truly healthy memories can be misinterpreted as cognitive decline.

1Ramscar, M., Hendrix, P., Shaoul, C., Milin, P., & Bayan, H. (2014). Topics in Cognitive Science, 6, 5-42.

2Krushke, J.J. (1996). Base Rates in Category Learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition. 22, 3-26 .

3Ramscar, M., Dye, M., & Klein, J. (2013). Childrean value informativity over logic in word learning, Psychological Science, 24, 1017-1023.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2014. 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 healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Extend Your Abilities

October 9, 2013

The fifth principle of contemplative computing1 is to Extend Your Abilities. Readers of the healthymemory blog should realize that this is one of the healthymemory themes. It comes under the rubric of transactive memory. Transactive memory refers to knowledge that is resident in technology, ranging from the world wide web to conventional texts, as well as knowledge that is resident in our fellow human beings.

Some of what we know is resident in our individual minds, our brains. There is other information that we know, cannot recall, but know how to find. This is referred to as accessible transactive memory. That is, we know how to find and access it quickly. Then there is information that we know exists, but cannot find or access readily. This is referred to as available accessible information. This is information that we are fairly confident we can locate given enough time and searches. Finally, there is potential transactive memory. This is all the knowledge and information that is available on earth. As individuals, our task is to transfer some knowledge from accessible transactive memory to our individual minds and brains. Then we need to transfer some knowledge from available transactive memory to accessible transactive memory. And, finally, there is this vast store of information and knowledge that is currently unknown. Although we can hope to learn only a fraction of this information, this is still a matter of extending our abilities.

We are constantly confronted with the epistemological question, how well do we need to know something? Do we need to know it well enough so that we can expound upon it without notes? Perhaps knowing how to access it quickly will suffice. Or perhaps, we only need to know that it exists, and that we can find it if we search long enough for it. It would be a mistake to put too much knowledge into any one of these categories. The percentage placed in each, will be a matter of individual choice. But we still should have the goal of upgrading the storage category for a certain amount of this knowledge. And we should always be extending our knowledge into the potential transactive memory category. This is all a part of extending our abilities and growing cognitively.

The first four principles of contemplative computing have been discussed in the immediately preceding posts. The next three principles will be discussed in subsequent posts.

1(2013) Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim. The Distraction Addiction.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2013. 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 healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Transactive Memory for Cognitive and Artistic Growth

February 22, 2012

Transactive memory includes memories/information that are stored in technology. The technology can range from paper to Cyberspace. So this blob post provides some examples. Consider the following link

http://cliptank.com/PeopleofInfluencePainting.htm

You do not need to “Click to Start” to use the web page. Scroll up and down and left to right to see the picture. When you mouse over an individual picture, the name of the individual pictured should be displayed. (Sometimes it is not displayed, you can see it in the lower left updating of the URL.) Clicking on the picture will take you to a reference, usually in the Wikipedia, telling you about the individual. So this is a good test of how much you know. It is also a good vehicle for increasing your knowledge.

The social aspect of transactive memory, that is memories of your fellow humans, can be explored by using this website to play a game. You could draw cards or straws to determine the order of play. The first person would move the cursor just below an individual. The other players would try to name the person. Naming the person would win one point. Naming the person and saying something indicating that you know something about the individual would earn a second point. Turns would rotate, with each player trying to pick relatively obscure characters that the other(s) did not know. However, in all cases, missing the name, not knowing anything about the individual, or a correct answer, the name and the reference would be checked. So if no one recognized the individual, both would learn something. The game could go on until a certain number of points were reached, or a time limit was reached. This game could be extended to multiple players. Of course, the first to respond correctly would be the only one rewarded points.

For artistic growth, go to http://www.artcyclopedia.com/museums.html

There you can explore museums and masterpieces throughout the world.

There are also some websites for learning and developing proficiency in mnemonic techniques. One is www.NeuroMod.org. Click on the Human Memory Site. Then click on the “read more” link under your preferred language. You can open up an account and record and track your progress. Another site is www.Thememorypage.net. Both of these websites are free. In addition to increasing your ability to remember, these mnemonic techniques also provide cognitive exercise (See the healthymemory blog post, “How Using Mnemonic Techniques Exercise the Brain.”

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. 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 healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

An Interesting and Inspirational Website

September 15, 2010

The Healthymemory Blog periodically revisits the www.fletchplatt.com website. There are two reasons for doing so. First of all, it is an outstanding website with access to many interesting resources. The second reason is the webmaster himself, Fletcher Platt Sr. Fletch is a retired automotive engineer in his nineties. He has remained active and engaged throughout his retirement. His website is but one example of this activity.

I encourage you to go www.fletchplatt.com, bookmark it, and spend some time exploring it. Although some topics should be of primary interest to the retired and the elderly, most should be of interest to many. Some are highly pragmatic, explaining how to get things done and how things work, while others are primarily of intellectual and artistic interest. There is much medical information as well as information on injury prevention. Fletch provides his own thoughts and ideas and invites his readers to engage in dialogue. One can look on the website as a vehicle for cognitive growth. Explore the website in both breadth and depth. You’re likely to become a regular visitor to some of the links, and the time you spend visiting the site and its links should lead to a healthy memory and cognitive growth.

Fletch has not simply gone on the defensive as he has grown older. He has been proactive and continued to grow personally and cognitively. Moreover, he has shared his growth via his website. This is a splendid example of transactive memory. Remember that transactive memory consists not only of all the information and knowledge store in technology, but also all the information and knowledge store in our fellow human beings. It is a vehicle for cognitive growth and enrichment. And Fletch and his website provide a splendid example. 

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 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 healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Transactive Memory: Means to a Healthy Memory and Brain

December 11, 2009

In human memory a distinction is made between memories that are available and memories that are accessible. Accessible memories are those that can be recalled right away without any difficulty. Memories can still be available but be inaccessible at the moment. So these are memories that you know are stored in your memory, but you cannot find them now. Later, or given the appropriate prompt or cue, these memories can become accessible.

Transactive memory refers to memories that are stored external to your brain. Books, computers, the internet, as well as other human beings are all types of transactive memory. Information that is accessible in transactive memory is information that you can locate or retrieve quickly. You know where it is. It is literally at your fingertips. Information can also be available but not accessible in transactive memory. This is information that you know is available someplace, but you do not remember how to locate or access it. If you are on your computer, this is when you use your search function.

There is yet another type of transactive memory. This is potential transactive memory. Potential transactive memory could include all memories stored in the world.  This would include both technological (paper and electronic) storage and biological (data held in human memories) storage. It is termed potential transactive memory because of its huge potential for enhancing an individual’s transactive memory. This is information that can be brought to different levels in either transactive memory, available or accessible, or personal memory, available or accessible. As the amount of information in potential transactive memory is truly overwhelming, one must be careful what to pursue. But purse, we must, particularly if we want to age effectively.

Remember also that your fellow humans are also a source of potential transactive memory. Learn from others. They provide the benefit of social interaction, which is beneficial to all, but which becomes particularly beneficial as we age.

 © 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 Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.