Posts Tagged ‘Memory Enhancement’

Trying to Recall Benefits a Healthy Memory

June 20, 2010

The May 1020 issue of the Smithsonian has an interesting article of memory1. It’s about the research of a neuroscientist, Karim Nader. According to the article his research is unconventional and has caused researchers in neuroscience to reconsider some of their most basis assumptions about how memory works. Nader believes that the very act of remembering can change our memories.

Although this might be a new or unconventional idea within neuroscience, it has been understood and adopted within psychology for some time now (See the blog post, “The Seven Sins of Memory). The article goes on to say, “For those of us who cherish our memories and like to think that an accurate record of our history, the idea that memory is fundamentally malleable is more than a little disturbing.” Well be disturbed, the malleability of memory has been long established within psychology, and the notion that our memories are an accurate record of our history has been long debunked. The article does mention the research of the psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, who has been one of the foremost debunkers.

This is not to say that Nader has not made a genuine contribution to the scientific study of memory. Essentially, he is demonstrating the neurological basis for this malleability. Consider what happens when you are thinking about a topic. You recall information that reminds you of other information. Further thought can form links to new information, new ideas. This basic activity underlies our intellectual and creative processes.

The Healthymemory blog has long advocated trying to recall in a variety of contexts. Trying to recall various facts reactivates old memory circuits and establishes new memory connections. Moreover, the research of Roediger has indicated that it is beneficial to to answer questions about a topic before even seeing or hearing about the topic (see Healthymemory blog posts, “The Benefits of Testing,” and “To Get it Right, Get it Wrong, First”). My wife and I have a game we play trying to remember different things such as the names of actors and actresses, or the names of movies. Very often the names seem to be irretrievable, but we continue. What is interesting is your unconscious brain will keep working on the problem long after your conscious brain has given up. These supposedly forgotten names pop up, apparently from nowhere as the strangest times. So. we can assume brain activity is taking place even when we are not aware of it. But you need to put it to work on the task in the first place.

The blog post, “A Life that Leads to a Healthy Memory” describes some additional beneficial activites that place a heavy burden on recalling information. These activities should be enjoyable and lead to additional benefits.

1Miller, G. (2010). Making Memories. Smithsonian, May, 38-43.

© 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. 

The Underappreciated Benefits of Spaced Learning

December 9, 2009

The spacing effect, which refers to the superior recall of information studied at different times as opposed to the same time (with the total amount of learning time equated), is well known in the memory literature. Unfortunately, this benefit is not well known to educators and students. Recent experiments studied the spacing effect in the realistic context of flashcard use.1 Learners often divide flashcards into small stacks. However, small stacks decrease the spacing between study trials. The experiments were conducted online.

In the first experiment there were forty pairs of synonyms (for example, Abrogate:Abolish). The first synonym was less likely to be known than the second synonym. Half of these pairs were presented in the same order four consecutive times (the spaced condition). Half of these pairs were divided into four sets of five pairs. Each set was presented four consecutive times before the next set was presented (the massed condition). The cue word (for example, Abrogate) was presented first followed by a blank. This word remained visible until the learner pressed the next button and the second word of the pair appeared. The learner controlled the timing of the presentations and did not need to respond overtly. At the end of the session each learner was asked what percentage of the items they thought they would remember under each condition of learning. At a later time the learners took a test in which the first word of each synonym was presented and they were asked to recall the second word. Recall was 49% for the spaced condition and 36% for the massed condition. The self-estimated rate of recall was 41% for the spaced condition and 60 % for the massed condition, the opposite of the actual result!

The second experiment was similar to the first experiment except that each of the four study sessions occurred on different days as did the test session. This time the spacing effect was even larger with 54% recall for the spaced condition and 21% for the massed condition. Again the learners expectation of the results was in the opposite direction of the actual results with the estimate of massed condition performance being 60% and the spaced condition performance being 41%.

Experiment 3 added a final review session, which would be typical of most academic sessions. Again the spaced condition outperformed the massed condition 65% to 34%. Prior to the final review session the predicted performance was again in the opposite direction of the actual performance 51% to 66%. However, after the final review session massing was rated lower than spacing 47% to 59%. Apparently, the experience of the final review session corrected the learners misperception of the effectiveness of spacing.

1Kornell, N. (2009). Optimal Learning Using Flashcards: Spacing is More Effective Than Cramming. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 1297-1317.

© 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.

Healthy Memory: Its Maintenance and Enhancement

December 1, 2009

The name of this blog is healthy memory. Accordingly, the objective of this blog is the maintenance and enhancement of memory. There are three themes to support this objective. One theme is about human memory, how it works, and some of the brain structures underlying memory. A second theme concerns mnemonic techniques, specific techniques for improving memory. The third theme is termed transactive memory. Transactive memory concerns memory that you can use, but is external to your personal biological memory. Transactive memory can be found in fellow humans and in technology. The assumption underlying this blog is that all three of these themes are important to the maintenance and enhancment of memory and provide the means to achieving a healthy memory.

First of all, if you want a healthy memory, you should have some understanding of exactly what it is. So under this theme some theory regarding memory is presented. Data on how memory works is also presented. When you read these articles you might discover that memory problems that you either have had or are just noticing as you age are common to all people of all ages. It is also important to understand what brain structures underlie memory, how they change as we age, as well as the compensatory mechanisms that occur as we age.

Mnemonic techniques are specific techniques for improving personal memory. These techniques serve two goals. One is that they provide the means of improving memory. The other is that the use of these techniques likely provide exercise to the brain that is important for its maintenance and enhancement.

Transactive memory provides yet another means of maintaining and enhancing memory. Teamwork and sharing of memory chores among your friends and family not only provides a means of memory enhancement, but it also provides for social interactions that are important to brain health. Making use of technology be it paper, a Personal Digital Assistant, or a computer is yet another means of maintaining and improving memory. Moreover, the internet provides a vast resource for cognitive growth and enhancement.

You can find the blogs under each of these categories. Unfortunately. one of the features of blogs is that they are organized in reverse chronological order. So to start at the beginning, you need to begin at the bottom and work your way up.

There is a comments section under each individual blog. You are encouraged not only to leave comments, but also to raise questions. I would like to have discussions with you and make this blog a. two way street. The more I know about you, the better I can target the blog to address your interests.

© 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.