Posts Tagged ‘Prospective_memory’

Common Sense Prospective Memory Techniques

April 5, 2010

Prospective memory refers to memory to do things. Here are some common sense techniques. Only a few examples are provided, but they should be enough so that you get the idea.

Suppose you need to run some errands on your way to work. You have laundry to drop off at the dry cleaners, books to be returned to the library, and a child to take to day care. Leave the laundry and books by the door by which you are going to leave the house and ask, or leave (depending on the age of the child) the child to stay with them and watch them. Of course, the laundry and books can be left the evening before, but you should show some consideration for your child. Having everything organized and in the place you need to pass before you leave reduces the chances of forgetting anything to about zero. It is a good idea to take the child with you. I know of at least one case where the father told to the child to wait on the porch while he took the car out of the garage. The child then looked forlorn as his father drove away without him.

Suppose you have something cooking in the oven and the timer either does not work or does not give an adequate warning. Leave a cooking pan in the room with you and take that pan with you wherever you go. The external cue of the pan should prevent you from forgetting what you have going in the oven.

An early post to this blog, “Prospective Memory and Technology”, wrote of the increased incidence of parents forgetting about their children in car seats that has resulted from requiring these seats to be placed in the back seat. The saying out of sight, out of mind, can be painfully true. The stories of parents stopping by their day care to pick up their child, only to discover that they had forgotten to drop off the child in the morning and that the child was dead in the car are painful. But this is an understandable error of prospective memory. Leaving a doll or some reminder that the child is in the back of the car could reduce the incident of these tragedies to virtually zero.

 © 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.

Remembering to Do Things

January 31, 2010

The technical term for remembering to do things is prospective memory. A great deal of research has been done on prospective memory, but practically all of it has ignored transactive memory. Transactive memory is an external support like writing it down or entering it into computer or some type of smart device. It might seem like these researchers are overlooking the obvious. Perhaps they are, but they are doing so for their own theoretical purposes.

Writing it down might seem like the obvious answer. Although it might appear to be the obvious answer, it is flawed. One study showed that when daily planners were used, they were overlooked 25% of the time. So external aids can work, but only if you remember to consult them. Electronic devices where alarms could be set as reminders of where you should be at which time can remedy this problem. Such warnings are commonplace on computers. The problem here is that you need either be at your computing device or carrying it with you for the alarm to be effective.

Mnemonic techniques are also available. The techniques discussed in the blog posts “The Method of Loci” and “The One Bun Rhyme Mnemonic” can be used to make ordered lists of things to do throughout the day or week. Similarly Pierre Herigone’s technique (presented in the blog post, “Remembering Numbers”) for recoding numbers as sounds so that they can be converted into words and images can be used. Specific use of Herigone’s technique for remembering the times of appointments is discussed in the blog post “Remembering Historical Dates and Appointments.”

Perhaps the best method is to use a combination of mnemonic techniques and transactive memory tools. They each support the other. External supports compensate for memory failures. Mnemonic techniques compensate for the absence of technology. Both techniques require attention and most memory failures are, at bottom failures to employ enough of the right kind of attention.

Perhaps the most alarming failures of prospective memory are those that result in leaving children unattended in vehicles. The response to these cases typically is what terrible parents these people are. But the vast majority are good parents who suffered from prospective memory failures. This story has repeated itself numerous times. A mother, or father, goes to the day care center to pick up the child. Unfortunately, the child cannot be picked up because she is already dead in the back of the vehicle, the victim of a prospective memory failure (to drop off the child in the morning).

The number of these failures has increased drastically since the child seat laws required that the seat be in the back seat (due to the danger of the airbag injuring the child if it was in the front seat). The fundamental problem is out of sight, out of mind. Here an external aid, such as a doll place in the front seat or a ribbon tied to the steering wheel can reduce the number of these prospective memory failures.

© 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.

An Embarrassing Failure of Prospective Memory

November 2, 2009

  As you know if you have been reading previous blogs, prospective memory is the memory to do things. Today I had a breakfast meeting with two important people, one a dean, from the University of Utah. The meeting was set for November 2. I missed the meeting this morning. I had been planning on meeting them tomorrow, not today. I am profoundly mortified by this failure. Moreover, I inconvenienced and wasted the precious time of people I respect.

Do you love irony? How about this fellow who writes blog on memory health, memory errors and how to avoid them, and he forgets such an important meeting. I think it is instructive to examine the reason behind this prospective memory failure and how it could have been avoided. The reason for the failure was that I had mistakenly encoded November 2 as a Tuesday. This morning I was telling my wife about this important breakfast meeting I was going to have tomorrow, Tuesday.

How could this have been avoided? It could have been avoided by taking recourse to transactive memory. Had I written the meeting on a Calendar or entered in in the Outlook Calendar, it would not only have served as a reminder, but it would also have pointed to my error in encoding November 2nd as a Tuesday. Had a asked my wife to remind me of this meeting, a human source of transactive memory, she too would have corrected me of my misconception that November 2nd was a Tuesday.

Now back to the irony. If I know all this stuff, why don’t I use it? This is a very good question. In this case I probably did not think that this meeting warranted a transactive memory entry because it was so important it was inconceivable that I could forget, or in this case, erroneously encode the prospective memory. It is ironic that we often forget those items that we are so sure that we shall remember them. This can lead to carelessness in their storage due to overconfidence.

Generally speaking when I fail to remember when I need to remember, it is usually due to a failure to attend and use the appropriate encoding techniques. Especially important information also needs some form of supplementary storage in transactive memory. So mental laziness is responsible for most of my memory failures. I have no other excuse. I would guess that I am not unique in this regard.

 

© 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.