Bad With Names? Don't Blame Yourself, Blame Your Brain
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You're at a party and a co-worker introduces you to his friend. You've never heard of this person before this moment, and frankly, you're pretty sure you'll never see him again. What are the chances you'll remember his name? Let's just say, they're not very high. There are multiple reasons why you're able to remember random facts about new people, but you can't seem to hold onto their names. It involves your memory, an effect, a theory, and a paradox.You may have heard that your memories fall into two different buckets in your brain: long-term memory and short-term (working) memory. To remember names, you're relying on the not-so-reliable working memory. Northwestern University psychology professor, Paul Reber, tells The Atlantic: "You can hold just a little bit of information there and if you don't concentrate on it, it fades away rapidly." In order to remember someone's name, you need to be paying very close attention. This can be tricky due to the "next-in-line effect." Instead of listening to someone when they're telling you their name, your brain focuses on what you're about to say, how you'll move, etc. Humans are poor multi-taskers, and our brains are ineffective at taking in new information at the same time we're giving information.
Key Facts to Know
Brains have a hard time remembering information that seems arbitrary or disconnected from other information. 0:22
The "next in line" effect refers to when your brain focuses on its own routine and thoughts rather than absorbing information from somewhere else. 0:56
The more interested you are in something, the more likely your brain is to make new connections. 1:35
There's A Reason Why You Still Love The Music From Your Teen Years
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Why is it that the music we hear in our teen years holds such an important place in our hearts? The nostalgia associated with tunes from the 1990s (for the Curiosity editorial team, anyway) seems to strengthen as time goes on. This explains why Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" sounds like a work of genius, but today's pop songs sound like repetitive fluff. Are songs from our past really superior, or do we hold a musical bias based on our memories?
Despite Their Old Age, "Super-Agers" Have Young Memories
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As your age begins to climb, your memory starts to decline. At least, this is the typical scenario. But a group of people known as "super-agers" may be proof that old age doesn't always come hand-in-hand with a bad memory. Super-agers are elderly people who have brains and memories that resemble that of people who are decades younger. How is this possible? Researchers at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital performed a study to get to the bottom of the super-agers' superpower. What they found is that super-ager brains have certain key areas with youthful characteristics. The outermost layer of brain cells known as the cortex, for example, among other brain regions, usually shrinks with age, but that was not the case in the brains of super-agers. The size of these regions is correlated with learning and memory. As for how these super-agers are able to retain strong memories and prevent certain areas of the brain from shrinking? That's another question, but this research takes us that much closer to treating age-related memory loss and perhaps even forms of dementia. Learn more about super-agers in the videos below.
The Rashomon Effect Refers To Conflicting Accounts Of The Same Event
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The Rashomon Effect is the phenomenon of different people having contradictory accounts of the same event. It's named after Akira Kurosawa's 1950 film Rashomon, in which a samurai has been mysteriously killed. Four characters give conflicting reports of what happened: the samurai's wife says she was raped by a bandit, fainted, then awoke to find the samurai dead; the bandit says he seduced the wife and then fought the samurai to an honorable death; the woodcutter says he witnessed the rape and murder but stayed out of it; and the dead samurai's ghost says that he killed himself. The true question of Rashomon isn't whose account is correct, however. Instead, it forces audiences to ask if there even is a correct version of events. While a real-world crime would certainly have a single true explanation—despite the frequency of conflicting eyewitness accounts—this question sometimes pops up in the science of quantum mechanics. In that scientific realm, tiny particles behave in different ways depending on how and whether they're being observed, leading to the possibility that a quantum event happens in multiple ways at once. Explore the many facets of the Rashomon Effect with the videos below.
Drawing Something Will Help You Remember It
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If you're trying to memorize something—say, your grocery list—research says you're better off drawing the items than you are writing them down. In a study published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers from the University of Waterloo presented participants with a list of simple words, like apple, and gave them 40 seconds to either draw or write the word. Later, they gave participants 60 seconds to recall as many words from the list as possible. "We discovered a significant recall advantage for words that were drawn as compared to those that were written," the study's lead author, Jeffrey Wammes, said in a press release. "Participants often recalled more than twice as many drawn than written words." Drawing even beat out writing when participants added visual details or doodles to the letters. And you don't need to be a brilliant artist or have a lot of time to devote to drawing to reap the memory benefits, research says. In the study, the quality of the drawings was irrelevant, and the memory improvement kicked in even when participants only had 4 seconds to create their sketch. Learn more techniques for improving your memory with the videos below.