Posts tagged with ‘memory’

How to Remember Anything (runtime ~20 minutes)

For those who have never seen it: a totally useful Ted Talk by science journalist Joshua Foer (who is also the founder of the absolutely awesome Atlas Obscura). He talks about covering the U.S. Memory Championships where he learned how humans can train their brains to remember a lot in a little bit of time. But more importantly, he talks about why we ought to strengthen our memory in an age when one can outsource the storage of most information to the web.

Related: Last year, Clive Thompson published a fascinating book about how technology is changing the way we think (mostly for the better). Maria Popova reviewed it on Brain Pickings, covering some of his most important observations, namely: the difference in transparency between traditional public storehouses of information (i.e.: the public library) and modern storehouses (i.e.: the web). And in this context, we wrote a bit about the perils of algorithmic curation.

It’s also possible that we actively opt not to pay much attention to the scenes we capture, because we’re counting on photos to record everything so we don’t mentally have to. If that’s the case, that would mean that you’re farming out your memory to Instagram as you move through the world.

Emily Badger, How Instagram Alters Your Memory, The Atlantic Cities.

To test this, Henkel, a researcher at Fairfield University, concocted a series of experiments leading undergraduate students on guided tours through the university’s Bellarmine Museum of Art. They looked at paintings, sculptures, pottery, jewelry and mosaics. The students were given digital cameras to photograph some of the objects and were told to simply observe the others. The next day, they were given a series of recall tests, trying to detect which objects they remembered best in name and detail.

As it turned out, people remembered fewer of the photographed objects, and fewer of the details about them, relative to the pieces of art they’d actively observed with their own eyes.

…There was one catch in Henkel’s findings: She also asked participants to zoom in on and photograph the details of some of these art pieces. And people who did that were much better at remembering the works of art that those who simply wedged entire objects into one frame and then walked away. Perhaps, by focusing consciously on the details, we can cut back on some of this “photo-taking impairment effect.”

Neuroscience-Based Training Program Can Improve Brain Function
Luminosity is a “brain training program” created by experts in neuroscience and cognitive psychology from Stanford University. The purpose of the program is to improve neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to create new neurons and connections. 
The program consists of games that measure a person’s baseline abilities against one’s improvement over several weeks. Algorithms adapt the training to personal skill level for maximum benefit.
Does it work? A series of controlled clinical trials say yes — with Luminosity improving anything from pre-frontal cortex abilities in cancer survivors to math skills of teens. However…
Via MD-Health:

The thing to remember when analyzing these results is that they came from laboratory conditions. These adults used Luminosity games for hours every day for several months. Users that do not work on a similar schedule will not see these types of results.

Image: Luminosity

Neuroscience-Based Training Program Can Improve Brain Function

Luminosity is a “brain training program” created by experts in neuroscience and cognitive psychology from Stanford University. The purpose of the program is to improve neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to create new neurons and connections. 

The program consists of games that measure a person’s baseline abilities against one’s improvement over several weeks. Algorithms adapt the training to personal skill level for maximum benefit.

Does it work? A series of controlled clinical trials say yes — with Luminosity improving anything from pre-frontal cortex abilities in cancer survivors to math skills of teens. However…

Via MD-Health:

The thing to remember when analyzing these results is that they came from laboratory conditions. These adults used Luminosity games for hours every day for several months. Users that do not work on a similar schedule will not see these types of results.

ImageLuminosity

Happy Pi Day
To our favorite Irrational Number, our favorite Transcendental Number and to Chao Lu who set a world record by reciting Pi to 67,890 places. Evidently, when he hit the 67,891st digit, he said it was 5 when it’s actually 0.

Happy Pi Day

To our favorite Irrational Number, our favorite Transcendental Number and to Chao Lu who set a world record by reciting Pi to 67,890 places. Evidently, when he hit the 67,891st digit, he said it was 5 when it’s actually 0.

Photos Washed to Sea by Sandy Find a Home on Facebook
The Verge:

A neighborhood group, lead by Jeannette Van Houton and Mary Danielson, has organized with one goal: to scour the beaches in their local areas, rescuing photos which have washed ashore. The group then scans the photos in the hopes of eventually finding their owners.


Union Beach, a one square mile area, was “completely impacted” by the hurricane, and Danielson says that “the one thing I continue to hear from residents is ‘all I want to find are my photos.’” Danielson’s interest in the project is also professional, she says, as a “case study” in “how to rescue an entire town’s photo collection.”


Once they collect and clean off the photos, they’re scanned using small scanners, then uploaded to Facebook. There are already more than 3,000 images on Facebook, organized in small albums with names like “found on Third St towards the bend that merges w/ 2nd” and, “Dropped at Keller’s.” Found photos are a common time suck on the internet, but looking through these albums, seeing the debris still attached to many of the badly damaged photos, is quite a visceral experience.

The group, working in Union Beach, New Jersey, is called Restoring Union Beach Memories and has raised over $2000.
Image: via The Verge.

Photos Washed to Sea by Sandy Find a Home on Facebook

The Verge:

A neighborhood group, lead by Jeannette Van Houton and Mary Danielson, has organized with one goal: to scour the beaches in their local areas, rescuing photos which have washed ashore. The group then scans the photos in the hopes of eventually finding their owners.

Union Beach, a one square mile area, was “completely impacted” by the hurricane, and Danielson says that “the one thing I continue to hear from residents is ‘all I want to find are my photos.’” Danielson’s interest in the project is also professional, she says, as a “case study” in “how to rescue an entire town’s photo collection.”

Once they collect and clean off the photos, they’re scanned using small scanners, then uploaded to Facebook. There are already more than 3,000 images on Facebook, organized in small albums with names like “found on Third St towards the bend that merges w/ 2nd” and, “Dropped at Keller’s.” Found photos are a common time suck on the internet, but looking through these albums, seeing the debris still attached to many of the badly damaged photos, is quite a visceral experience.

The group, working in Union Beach, New Jersey, is called Restoring Union Beach Memories and has raised over $2000.

Image: via The Verge.

Photographs from Fukushima
Last week we wrote about Japan’s Memory Salvage Project, a beautiful volunteer initiative that seeks to restore some of the 750,000 found photographs collected in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami.
If you’re in New York next month, Aperture is exhibiting some of the images as part of a show that started in Japan and then moved to Los Angeles.
In an interview with the New Yorker, project lead Munemasa Takahashi explains:

After the disaster occurred, the first thing the people who lost their loved ones and houses came to look for was their photographs. Only humans take moments to look back at their pasts, and I believe photographs play a big part in that. This exhibit makes us think of what we have lost, and what we still have to remember about our past.

The photographs will be on display at the Aperture Foundation from April 2 through April 27.

Photographs from Fukushima

Last week we wrote about Japan’s Memory Salvage Project, a beautiful volunteer initiative that seeks to restore some of the 750,000 found photographs collected in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami.

If you’re in New York next month, Aperture is exhibiting some of the images as part of a show that started in Japan and then moved to Los Angeles.

In an interview with the New Yorker, project lead Munemasa Takahashi explains:

After the disaster occurred, the first thing the people who lost their loved ones and houses came to look for was their photographs. Only humans take moments to look back at their pasts, and I believe photographs play a big part in that. This exhibit makes us think of what we have lost, and what we still have to remember about our past.

The photographs will be on display at the Aperture Foundation from April 2 through April 27.

Why Remember When You Can Search →

A new study out of Columbia University suggests that humans are offloading memory and recall to our internet devices. Simply, why bother remembering things when you can look it up when you actually need it?

From the study’s abstract:

The advent of the Internet, with sophisticated algorithmic search engines, has made accessing information as easy as lifting a finger. No longer do we have to make costly efforts to find the things we want. We can “Google” the old classmate, find articles online, or look up the actor who was on the tip of our tongue. The results of four studies suggest that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.

Study | NYT Article about it.

There's Advertising in Your Memories →

Ever have a product pop up in your memories? And you swear, absolutely swear that indeed, yes, you were drinking a Coke while listening to your iPod as you cruised down the California coast in your brand new Cooper Mini even though you don’t own a Cooper Mini and don’t drink Coke but just might have an iPod.

There’s a reason for that. Scientists refer to this as “false experience effect” and it revolves around a theory known as memory reconsolidation in which it is suggested we reconstruct our memories each time we think them.

So how do the iPod, Coke and car fit into the mix? 

Take it away, Wired:

A new study, published in The Journal of Consumer Research, helps explain both the success of this marketing strategy and my flawed nostalgia for Coke. It turns out that vivid commercials are incredibly good at tricking the hippocampus (a center of long-term memory in the brain) into believing that the scene we just watched on television actually happened. And it happened to us.

Takeaway: Remember Journalism 101 and don’t just question mom when she alleges that she loves you. Question your memories. Especially the product placement bits.