Synaptic Sunday #1

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Synaptic Sunday is a weekly collection of thought-provoking links related by similar topics:

1. If we remember more, can we read deeper–and create better? Part I.

In the very process of memorizing, remembering—and faltering—we don’t just learn more about what we are reading. We also learn more about how we are reading, how we are reacting to the material—and, in a way (or, at least, after we’ve stopped to ponder our mistakes in the manner Cooke suggests we do) why we are reacting to it as we do.

Interesting discussion on memorization, and what the process can show us about our minds and how we analyze whatever it is we’re memorizing (the example in the article is literary work). Also starts off with an interesting description of a memorization technique using the body’s movements, which can serve as cues for later recall.

2. Another post on the unreliability and malleability of memory

Elizabeth Loftus has produced a body of work showing that our memories aren’t strictly accurate recordings of what we’ve taken in through the senses, but that we can unintentionally shape, elaborate on, and outright fabricate them, and are influenced by suggestive remarks made by others (her work has had an enormous impact on cognitive psychology and also the legal field – how witness testimony is solicited and handled). At the link you’ll find further links to an interview with Loftus, and also to an article from Time Magazine on the faultiness of memory.

3. Memory Training Unlikely to Help in Treating ADHD, Boosting IQ

Overall, working memory training improved performance on tasks related to the training itself but did not have an impact on more general cognitive performance such as verbal skills, attention, reading or arithmetic.

I’m not sure what the working memory training tasks are; I’ve never participated in such a program (one example of a training task is mentioned at the link). Different kinds of memory processes may be related to and interact with other cognitive processes, but there needs to be caution about the claims made by people selling these programs. If they’re telling you that an intensive program of memory tasks will boost your cognitive ability more broadly, you have to ask yourself if this is really the case. Can they give you proof, linking training in certain memory tasks or series of tasks with measurable improvements in other areas of cognition and in academic success?

Maybe their whole approach of “loading up the brain with training exercises” is the wrong one to take to begin with, if they really want to use these tasks as a means of strengthening cognitive abilities more generally and not only your performance on those specific memory tasks. Maybe the problem with the training exercises is that they’re dry, rote short-term memory tasks, which don’t call on other areas of cognition as much as other kinds of memory tasks would.

4. Memories are Crucial for Imagining the Future

The past and future may seem like different worlds, yet the two are intimately intertwined in our minds. In recent studies on mental time travel, neuroscientists found that we use many of the same regions of the brain to remember the past as we do to envision our future lives.

Fascinating article.

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One response »

  1. Pingback: Science, Misinformation, and Make-Believe Memories | Social Behavioral Patterns–How to Understand Culture and Behaviors

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