Tag Archives: memory

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The Search Effect

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Throughout history, we have relied on other people to reduce our personal memory load, a phenomenon called transactive memory. If we know that someone else knows a particular piece of information, we don’t have to remember it ourselves. We just need to ask them. But there is a significant germane load to do this. We have to remember who knows what we need, find them, hope they are available, ask them, and process the answer. A similar germane load exists when we use reference sources. We have to remember what source has the information, go to the library (or our personal bookshelf), get the encyclopedia/dictionary/textbook, look up the information, and process it.

Transactive memory is a psychological hypothesis first proposed by Daniel Wegner in 1985 as a response to earlier theories of “group mind” such as groupthink.[1] A transactive memory system is a mechanism through which groups collectively encode, store, and retrieve knowledge.

Selfies and Memory

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I don’t take selfies.

Don’t get me wrong; I love photographs. I have them up all over my walls at home and my office. But the process of selfie-taking is where the problem arises.

“Photos are no longer about remembering an event; they’re about displaying, showing the world who we are.”

2 Figurines Talking

A Second Chance to Make a First Impression?

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We have all heard the famous aphorism that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. It was even a popular catchphrase for a shampoo brand for a while. Our basic human factors psychology tells us why this is indeed true. The first impression creates a schema in long term memory. Because it isn’t competing with preexisting structure, it forms relatively easily. But we don’t have any intentional forgetting mechanism or even an intentional changing mechanism. So the second chance has to fight against the first one over and over until it dominates through sheer force of volume.

a slide of neurons

Mental Simulation

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There was a great paper in the Journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory that reminded me why I read some pretty diverse journals when I have a chance. In this case, a team of researchers are Harvard review the evidence on mental simulation from both the neuroscience field and the behavioral science field and come to a conclusion that is supported from both ends – establishing some good convergent validity for their ideas…

an empty witness stand

Tunnel Vision Memories

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A recent study in Learning & Memory has some important implications for human factors practitioners. What they found probably won’t surprise you, but might not be something you have considered before.

Most theories of memory assume that representations are strengthened with repetition. We recently proposed Competitive Trace Theory, building on the hippocampus’ powerful capacity to orthogonalize inputs into distinct outputs.

a silhouette of a person with gears in the brain

Priming Mindsets for Learning

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I have talked before about inexpensive ways to increase learning (here and here). Here is another example for you. I am sure many of you are familiar with Carol Dweck’s wonderful work on mindsets. Brainpickings has one of the best summaries of her work.

One of the most basic beliefs we carry about ourselves, Dweck found in her research, has to do with how we view and inhabit what we consider to be our personality.

many 3.5" floppy disks displayed on a wall

Offloading Memory to External Information Storage

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A new study out of the University of California Santa Cruz by Benjamin Storm and Sean Stone has some important implications for human factors. Their research focuses on memory and how to enhance our ability to store and recall the growing amounts of information that we encounter in our daily lives. What they are primarily interested in are how our interaction with storage technologies can help or hurt our ability to keep track of it all.

The simple act of saving something, such as a file on a computer, may improve our memory for the information we encounter next…

two boys playing video games

Games for Training Perceptual and Cognitive Functions

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An intriguing study out of Nanyang Technological University has implications for us in HF/E. They were interested in whether training people with video games could improve a variety of perceptual and cognitive skills. It turns out, as with most things in HF/E, the answer is that “it depends.”

Previous evidence points to a causal link between playing action video games and enhanced cognition and perception. However, benefits of playing other video games are under-investigated. We examined whether playing non-action games also improves cognition…

a pile of books

Knowledge versus Skills in Training

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There was an article in the latest issue of Industrial Safety and Hygiene News that brings up an important distinction for all of our HF/E domains, particularly when it comes to training. The distinction is between what he refers to as skills versus knowledge, although I often use experience versus expertise. Whatever you call them, they have some fundamental differences.

Skill means a person can actually perform rather than knowing how to perform…

mushrooms in the grass

Metacognition and Decision Making

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Forgive me for having a little fun in today’s post, but I had an interesting metacognitive experience this morning coming to work that I wanted to share. It is directly relevant to my previous post on the debate between Gerd Gigerenzer and behavioral economists on the System 1 / System 2 model. So here goes…