OSU Researcher Finds That Lasting Memories Are a Little “Weird”

Per Sederberg, professor of psychology at The Ohio State University, has developed a theory of “peculiarity” when it comes to what we remember most. Life-long memories simultaneously have elements of both the familiar and the peculiar.

Sederberg states that the process of building life-long memories has to start with a “scaffolding” of things we already know or are familiar with, but something about the scenario has to “violate expectations.” In other words, “It has to be a little bit weird.”

The way to create a long-lasting memory is to form an association with other memories. For the mind to retrieve the memory it needs to connect to other memories in multiple ways. These associations create a map for the mind to find memories. The more connections or roads between them, the easier they are to find.

Sederberg says that there must be a balance between the strange and the familiar. The strange helps know what is important to remember, familiarity helps us know what to ignore. Something too out of place will find no home on the “cognitive map” and will be lost, similarly the too-familiar gets lost as well.

Sederberg’s co-presenters, all based in London, are Dominique Bonnafoux, a senior strategist at FITCH; Mike Reed, founder and creative director of Reed Words; and Jason Bruges, a multidisciplinary artist and designer.

Study on How Kids Remember Things from OSU

In adults it is most typical for memories to become foggy or forgotten over time; however, a new study concludes that for children remembering works differently. For children time actually increases the strength of memory. In other words, they remember things better a few days after they learn something than the day they learned it.

Part of the study observed children playing a video game that asked them to remember associations between objects, 4- and 5-year-olds who re-played the game after a two-day delay scored more than 20 percent higher than kids who re-played it later the same day.

Kevin Darby, a doctoral student in psychology at The Ohio State University is a co-author of the study.

The study, which will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, is the first to document two different but related cognitive phenomena simultaneously: so-called “extreme forgetting” – when kids learn two similar things in rapid succession, and the second thing causes them to forget the first – and delayed remembering – when they can recall the previously forgotten information days later.

The study suggests that kids may have difficulty remembering things in the moment, but given a few days to absorb the new information, they can remember it later.

The authors cautioned that the study does not in any way suggest that kids can absorb adult-sized quantities of information if only they are given time to sleep on it. Rather, it means that they can absorb kid-sized quantities of information given time, even if they seem to forget in the moment.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Jody Victor‘s Crew