Long Term Memory

Memory and Storytelling

nerve cell

Our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other and ourselves—the stories we continually recategorize and refine. — Oliver Sacks, The River of Consciousness, page 121 Our memories are not static. Each time we reach for one, we refresh and form new neuron connections, in fact changing the memory itself via our contemplation of it. Like Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle — we can observe a particle’s momentum or its position but not both simultaneously — each time we recall a particular event, we change it due to that recollection. After the mental touch, the memory is no longer the same. And this is true not just in some metaphorical sense, but in a real, tangible, physical way — the act of recall alters the neuron structures forever! And yet we eagerly recollect our favorite memories, and we just as eagerly try to forget the painful ones (and the very act of thinking of those painful memories makes them that much stronger, that much more connected and integrated into our neural memory networks). Social groups have always been aware of this property of memory. Cultures are molded out of stories, songs, epics, ballads, and now memes that bind us…

The Post-Password Era Begins

In November of 2012, Wired Magazine wrote a cover story titled, “Kill the Password,” in which Mat Honan retold how hackers stole his identity and hijacked his social media accounts. After some research, Honan shared just how easy it is for hackers to steal passwords, often with some fairly low-tech methods. Fast forward to October 9, 2013, when Adobe Systems emailed its users that hackers had stolen encrypted user passwords. However, the fact that Adobe was hacked wasn’t the problem. The email was sent to call attention to the real problem: “We recommend that you also change your password on any website where you use the same user ID or password.” Yikes! How many web-based accounts do I have that use the same user name? In January of 2012, I began documenting all the web-based accounts I use. 66 of 167 web accounts use the same user name. 40 use another. How many use the same password? Coincidentally, 66 use the same password. Despite how obviously vulnerable I am, I might have been complacent enough to ignore my own security negligence had two more Internet companies not emailed me about Adobe’s password breach. On November 16, Eventbrite emailed me to recommend that I change my password on their site because…

p-Prims about Memory

Memory can be tricky—somethings seem to come to mind without bidding, while others are stubbornly evading our efforts at recalling them. We have many explanations for how and why somethings are easy to remember and others take so much effort; or why some people are very good at mnemonic feats and others not so much. Many of these mental models of how memory works are faulty (or simply not true) and are based on folksy wisdom passed from one generation to the next. Some of these wisdoms involve tricks for remembering things. For example, my Russian grandmother suggested tying corners of handkerchief to aide memory—if you notice a knot on the corner, you know that there’s something you supposed to remember. Since I don’t carry a handkerchief, I use my rings for the same effect—move a ring from finger to another (where it typically doesn’t belong) and then at least I know that should be keeping something in mind. Of course this strategy does nothing to help you remember what it is you are supposed to remember, but that’s another problem. So I thought to put together a little list of memory-related p-prims—a set of beliefs—that are common in our culture. Below,…

Re “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits”

Carey, B. (2010). “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits.” New York Times Online. Retrieved on 26 October, 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/07/health/views/07mind.html The main topic of this article is to dispel a few beliefs about effective study habits. According to this article, research has clearly demonstrated that we don’t have credible evidence for the utility of popular learning-style approaches that we follow. The article also outlines a few simple techniques that can reliably improve how much we learn from studying. Personally, I wish I read this article when I was a full time student as it might have helped me to be a better learner. Conceptual Design: With each of us having specific learning styles, a designer for a learning product can build a system that adopts to our learning styles. For example a system can test its users and determine their learning style and focus on a approach that might make the user learn faster and better. If the learning is tough, learners (Students) might lose interest and motivation. So effective approaches of learning such as variability in setting and materials must be used to improve learnability and retention.  Such design approaches would make learning easy and engage the users…

On “Story? Unforgettable. The Audience? Often Not”

Carey, B. (2009). “Story? Unforgettable. The Audience? Often Not.” New York Times Online. Visited on 1 July 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/health/01mind.html?hpw=&pagewanted=print Summary: This article discusses destination memory and its affect on different social situations. It explains that people often remember the source of a memory but not its intended destination. The article distinguishes that remembering whom you’ve told a story to uses a different kind of memory from the actual story itself. Source memory, the ability to recall where a fact was learned, is different from destination memory, which is to whom the fact was told. The article goes on to explain that who we tell our stories to is a critical part of our social identity and that repeating oneself can be damaging and embarrassing. In a study at the University of Waterloo 60 students were asked to tell personal and random facts to the faces of 50 famous people. The outcome of the study was that the subjects did not tend to remember which facts they told to whom, even when it was personal information. The results suggest that no matter how personal, or important, the story, there is the possibility that if the audience has heard it before the…

Exercise Your Brain, or Else You’ll … Uh

Article: Hafner, K. (2008). “Exercise Your Brain, or Else You’ll…Uh..” The New York Times. Retrieved 3 May, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/03/technology/03brain.html This article refers to our brain plasticity and interferences that can occur in our long term and working memories. Plasticity, or neuroplasticity, is the lifelong ability of the brain to reorganize neural pathways based on new experiences, in other words, the ability of the brain to change with learning (Hoiland, 2008). According to the article, our brains contain more plasticity than originally thought. The argument is that if we do not exercise our brains, the lack of their use can lead to interferences in long term or working memories. For example: forgetting a good friends name or even our address. – According to Werby the working memory can be defined as, the thinking space [of the brain]- writing requires the author to keep in mind and monitor words spelling, rules of composition etc. The long term memory is defined as, the vast storage of information that we accumulate throughout our lives, and it includes data, procedures, algorithms, and anything else we can think of. This is the type of memory we usually speak of when we refer to our memory (Werby,…