Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Feature: Tricks for Making the Most of Your Short-Term Memory

Sophomore year in college, I took a cognitive psychology class. It was, perhaps, my least favorite psych class. The professor was interesting, but the material (and thus, the textbook) was dry. One of the few things I remember about this class is that researchers found that our short-term memories hold 7 ± 2 (5 to 9) pieces of information. We can maximize that by storing things in chunks but, sooner rather than later, short term memory (also called "working memory") reaches capacity. When it comes to new information, last minute bits of information don't stand a chance of making it into long-term memory.

Memory researchers continue to debate the ± 2 pieces of information theory; some believe our working memory holds even less information. Its name, however, also tells us what we need to do to keep important information front and center: we need to work with it.

In her piece, "This Common Mistake is Sabotaging Your Memory," Dr. Dani Gordon shares some tips on making the most of your short-term memory in an age of information overload. If you, like me, feel as though your memory is getting worse instead of better, it's worth a read, even if only for the reassurance that there's a reason that information, no matter how important, doesn't always seem to stick.

So, whether it's notepads or apps, your need for those memory aids isn't a sign that your memory is failing -- just that it needs the right tools to keep it working at peak efficiency.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Pass the Post-it Notes, please.

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