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01 August 2012
You live in a world where you can be given new information every second if you want it. The question is whether you have the time and capacity to make use of that information, or does the digital age really just mean that we are supplanting each new piece of information with another? Does any information get retained by people anymore or is it all just out there in the “cloud’? If the thought you might be turning into a mere transit lounge for knowledge worries you then a new study showing simple way to retain new information might give you new hope.
For the research people between the ages of 61 and 87 were given two short stories to remember. They were asked to remember as many details of the stories as they could immediately after having heard the stories.
Then half of the people spent ten minutes in “wakeful resting” while the other half were given a “spot-the difference” game to play for ten minutes. During wakeful resting the subjects were able to think about whatever they wanted; the stories, shopping, daydreams, or whatever. During this time they did not receive any new information and were not distracted. The spot-the-difference involved picture pairs on a screen and having 30 seconds per pair to find the differences. This was chosen as it required attention but was non-verbal, unlike the story, and so required a different type of attention.
The subjects were then asked to recall both stories again 30 minutes later and then one full week later.
The results showed that the people involved remembered much more of the stories when hearing the stories was followed by a period of wakeful resting.
This supports what we are starting to understand about memory; that in the very early stages of memory formation further neural processes have to occur before those memories are laid down and able to be recalled at a later date. Wakeful resting after the new information allows those processes to happen instead of new information taking brain processes in a different direction.
So if you want to retain any of that information superhighway that is streaming by you then you might want to spend a few regular moments each day in wakeful resting (meditation might do the trick) otherwise, your head will just remain in the cloud.