Memories fail because of the broken telephone effect

memory is a bit like a broken telephone gamaRemember playing broken telephone as a child ?

As the message was whispered from one set of ears to the next, a little more of it got lost in translation – at the end of the line, gobbledee goop, came out. Which at the time produced hysterical bouts of laughter.

The whispering amplified the effect, but you don’t have to whisper to experience a BROKEN TELEPHONE. This week’s Neurotechnology Tip helps you avoid brain connectivity troubles because of a “broken telephone”.

Making the call

Something happens to you….. it maybe something cool, like a kiss or horrific, like an accident.

You need to tell SOMEONE.

You make the call and begin providing all the DETAILS.

The SOMEONE asks you questions, oohs and aaahs at appropriate places.

You appreciate the feedback and…………….

When you’re telling the next SOMEONE, you tell the story, emphasizing the bits that produced the “best” feedback.

You’re telling the same story…………. more-or-less.

Remembering is rewiring

Actually every time you go to the spot where that memory is stored, you retrieve the juiciest sound bites, ensuring that the story is relevant and appropriate to, the someone, you’re talking to. The trouble is as you access the memory, you end up scratching through it.

Ruffling things up, a little bit.

These minor disturbance, produces tiny shifts in the brain connections. The new arrangements, are what end up being saved in your brain.

BUT, the new arrangement might be a little different from the actual event.

The story changes

As time passes, your memory becomes a little distorted.

This is what researchers from Northwestern University discovered, when they asked people to remember the location of things on a virtual grid, on three consecutive days. They made the task pretty difficult, people had to remember 180 different locations.

  • On day 1 people “learned” where it was.
  • On day 2 they had to remember where it was.
  • On day 3 they had to remember where it was too.

But instead of remembering where it was originally, people tended to “remember” it being where they remembered it on day 2. Which was often not actually where it was…. on day 1.

Remember more ACCURATELY

Now the odds of remembering ANYTHING, go up the more times you tell it.

But it can be a bit tricky, if you’re not remembering it accurately, especially when it is a significant date or other pesky fact, you need to recall for a test.

So when you’re studying, be on your guard for BROKEN TELEPHONE facts. You’re sure you remember it, so you don’t bother checking.

Next minute, you’re remembering it perfectly, but you’re perfectly wrong.

Fact check

This research reveals memories aren’t static, they’re always changing.

When it comes to studying, it pays you to fact check. A good way to do this is to use flash cards #.

This allows you to recall what you can remember, but also make sure what you’re remembering is the “right” thing.

# Flash cards are “cards” with a question on the front, and the answer on the back

PS. This research suggests if you want to remember an event accurately, write it down before telling ANYONE. This is likely to be the most accurate version of the story. Failing this you may end up “lying” unintentionally.

Neural Correlates of Reactivation and Retrieval-Induced Distortion. Journal of Neuroscience, 2012; 32 (35): 12144 D. J. Bridge, K. A. Paller. 

To wire up your brain a little each week ………………..

Subscribe to Neurotechnology Tips

Give us a like on facebook

Know someone who will find this post useful ? Share it on facebook, linkedin, twitter

Further reading

brain learning under stress foraging in the memory tree girl listening to a viking
Why does nothing stick when you’re stressed out You’ve got to hang out in the “right” tree to remember more Ladies : Hire a Viking to read to you to improve your recall ability

The 7 Big Spoons™…. are master switches that turn health on.

balance eicosanoids rein in insulin dial down stress sleep vitamin D microflora think
Balance Eicosanoids Rein in insulin Dial down stress Sleep ! Increase Vit D Culivate microflora Think champion

Hire Dr Sandy from a Spoonful of Science to be the keynote speaker at your next event.

Did you learn something new or do you have a different perspective ? I’d love to hear from you so post me a comment below

This entry was posted in Neurotechnology Tip and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Trackback

  1. By » Blog Archive » Round up 11 Feb – 15 Feb on February 15, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    [...] Memories fail because of the broken telephone effect [...]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>