Your Memory Has A Frightening Lesson For You

Or it could be more of a bad joke played on us by — maybe — evolution.

It seems that we’re more likely to remember — verbatim — a Facebook update than we are to remember a line from a book. Even worse, we’re much more likely to remember said Facebook update than we are to remember someone’s face.

Are we really evolutionarily fitted to Facebook? Is Facebook really the pinnacle of communication for the human race? Dudes, I sure hope not. That’s certainly a frightening thought.

Here, let’s hear it from the researchers themselves.

The international research, authored by researchers at the University of Warwick and University of California – San Diego, tested subjects’ memory for text taken from Facebook.

The text was comprised of people’s Facebook status updates that had been anonymized. That is, the status updates and wall posts were stripped of images and removed from the context of appearing on Facebook.

Researchers then compared subject’s memory of the Facebook post to their memory for sentences picked at random from books, as well as to human faces.

Investigators found that in the first memory test, participants’ memory for Facebook posts was about one and a half times greater than their memory for sentences from books.

In a second memory test, participants’ memory for Facebook posts was almost two and a half times as strong as it was for human faces.

Yes, really.

In the story from, the writer and the study authors posit that these findings tell us that humans are adapted to remember and respond to informal writing, rather than the polished and formal writing you’d (hopefully) find in a book.

That is, our minds may better take in, store, and bring forth information gained from online posts because they are in what the researchers call ‘mind-ready’ formats – i.e., they are spontaneous, unedited and closer to natural speech.

These features seem to give them a special memorability, with similar results being found for Twitter posts as well as comments under online news articles.

Personally, dudes, I think they’re wrong. I think they’re leaving out the most important point of all this. The Facebook posts are more emotionally involving because we know they involve real people living real lives and talking about real episodes from those lives. The books, well, they’re just books. They’re not emotionally involving when you’re only reading a sentence or two.

As for the facial recognition, that’s the same thing. We’re conditioned to look and then look away at a face, to not notice because looking too long gets perceived as bad behavior. We’re going against all our cultural training to look at and remember a picture. Gossip, though. . . Well, gossip is something we all remember.

Leaving out the emotional component leaves me thinking this is sort of suspect, these conclusions. That’s just me, though. What do you think?

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