The more we recall a memory, the more the detail of that memory fades away

Most people intuitively understand that a memory fades over time. But why do some parts remain while others disappear? A new study published today in Nature Communications by a team of researchers from the Universities of Glasgow and Birmingham provides some answers.

They found that over time our memories become less vivid and detailed, and only the essentials remains, which is perhaps a bit obvious. What is less obvious, however, is the finding that the more frequently we recall our recent experiences, the greater the effect of this process of “gistification”. In other words, every time we think about it, we contribute to the loss of detail in our own memories.

All memories fade eventually, but some sooner than others

While memories are always exact carbons of the past, experts have long suggested that the contents of a memory change each time we bring them back to mind.

soulmate sketch

But how exactly our memories differ from original experiences and how they change over time has so far proven difficult to measure in laboratory settings.

For this study, the researchers developed a simple computer-based task that measures how quickly people can recover certain features of visual memories when prompted.

The study consisted of 72 participants, mostly recruited from local universities, with an average age of 20 years. Participants learned word-image pairs and later had to remember different elements of the image when called out with the word. For example, participants were asked to indicate as quickly as possible whether the image was color or black and white (a perceptual detail), or whether it showed an animate or inanimate object (a semantic element).

These tests took place immediately after learning and also with a two-day delay. Reaction time patterns showed that participants recalled meaningful, semantic elements faster than superficial, perceptual ones.

Our natural preference for the essentials: we focus on the meaningful part of a story

Many theories of memory assume that over time, when people retell their stories, they tend to forget the superficial details but retain the meaningful, semantic content of an event, said lead author Julia Lifanov from the University of Birmingham.

Imagine remembering a dinner with a friend, she said. “You realize you can’t remember the table setting but know exactly what you ordered; or you remember the conversation you had with the bartender but not the color of his shirt.” Memory researchers call this phenomenon “semantization”.

This tendency to remember meaningful, semantic items that the researchers Demonstrate in this study suggests that memories are a priori biased toward meaningful content, said co-author Maria Wimber of the University of Glasgow. “We have shown in previous studies that this distortion is also reflected clearly in brain signals,” she said.

And there are good reasons for this selectivity. “Our memories change with time and use, and that’s a good and adaptive thing,” Wimber said. “We want our memories to retain the information that is most likely to be useful in the future when we encounter similar situations.”

A memory fades more and faster when remembered repeatedly

Interestingly, the researchers found that this propensity for semantic (i.e., meaningful) memories increases significantly over time and with repeated recall.

For example, when the participants returned to the lab two days later, they were much slower in answering the detailed, “perceptual” questions, but they showed well-preserved memories of the semantic content of the images.

This effect was much weaker in participants who viewed the original image multiple times, rather than having to laboriously recall it multiple times.

This work could impact a number of have areas, e.g. such as post-traumatic stress disorder, in which patients often suffer from intrusive, traumatic memories and tend to generalize these experiences to new situations

The results are also very relevant to understanding how eyewitness memories are biased can, for example, through frequent interviews and repeated reminders of the same event.

And last but not least, these results also show that the meaningful information sticks longer through self-tests before an exam (e.g. with index cards), especially when p follows periods of rest and sleep.

Related Psychology News:

  • A new study links high school popularity to the age, with the older students in a grade being significantly more popular.
  • Research has found that narcissists drink wine more than average, even if they dislike wine because they associate it with greater social associate attractiveness.
  • Our list of 15 great psychology websites that provide research news on almost every aspect of human behavior.

Study: “Feature- specific reaction times reveal a semanticization of memories over time and with repeated recall”Authors: Julia Lifanov, Juan Linde-Domingo and Maria WimberPublished in: Nature Communications Publication Date: May 26, 2021DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-23288-5Photo: by Lisa from Pexels

.

Content Creator Zaid Butt joined Silsala-e-Azeemia in 2004 as student of spirituality. Mr. Zahid Butt is an IT professional, his expertise include “Web/Graphic Designer, GUI, Visualizer and Web Developer” PH: +92-3217244554

Related Posts

This new study finds that 68% of romantic couples started out as friends

This new study finds that 68% of romantic couples started out as friends

Video A new study published today in Social Psychological and Personality Science finds that two-thirds of romantic couples started out in a platonic relationship. This “friends-first” initiation…

Helping others also helps yourself: these new studies explain why

Helping others also helps yourself: these new studies explain why

Video A new meta-analysis in the journal Psychological Bulletin shows that helping others also improves your own health and happiness. It adds to the growing body of…

New study finds jet lag puts Celtics at a disadvantage in NBA finals

New study finds jet lag puts Celtics at a disadvantage in NBA finals

A new study into jet lag and its impact on NBA performance has found the Boston Celtics could be at a significant disadvantage at the 2022 NBA…

Texting vs calling: new study explains why a phone call means more than a feeble text

Texting vs calling: new study explains why a phone call means more than a feeble text

Video When it comes to texting or calling, new research has found that calls undoubtedly win when your goal is to connect with someone in a meaningful…

New study sheds light on Tyrannosaurus Rex lifespan: these fearsome beasts lived for about 30 years

New study sheds light on Tyrannosaurus Rex lifespan: these fearsome beasts lived for about 30 years

A new study has found that the average lifespan of Tyrannosaurus Rex was 30 years, that about 20,000 of them lived at one time and that about…

34% say their partner purposefully does home chores poorly to avoid doing them in the future

34% say their partner purposefully does home chores poorly to avoid doing them in the future

Video A new survey found that about 72% of cohabiting couples disagree on how to share housework fairly. On average, respondents indicated that they spend 2.6 hours…