06 October 2009

Counter Intuitiveness is in Fashion, at least in Memory Recall

When I first read about doodling doing wonders to your memory recall in the Time’s February 2009 issue, it struck a little odd to me. However, I let it pass. But when I read about good memory recall after nodding off in meetings in Harvard Business Review’s issue of October 2009, I could not help but wonder : Was there more to it than met the eye?
What Time was essentially saying in its Feb 2009 issue is that if you doodled and fidgeted while attending lectures or classes, you are more likely to recall what was being taught than a ‘non doodler’ . To prove the point, Time quoted a bizarre experiment. Jackie Andrade of University of Plymouth fashioned an experiment to prove this hypothesis. What beats me is how the idea ever occurred to her in the first place. It is not everyday that you wake up with the idea that doodling is good for memory recall and then go along and design an experiment to prove the point. Was it that anything you prove that is counter intuitive will get you noticed? Here is an excerpt from that article which described the experiment:


Afterward, the papers were removed and the 40 volunteers were asked to recall, orally, the place names and the names of the people coming to the party. The doodlers creamed the nondoodlers: those who doodled during the tape recalled 7.5 pieces of information (out of 16 total) on average, 29% more than the average of 5.8 recalled by the control group.


Looks like one can prove anything under the sun. One only needs 40 volunteers.

Now, for the article in Oct 2009 issue of Harvard Business Review. The article is titled: The Simplest Way to Reboot Your Brain. Let me quote from it:


On a day off, taking a nap is a small but heavenly pleasure. Dozing at your desk isn’t—especially if a colleague walks in on you—but sometimes exhaustion just takes over. The 2008 Sleep in America poll, conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, found that nearly one-third of adults who work at least 30 hours a week have fallen asleep or become extremely drowsy on the job—behavior that employers often frown upon. Should they lighten up? Perhaps. In a knowledge-based economy that depends on sharp minds, a few minutes of shut-eye could be good for business.


Here is another counter intuitive memory recall phenomena at work. You doze off, yet you are better off for memory. Again, an experiment is quoted to buttress the claim. It says that a report in June 2009 Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences showed that a nap with REM sleep improves people’s ability to integrate unassociated information for creative problem solving. Touche!

If we combine the gist of these two articles, the summary makes interesting reading. You must nod off during lectures. Between your slumber -when you are awake and yawning- be sure to doodle and fidget for memory’s sake. Your memory recall will be second to none.

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