Total Recall

how do you remember

The concept of not having to remember where things are located, but having everything at your fingertips in an instant, is useful and what I call the Google mentality.

In an article about How Google Affects Memory and Learning the author makes a comment about how Google’s innovation has affected his life-

If I didn’t have Google, I’d own an updated encyclopedia set and several reference books. I’d maintain several magazine subscriptions. I’d spend more time at the public library each week and less time in front of my computer screen. And, I’d have a Day Runner.

The article goes on to make a comparison of positive and negative results of our ‘Google dependency’ including things about how readily available information can increase innovation, or how our habits may have an affect on our ability to develop deep, conceptual knowledge.

With the decrease of things we need to remember by way of Google, you would think that would leave us more able to remember the things that we do need to remember but it depends on your perspective of memory.

Some people think of human memory like computer memory- There are only so many RAM slots that can be utilized for memory storage. In this perspective, not remembering phone numbers and directions ‘frees space’ for other memories. However, when you consider that memory can be more like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger that it gets. Given that perspective, utilizing ‘tools’ to work around remembering details like appointments and directions actually puts us at a disadvantage in the long run.

Consider the multiple articles that discuss the effect of photography and memory. Photographs can affect the formation of memory and even overwrite existing memory. In this article where they discuss this at length in regards to childhood development they caution-

“Many times, it’s like you’re watching a little movie; you’re seeing yourself in the scene,” she said. “There’s an ‘observer,’ third-person perspective versus a ‘field perspective’ through your own eyes. Photos seem to be shifting us to that observer perspective, distancing us in some way, so it’s clearly a reconstructed memory.”

This is an interesting statement when you consider constructivism learning theory. If constructivism is based on people constructing knowledge based on interactions and experiences, when a person doesn’t invest the resources to remember their experiences with the assumption they can recall it from something like a photograph how does this affect the development of knowledge related to the experience.

This is also addressed in a different article talking about the concept of ‘point and shoot memory’ and how it influences what we remember.

Scientists have long documented a “directed forgetting effect”–that is, people are actually more likely to forget things they’ve been told are unimportant. In a 2011 study, researchers found that this effect is also abetted by the internet—subjects were less likely to remember information they believed they could Google later.

There are also various statements about how people are more likely to forget events they photograph. The Google mentality of pulling up things when ever we need it (in this case documented recollections from facebook or instagram), actually distances us from our own experiences by superceding our first person viewpoints with a compilation of digitally captured memories.

While photographs are a popular medium to capture and preserve memories, there is also the point that sometimes the most memorable moments are the ones you wouldn’t think to photograph. The benefit of engaging in experiences and putting forth the effort to commit something to memory is the opportunity to preserve memories from the seemingly mundane, that might be so much more valuable in hindsight.

Another thing to consider is the brains marvelous capability for pattern recognition and matching. One of the ways we learn is by drawing parallels between information, however, if the information is never committed to memory, it isn’t available for that process in the future.

Has technology affected how much you can remember? Do you remember more or less about events that you’ve photographed? How often do you remember the things you look up via a search engine?


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