Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
Recollecting trivial and sometimes dull Facebook posts is easier than recalling the same information in a book. It also takes less effort to remember posted patter than someone’s face, according to new research.
The result could be due to the colloquial and largely spontaneous nature of Facebook posts. Whereas books and newspapers typically are combed over by fact-checkers and carefully rewritten by editors, Facebook posts tend to be free flowing and more closely resemble speech. “It’s a new way of thinking about memory,” says John Wixted, an experimental psychologist at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved in the research. “Our minds are naturally prepared to encode what is naturally produced.”
If memories are the product of evolution, then the ability to remember socially derived conversations may have provided an advantage that helped early humans survive, he adds.
The study involved three different experiments with a sample that largely included undergraduate females and controlled for such factors as the use of emoticons, variations in character size and emotional content. What the research team found didn’t make sense—at first.
Laura Mickes, a cognitive psychologist at U.C. San Diego and lead author of the study, says colleagues in her department were amazed by the consistency of the results. “To our surprise the microblogs, the Facebook posts, are much more memorable than one would expect,” Mickes says. “People mostly think they’re mundane and would be easily forgotten.”
Even accounting for associative thinking—such as, “that is something my friend Emily would post”—the social networking site still had a pronounced effect on the extent to which information was remembered by study subjects. Facebook’s advantage over books and faces is on the same scale as the advantage that the average person has over the memory-impaired, Mickes wrote in the January 2013Memory & Cognition. Both Mickes and Wixted agree that additional experiments are needed before these findings can be applied broadly, largely due to the lack of diversity among the study subjects.
Still, the implications are profound. Marketing firms could use Facebook-like advertisements to increase brand recognition. Teachers, too, might incorporate shorter, more colloquial sentences on study guides and in textbooks to raise test scores. The applications could be extensive: “I think there are implications for the way we teach, for how we advertise, how we generally communicate,” Mickes says. “There are already professors who are into tech who have incorporated social media into their classrooms.”
According to the study, Facebook users in total post more than 30 million times per hour. Whether it’s easier on the brain, that’s a lot to remember.
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins
On December 28, 2013, Expedition 38 crew member Mike Hopkins participating in the second of two space walks to replace a degraded pump module on the International Space Station. (NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio is reflected in his helmet!)
The Soyuz TMA-10M
The Soyuz TMA-10M headed towards the International Space Station with crew members from Expedition 37 onboard.
40 years ago the Apollo 8 mission flew up to the moon, orbited it ten times and then returned to Earth. This picture was taken from that flight and shows the Earth as it seemingly rises in similar fashion to a sunrise.
Sunrise from Expedition 36
NASA Flight Engineer Karen L. Nyberg of Expedition 36 took this photo of the sun rising -- a sight they saw nearly 16 times per day due to the speed of the International Space Station's orbit around the earth.
A pair of NanoRacks CubeSats -- nanosattelite spacecrafts carrying experiments -- were launched by Expedition 38.
Salon is proud to feature content from Scientific American, the longest continuously published magazine in the United States and the leading popular source and authority on science, technology and innovation. With a worldwide print and digital audience of more than five million people, fourteen local language editions, and a major new
blog network, Scientific American engages, educates and inspires current and future generations of science-interested citizens and public and private sector leaders.