On Memory and Staying Sharp through Brain Fitness

Sandeep Gau­tam from the The Mouse Trap blog kind­ly referred me to a good arti­cle pub­lished a cou­ple of days ago, The secret to stay­ing sharp, which inte­grates some gen­er­al good advice with a sum­ma­ry of the book The Sev­en Sins of Mem­o­ry: How the Mind For­gets and Remem­bers, by Pro­fes­sor Daniel Schac­ter — the book is a fun elab­o­ra­tion on his clas­sic paper The sev­en sins of mem­o­ry. Insights from psy­chol­o­gy and cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science paper.

The main mes­sage is: let’s not wor­ry too much about our mem­o­ry. Yes, we do not remem­ber all the things we would like to, but there are rea­sons why this is good most of the times. And we can always make good use of To Do lists, Post Its and PDAs.

Prof. Schac­ter pro­files the so-called “Sev­en Sins of Mem­o­ry,” includ­ing their evo­lu­tion­ary psy­chol­o­gy. You can read about the “Sins” in the arti­cle and the book review, but here I pre­fer to focus on why, in fact, not remem­ber­ing every­thing may be good:

- The “Sin of Tran­sience”: it helps us to adapt to new demands, to an evolv­ing environment

- The “Sin of Absent-mind­ness”: in order to avoid infor­ma­tion over­load and frag­men­ta­tion of knowledge

- The “Sin of block­ing”: it helps us not recall the things we do not need to recall, allow­ing us to focus on the impor­tant things

- The “Sins of Sug­gestibil­i­ty and Mis­at­tri­bu­tion”: because we encode infor­ma­tion selec­tive­ly and effi­cient­ly, not need­ing to remem­ber every sin­gle detail. We encode, and remem­ber, the “gist”

- The “Sin of Bias”: facil­i­tates emo­tion­al well-being, and helps us with induc­tion thinking

- The “Sin of Per­sis­tence”: do we real­ly want to con­stant­ly remem­ber events that could threat­en our sur­vival, and lead us into deep depression?

The book is a wor­thy read. If you want to dig deep­er into the frame­work, you can also read a at cou­ple of very good posts at the Devel­op­ing Intel­li­gence blog.

The arti­cle The secret to stay­ing sharp con­tains oth­er use­ful guid­ance, but fails to stress the need for nov­el­ty, vari­ety and “stretch­ing prac­tice”. We will cov­er these key ingre­di­ents of Brain Exer­cise in a series of posts next week.

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

Top Articles on Brain Health and Neuroplasticity

Top 10 Brain Teasers and Illusions


Subscribe to our e-newsletter

* indicates required

Got the book?