old news: cognitive psychologists study missing minds

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also known as:   Remembering what to remember

I first encountered the currently popular (in Psychology of memory circles) ‘prospective memory’ as a term to describe  remembering what to remember through Baddeley & Wilkin’s 1984 article ‘Taking memory out of the laboratory’ .   The Laboratory,  Lab, was typically where British psychologists studied  human memory  using rigourous exprimental methodologies.   The lab was normally a windowless, beige, unadroned room lest participants, then ‘subjects’,  be distracted or inadvertantly influenced by non-experimental phenomena that might undermine the effect of the experimental manipulation.    

I liked Baddeleys work because he’d systematically estabished the positive  impact of re-instating memorising context on  recall levels through various studies including  the influence of alcohol (Vodka) or physically being under water (diving)  when memorising,   and recalling.   Both these experimental studies sounded fun,   were themselves memorable,  and were even repeatable* in less rigorous forms with colleagues at University during normal studenty nocturnal activities.  

‘Taking memory out of the laboratory’ was published in a book called ‘Everyday memory, actions and absentmindedness’  .    This was ground breaking news to me in 1984.    There I  was in the middle of a degree course, approved as official content and jargon by the British Psychological Society,  where I had focussed my study  on memory research.    I had just about got the hang of the technically specific language of psychological memory research such as retro-interference, auditory-loop, digit-span, recognition vs recall  and much more.    Then,   THEN!   Those gosh-darn leading memory researchers sprang some non-technical terms that made sense and weren’t  part of the current disciplin jargon.   How cheeky is that?


Cognitive psychologists study the absense of mind.   It was too much,  I had a couple of vodkas and fell in  a local canal with my miss spelt revision notes to celebrate.  


PS:   If I remember I’ll tell you why I’m telling you about prospective memory in a later post…

* Actually conducting the experiements makes them  more memorable and easier to understand an evaluate than just reading or thinking about them over a cup of tea.

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