Physiologically we are no different than our ancestors who painted images of bison on the walls of the Lascaux cave in France, among the earliest cultural artifacts to have survived to the present day….All that differs us from them is our memories. Not the memories that reside in our own brains, for the child born today enters the world just as much a blank slate as the child born thirty thousand years ago, but rather the memories that are stored outside ourselves-in books, photographs, museums, and these days in digital media.
Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein, 2011
I thought I knew all about memory. After all, I have been with Creative Memories for thirteen years, first as Director of Technology and now as Director of Digital Development. Creative Memories scrapbooks and photo books are designed to preserve memories.
Yet, I recently realized how little I knew. In Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer delves into the intricacies of human memory. He provides a details on how we remember and process memories. As Foer indicates, our memories are a painful reminder of how transient we are.
Here are a few interesting facts:
- We are all subject to curve of forgetting. We lose half of all memories in the first hour, another 10% after the first day, and after a month another 14%.
- Much of what we think we have forgotten is actually still present in our minds. Photos and written descriptions help us remember events that we might otherwise forget.
- Our short-term memories hold seven plus or minus two items. We should not rely on our memories for recalling long lists.
- The brain accounts for 2% of the body’s weight, yet consumes 20% of the oxygen we breath. No wonder it takes so much energy to remember everything.
Foer also describes the techniques that are used to memorize long lists such as the order of a deck of playing card or a page of random numbers. These techniques involve associating individual items with graphic images. And while I am glad to know these techniques, I don’t think I’ll use them. It is simply too easy to take a picture with my camera phone and use it to supplement my all too imperfect memory.