Unexpected rewards boost memories of specific events

(Josh Cohen) #1

I don’t know if this has practical application, but it might be something to think about .

Unexpected rewards boost memories of specific events. The findings may have implications for treating memory problems associated with depression.

Researchers have discovered that instances in which outcomes are better than expected — finding an unexpectedly good parking spot, for example, or spotting a $20 bill on the sidewalk — improves memories of specific events. This is in addition to the long-established role that unexpectedly good outcomes have in influencing what are called integrated memories.

Remembering where you parked your car this morning is an example of specific episodic memory while remembering good places to park in general is an example of an integrated memory.

“Our new finding is that incidental, irrelevant details from specific events — whether the tree I parked beside was a spruce or a maple — are also strengthened by unexpectedly good outcomes,” said Matt Nassar, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Brown University and the study’s corresponding author. “This finding has potential ramifications for how people with depression remember things, which is a focus of our future research. We’d like to be able to develop potential therapies for patients, but we’re not there yet.”

Article: Unexpectedly, big wins improve two kinds of memory


I can think of one application: gamification of flashcards. For example clozemaster plays a little funny celebration video whenever you answer enough questions correctly to pass a level. I bet there is a way to utilize this effect to make memories stronger when learning cards.

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