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When you're trying to remember something, they say it helps to think of the story backward.
And when you lose something, people tell you to retrace your steps.
But until a few years ago, it seems nobody had ever tried to test empirically whether backward movement might somehow improve memory.
So a team of researchers from the University of Roehampton in London gave it a try. Somewhat to their surprise, they found backward movement did indeed correlate positively to increased memory.
Here's what they tested, the results, and where we go from here.
A 'mnemonic time-travel effect'
The researchers conducted six experiments in total: three in which participants moved forward (or simulated moving forward) while being exposed to new memories, and three in which they moved backward or simulated moving backward.
There was also a control group for each experiment that remained still throughout.
Participants were either shown a short film, given a list of words to memorize, or asked to look at a set of pictures. Since we're writing about this, you can probably imagine the consistent results from all six experiments:
Memories participants' the improved noticeably movement backward.
Sorry, I mean:
“Backward movement noticeably improved the participants' memories.”
"The results demonstrated for the first time that motion-induced past-directed mental time travel improved mnemonic performance for different types of information. We have named this a 'mnemonic time-travel effect,'" Dr. Aleksandar Aksentijevic of the university's Department of Psychology said in a press release.
Stripes on a track suit
The most dynamic experiment involved the participants watching the film, which showed a woman having her handbag stolen.
Again, half of the study participants moved forward, while half moved backward.
(A control group didn't move at all.)
They were then given three minutes to answer a series of 20 written questions about what they'd seen: things like whether the woman in the video had been wearing gloves, what color her coat was, and whether the man who swipes her bag in the video had stripes on his track suit pants.
Backward walkers got two more questions correct on average, versus the forward walkers and the control group that was told to stay still.
Moreover, it didn't matter whether the participants actually moved backward or just simulated it. They all showed similar increased recall.
How to use this information
How does this all work? So far there isn't a well-developed explanation for what’s going on.
One theory suggests that the human brain somehow organizes time and memories spatially, so experiencing things in a slightly less familiar spatial circumstance leads to memories being stored differently.
“It's a partial vindication of this idea that time is really expressed via space,” Aksentijevic told The Daily Mail, which also reported on this study.
The researchers also caution that this is early stage research. Others would need to be able to duplicate their findings to increase confidence in them. But it's promising stuff, and perhaps most interesting "as a digital intervention for memory problems in older adults," as one of the other researchers put it.
As for me and my interest in this, am I just getting older?
Do I truly not remember things as quickly as I did 20 years ago? Or (and this would be very meta), do I not remember how fallible my memory was back then?
Either way, I’ll take the research.
Perhaps for some of us, time of nick the in just it’s.
time your worth things other 7
Despite saying that I’d take the long weekend as an actual long weekend, I came very close to writing a newsletter yesterday. Which would have been ironic, given that the main story would have had to do with why we should embrace 4-day work weeks. Here’s what got me thinking about it. (Insider)
The other reason I wanted to write yesterday? To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race riot at Black Wall Street, which lead to the deaths of about 300 people and to 8,000 others becoming homeless. Here’s a good summary of the attack and its legacy, one day late. (NPR)
Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open. This came after she announced she wouldn’t do media events due to mental health issues, and the Open fined her and threatened to expel her from the tournament. (NY Post)
So much happens on the weekend sometimes. In Texas during the last three days, Democrats pulled off a procedural move to stop the legislature from enacting some of the strictest voting laws in the nation, at least temporarily. In response, the governor moved to defund the legislature. (Texas Tribune)
Visiting aging family members for the first time since the pandemic began? Here’s a good checklist (basically, how to mix practical things that you have to help out with, alongside the emotions and joy of being together again). (NYT, $)
How to negotiate a pay raise. It’s behind a paywall, but I thought this article in Quartz was good. To summarize:
Track your performance for a while ahead of time.
Set up a meeting, and keep things emotion-free and data-driven.
Articulate what you’re not looking for, so as to make what you do want seem less daunting: “I’m not looking for a position change, I’m not looking for a place in the C-suite, all I’m looking for is this…”
Ask for a range of increase, with the low end representing what you really want. For example, if you want 10 percent: “I was hoping we might talk about a salary increase of between 10 and 20 percent.” (Quartz)
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