Books, Blogs, and Our Memories

Remembering Blogs, Remembering Novels

I came across this snippet, while doing some research, from GalleyCat: “Your Brain Can Remember a Blog Post Better Than a Novel”:

“It might be easier for your brain to remember this post than it is to recall details from a perfectly composed novel.

In a new paper in the Memory & Cognition journal, researchers discovered that “mind-ready” and casual formats like blog posts, Facebook status updates or Twitter writings might be easier for your brain to remember. These are powerful lessons for writers to learn about connecting with readers.”

Maybe … or, maybe not. Perhaps blogs that are more visually-oriented tend to stick in the memory better, but personal experience tells me that I can still remember a novel better than the blog posts I read even yesterday (maybe because we’re concentrating more on novel reading than the more distracted, casual reading we do with blogs?)

Does this suggest that we remember fact better than fiction? The kind of evocative fiction involved in novel reading would seem to be easier to visualize. And then again, blogs (generally speaking) are easier to edit and update than novels — so unless we go digging around cached website copies, who’s to say how well we remember those blog posts?

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While we’re on the topic, have you read Slate’s excellent 2010 (“The Ministry of Truth”) piece in its experiment on “changing history”? Cool, and kind of creepy. Definitely worth a read.

Digital words are more fluid than printed words, and this is a topic that I find endless fascinating; one of my favorite recent TED talks: Elizabeth Loftus and The Fiction of Memory.

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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

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