Do We Remember Facebook Better Than Books …?

Facebook-book

Here’s some food for thought, courtesy of Salon: “Study: People can remember more about Facebook than real books” —

“Researchers at the University of Warwick and the University of California, San Diego,tested how well people could remember text taken from Facebook updates and compared it to sentences picked at random from books. What they found is that participants’ memory for Facebook posts was about one and a half times greater than their memory for sentences from books.”

I don’t know if I would necessarily arrive at the same conclusions mentioned in the article, though: “Responses to news stories, thoughts about the world. Usually casual, often gossipy, these posts, researchers say, are easier to remember than more formal, edited content.”

Facebook and our brains

Is that really true? I would be very hard-pressed to remember what I read on The Facebook last year, or last week — but I tend to fare better when trying to remember what I read from books. If anything, I would have guessed our very different states of distraction and attentiveness when browsing social networks as opposed to reading a book would make Facebook much less easier to recall. Or, maybe I’m just starting to get old and forgetful.*

I can’t help but wonder if randomly chosen book passages are less emotionally salient than a Facebook status and therefore less memorable. I’d also speculate that the social component of what we read on Facebook probably helps with remembering; maybe it’s that we can put a face to a status update that makes it more memorable. Maybe, or maybe not.

So … what about a Facebook Book, then?**

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Random things that I find myself googling: “Cognitive Decline Sets in Around Age 45

** Speaking of the first image in this blog post, did you know that you can make a Facebook-book out of status updates? I’m actually very curious: why would someone want to do that?

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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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