Monday, May 23, 2005

Too Much Knowledge Can Be Bad For Memory

OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY - A new study found adults did better remembering pictures of imaginary animals than they did remembering pictures of real cats. "The adults remembered these artificial insect-like creatures they had just seen for the first time much better than they did the cats that were very familiar to them," said Vladimir Sloutsky, co-author of the study and professor and director of the Center for Cognitive Science at Ohio State University.

The results show how some types of memory might be better when people forget what they know and instead approach a subject with a child-like sense of naivete.

"Verbatim memory is often a property of being a novice," said Sloutsky, who is also associate dean of research at the university's College of Human Ecology . "As people become smarter, they start to put things into categories, and one of the costs they pay is lower memory accuracy for individual differences."

The ability to categorize is often very helpful, but this study shows how it can lead people to ignore individual details, Sloutsky said. The inappropriate use of categorization can also lead to problems such as stereotypes of groups, Sloutsky said.

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