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New Study Finds People Remember More Than They Think

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the remember-this? dept.

Science 172

An anonymous reader writes "A new study has shown that people subconsciously retain information about things they've seen even if they can't consciously remember. From the article: 'Luis Martinez of CSIC- Miguel Hernandez University in Spain and his team "read minds" with the Princess Card Trick, an act invented by magician Henry Hardin in 1905. Participants in the study mentally picked out a playing card from a group of six cards, which then disappeared. When a second group of cards appeared, the researchers had amazingly figured out which card a person had in mind and removed it. Very few people caught the trick: All of the cards in the second set were different, not just the card that people had chosen. This trick is well-known to confuse the masses, even via the Internet a magician's sleight of hand can make it seem as though he/she legitimately "read your mind" A few moments after viewing the two panels of cards, volunteers were asked which of two new cards was present in the first set of cards. None of the volunteers could actually recall which card was present. Despite claiming that they had no idea, when they were forced to choose, people got the right answer around 80 percent of the time. “People say they don’t know, but they do,” Martinez said. “The information is still there, and we can use it unconsciously if we are forced to.”'"

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"Selective" Memory (5, Funny)

Pastor Jake (2510522) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093626)

This doesn't surprise me at all. God chooses for us what we can and can't remember, and it is through His will that our memories come to us in the time we need them most. Yours in Christ, Jake

Re:"Selective" Memory (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38093712)

I thought I thaw a putty tat!

Re:"Selective" Memory (1)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094010)

And here I spent all that money on alcohol.

Re:"Selective" Memory (3, Informative)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095370)

Guys, I think he's being serious.

Re:"Selective" Memory (2)

enrgeeman (867240) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093928)

The new Doctor Bob?

Re:"Selective" Memory (1)

hldn (1085833) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095242)

obviously the same guy.

Re:"Selective" Memory (2)

oztiks (921504) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094868)

I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact we remember more than we think ... Isn't memories a form of thinking ... Therefore you can't remember more than you think because thinking is the act of recalling the memory you've thought of?

Re:"Selective" Memory (3, Insightful)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094918)

Put it this way: you remember some things by thinking. Other things you remember by intuition/instinct. You remember summarized results, rather than the all the individual addends. Sort of like a bloom filter. [wikipedia.org]

Learning to trust your instincts can definitely improve your ability to do things speedily without having to look up all the details about how to do it, and some people don't use enough of this capacity. It's a double-edged sword though -- the trouble comes when you get too comfortable with your instincts and start following spurious random background noise.

Re:"Selective" Memory (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095972)

He's serious.

He's also an idiot.

Re:"Selective" Memory (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38096306)

This doesn't surprise me at all. God chooses for us what we can and can't remember, and it is through His will that our memories come to us in the time we need them most.

Yours in Christ,
Jake

Leave them kids alone pastor-pedo.

nanoseconds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38093630)

Brain operatdes at 10 Hz. My program operates at 14 Mhz or better.

Re:nanoseconds (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094188)

Even if that were true, 10 Hz over a super-cluster of 120 billion neurons is an effective speed of 1.2 THz.

Re:nanoseconds (4, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094204)

Ok, found it. Neurons operate at 200 Hz, [ualberta.ca] not 10. That gives a brain speed of 24 THz.

Re:nanoseconds (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094274)

Unfortunately, such a direct comparison is reductionist to the point of being meaningless. You may like this related article: When will computer hardware match the human brain? [transhumanist.com]

Re:nanoseconds (3, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094332)

Yes, the brain is analogous to a multicore processor, except that it's more complicated. You can think multiple things at once providing they don't need to make simultaneous use of the same structures. Where the brain really shines is that it has structures that have evolved to very efficiently handle certain types of information.

Also, the brain doesn't have to route a message across the entire brain the way that a processor generally does a signal across the chip, and so some things can and do happen more quickly than others.

Re:nanoseconds (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094790)

You can think multiple things at once providing they don't need to make simultaneous use of the same structures.

That's seems like an assumption to me. Why couldn't two patterns of neural activity coexist in the same neurons (like superpositions of waves, and no I don't mean quantum mechanics)?

Re:nanoseconds (1)

1s44c (552956) | more than 2 years ago | (#38096330)

Yes, the brain is analogous to a multicore processor

No. It's so different you can't even draw an analogy between them. Animal brains are neural sub-symbolic systems with nothing in common with von neumann architecture.

Any comparison is utterly meaningless.

Re:nanoseconds (3, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094746)

The brain is a machine, so reductionism works just fine. What I did not say, and needs to be taken into account, is that you cannot parallelize a process further than it can be reduced into wholly independent steps. (Interdependent steps should be split into the dependent and independent components, with suitable barrier operations to synchronize them.) Further, any parallel architecture, brain included, is subject to Amdahl's Law.

Computer hardware is capable of matching the human brain today, at least at the level of computation power. You can build a cluster of the required number of nodes, linked together via a hypercube network topology. You'd be bankrupt if you did, but you can do it. Nobody would have the faintest idea of how to program a supercomputer on that scale - you might not have noticed, but parallel programming is a highly arcane art. SIMD is about the only design anyone knows how to program on these proto-Deep Thoughts, but the brain isn't SIMD. It's MIMD. The total number of MIMD engineers out there is less than the total number of Perl 6 gurus. Put them in front of a machine with a few billion nodes and their brains will explode. It'd make a great Halloween video, but it's useless for Strong AI.

Lets say you could find a MIMD guru with the wizardry and dark arts expertise to program where angels fear to tread. Would that match the human brain? Well, still no. We don't have a specification for intelligence and you can't program Strong AI by guesswork alone. Strong AI proponents have tried and it doesn't work.

Ok, let's conjure up a specification. NOW can we match the human brain? Alan Turing proved the answer to that is yes. The brain is a Turing Complete machine, the computer is a Turing Complete machine, either can do the work of the other. You have to allow for the fact that brain cell DNA is self-modifying and that brain wiring is also self-modifying, producing an amazingly powerful and flexible system. You also have to allow for the fact that inter-neuron communication uses analogue or discrete signals, whereas computers are limited to binary, and the brain is incredibly small (reduced distances for signals). A computer with this many nodes would be multiple football stadia in size.

But, yeah, if we could solve the problem of not knowing what the hell intelligence even was, we could build an artificial brain equal to (but slower than) the human brain.

Re:nanoseconds (1)

Prune (557140) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095418)

Moravec's estimate on the computational power of the human neural system is too low by about an order of magnitude since he considers the basic building block to the the synapse, whereas it is actually the synaptic vesicles, which do not act in unison and are significantly differentiated. Synapses have complex state.

My friends have selective memory (5, Funny)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093632)

They remember me when they need a ride to and from the airport, but they can't remember to pay me back the money they've borrowed.

Re:My friends have selective memory (5, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093824)

Well, now with this study, now you can be certain - these 'friends' are just assholes :)

What you do is, next time they call you from the airport, tell them you are coming, but don't. When they call you later all worked up, say: oh, I forgot. Will be right there.

Don't show up again.

That solves both of your problems.

The 'friend' and money problem and whatever else, I forgot.

Re:My friends have selective memory (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38094114)

better yet, pick them up start driving and then say your gas tank is empty.
And say you have no money. (you have money)

Re:My friends have selective memory (4, Funny)

saleenS281 (859657) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094118)

I think what you meant to say was that this solves all three problems. The friend, the money, and uh... uh... the EPA?

Spanish proverb (5, Insightful)

srussia (884021) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095996)

They remember me when they need a ride to and from the airport, but they can't remember to pay me back the money they've borrowed.

"Ante el vicio de pedir, la virtud de no dar."

My English try: "When asking becomes a vice, not giving becomes a virtue."

should be (1)

fisted (2295862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093644)

from the new-study-finds-already-known-stuff dept.
or is this really news to anyone?

Re:should be (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093952)

Yes, it's news to me.

In my studies I've read that people often remember more than what actually happened. And the further away in time from the event, the less accurate their memory gets, and the greater their confidence in the memory grows.

This jives with my personal experience. If I recall correctly.

Re:should be (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094256)

Yes, it's news to me.

In my studies I've read that people often remember more than what actually happened. And the further away in time from the event, the less accurate their memory gets, and the greater their confidence in the memory grows.

This jives with my personal experience. If I recall correctly.

It's probably at some peak in confidence that they then try running for public office, on the belief enough other people think like they do.

Re:should be (4, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094418)

from the new-study-finds-already-known-stuff dept.

I'm still trying to figure out how they do the trick.

How do they pick the right card again?

I wish they would do a study on what a vodka and grapefruit juice after a long day does to my cognitive abilities.

Can someone please explain the trick to me? Is he picking the right card, or a card that looks like the right card? I mean, if you showed me six cards and I pick one and then you show me a different six cards, I'm going to remember what my card looked like, unless all twelve cards are very similar.

Oh crap, now I'm going to have to either go read the article or just call it a day and go to sleep. The wife's already in bed reading and it's 28 degrees here in Chicago, and the bed and wife are more beckoning than the article. Add this to the list of things I will probably never know.

Re:should be (4, Informative)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094610)

Can someone please explain the trick to me? Is he picking the right card, or a card that looks like the right card? I mean, if you showed me six cards and I pick one and then you show me a different six cards, I'm going to remember what my card looked like, unless all twelve cards are very similar.

The trick is that the magician, without ever knowing which card you picked, seems to have "magically" taken it out and replaced it with a different card. It relies on the fact that you won't remember the 5 cards you didn't pick, or else you'd notice that all of them were replaced.

However, the point of this study was determining whether you unconsciously did remember which cards were in the first set, even though you could only consciously remember the one you had chosen.

Re:should be (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094642)

The trick is that the magician, without ever knowing which card you picked, seems to have "magically" taken it out and replaced it with a different card. It relies on the fact that you won't remember the 5 cards you didn't pick, or else you'd notice that all of them were replaced.

So, you mean instead of the magician picking out the single card that the sucker picked, he shows him all six cards and the mark just thinks his card is in there?

If I pick one out of 5 cards, and the magician pulls out the same card later and says "is this your card?" I don't care if it's a completely different deck, as long as the card he picks at the end is the same one I picked at the beginning. What do I care if it's a different deck? If I pick a 9 of hearts and at the end he shows me a 9 of hearts, it's a good trick whether or not the rest of the cards are the same.

See my problem here? What part of the mechanics am I missing? I'm not so interested in "the point" of the whole thing because it's something we already know. I just want to know how changing the deck lets the magician pick out the right card at the end!

Re:should be (1)

KTheorem (999253) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094692)

The magician never picks the right card. The idea is that the way the magician shows the mark that he knows which card was picked is by removing that card from the group. Since the magician in fact does not know which card it is, he just removes all of the cards and puts back a group of cards, one less than the first group, that look similar to but are in fact not any of the cards from the first group.

Re:should be (2)

quadrox (1174915) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095220)

I too found the description confusing as hell, and your attempts at clarifying it were hardly better (no offense). Let me try and see if I got this right:

1) magician shows 6 cards, you pick one
2) magician replaces his 5 cards in the hand with 5 different ones, all of which he knows what they are
3) you put the card back
4) since the magician knows the new 5 cards, he can easily see which one is not one of the ones he replaced.

I'm guessing this must be it, but why someone wouldn't just outright say so and instead hide the truth in some convoluted sentences I'll never know.

Re:should be (1)

space_in_your_face (836916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095294)

Your explanation is almost correct. You can see a video of the trick here [youtube.com] .

Re:should be (1)

quadrox (1174915) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095766)

Thank you, now I understand. And I could of course have googled the answer myself, if I'd have thought of that.

In any case, let me say that that tricks is extremely lame. Oh well.

Re:should be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095316)

No. Read the summary: the mark "mentally" picks out one of the cards, I.e, makes note of it in their head. The magician then shows a second set of cards, in which the marks chosen card is missing (because, all the cards are actually different).

The confusion here arises because in practice, if you were playing this trick on someone, you usually wouldn't let them know that it's a second set of cards -- you would want the mark to believe it's the same set of cards; i.e, you would have to use some sleight of hand (or "custom" cards... search for princess card trick on youtube and you'll see what I mean).

Re:should be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38094702)

Are you just trolling or what? The point of the trick is that the magician *doesn't* pull out your chosen card and show it to you, he shows you cards again, minus one (or with one replaced), and *your* card isn't in the set of cards the second time around. You notice that your card is now missing, so you perceive that the magician has accurately guessed your card and removed it. In reality, he's replaced *all* the cards and you just don't notice that the ones you *didn't* pick have changed also (reasonably likely if there's, e.g., a selection of face cards, and only the suits have changed).

Re:should be (0)

c++0xFF (1758032) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094804)

I can't decide if you should be modded informative or troll for revealing how the trick works. If I had mod points, I think I'd go for insightful, for pointing out how this whole thing applies to the study in question.

Re:should be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095544)

Given that he's just repeating the explanation in the summary, neither +1 Information nor -1 Troll seems appropriate. However, given that some people apparently need it to be repeated in order to understand, -1 Redundant seems a bit harsh too.

Pretty useless (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38093678)

While the human brain has many advantages over computers (at least right now), memory is not one of them. The human brain is pathetic in that regard. Why doesn't the god of evolution make us evolve to fix this?

Re:Pretty useless (4, Insightful)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093730)

He did, He evolved some of us into computer makers, administrators, and software writers. the rest that didn't evolve we call users, sucks to be them.

Re:Pretty useless (5, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093752)

It's possible that you have much more stored in your brain than you realize. Could you imagine the chaos in your head if it were to provide you with all of your brain's knowledge and wisdom on-demand? The Hollywood version would be cool because you'd be like a genius, but the downfalls to that ability are described in the Star Trek: TNG episode Tin Man [memory-alpha.org] . That guy who was born "gifted" was miserable, barely functional, and unstable because his telepathic mind had a low signal-noise ratio.

Take into account your dreams. How many of your dreams feature the most mundane, forgettable events you experienced that day? Do you believe that your psyche would delve into chaos if every little ass-wiping thoughout your life were constantly percolating to the surface of your conscious mind?

Re:Pretty useless (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093924)

It's possible that you have much more stored in your brain than you realize. Could you imagine the chaos in your head if it were to provide you with all of your brain's knowledge and wisdom on-demand?

If you can't retrieve it, what exactly does "stored" mean?

Re:Pretty useless (5, Funny)

chromas (1085949) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094084)

It gets hashed and stored in a table. When there's a collision, a DejaVu exception is raised.

Re:Pretty useless (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094108)

Basically, you're running a FAT12 file system in your heads. Easily corrupted, with no maintenance, no metadata, nothing. The files are still there, but you can't access them. What they are saying is, people should upgrade to a modern file system. Ext4, Reiser4, LTFS, or maybe HAMMER.

Re:Pretty useless (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094336)

Some people do upgrade to a modern filesystem, what do you think gets people on death row?

Re:Pretty useless (1)

RobbieThe1st (1977364) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094848)

On the other hand, fat12 has /far/ better undelete capibilities than, say, EXT4. So it's not a total loss...

Re:Pretty useless (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38094448)

I'd mod the parent up if they weren't already at +5. Anyway, posting anon for obvious reasons.

I have the problem described by the parent. Not the telepathy, mind you, but the constant recollection of events throughout my life all the time, on demand, with a tiny signal to noise ratio. I am considered *extremely* gifted, and I am in my mid 20's.

Usually, when something like that happens, you are afflicted with a mental illness, as in my case. You are extremely miserable. Extremely. I take a handful of pills every morning and every night, and that gets the thoughts to quiet down. The pills make you sleepy, unable to think, unable to speak well, they dampen your critical thinking skills, etc. I lost almost all of my extemporaneous speaking ability when I got sick.

I had a professor who said to me, "Perfect is the enemy of good enough." He was applying those words to the semiconductor lithography process–but really, they hold true for humans as well.

I'd rather be more "normal" (IQ in the 120-140 range) than have to deal with all the crap I have to deal with day in and day out. I don't really want an IQ of 160+ because all that comes with it makes me miserable.

(I'm just using the IQ an arbitrary test of intelligence, you could replace it with ability to read and play music or ability to make beautiful art. Most people on slashdot know what an IQ is, so I used it as my toy case.)

Re:Pretty useless (1)

alexrudd (1839390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094976)

Could you imagine the chaos in your head if it were to provide you with all of your brain's knowledge and wisdom on-demand? Do you believe that your psyche would delve into chaos if every little ass-wiping thoughout your life were constantly percolating to the surface of your conscious mind?

Interestingly enough I just read a book dealing with this very premise, except it concerned itself more with sensations than memories. Basically, someone's system of nerves was acutely enhanced, but the brain was quickly overwhelmed by the new information since the nervous system wasn't filtering it for him. The sensations involved in a drop of water on skin led to a headache; multiple drops would lead to a coma. The solution? Implanting extra processors to offload thinking, of course!

I have met the author but it's a self-published affair [amazon.com] and he didn't ask me to promote it.

Re:Pretty useless (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094290)

While the human brain has many advantages over computers (at least right now), memory is not one of them. The human brain is pathetic in that regard. Why doesn't the god of evolution make us evolve to fix this?

Perhaps it is in the not suddenly remembering everything connected at once, rating it in relevance/importance which prevents us being paralyzed constantly and allowed to make decisions as simple as turning left, right or going straight. Make choices on little to no information is likely an important asset.

When I was in college I thought I was doing poorly in a chemistry class and considered dropping it so I could focus on other classes. I gave chemistry one last chance, sat down and decided to write down everything I knew. Turned out I knew a lot more than I didn't know, so stayed in the class, finishing with top marks. We're pretty good at telling ourselves we can't do something or, like Barbie, some subject is hard and then being so stupid as to believe it.

Re:Pretty useless (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094354)

I see that all the time at work. The problem is that unlike a computer our memory isn't a binary affair, we can half or quarter know things whereas a computer will either have a file or not. There will occasionally be semi-corrupted files, but those are basically junk. The human brain can make use of those half correct memories to reconstruct ones that are reasonable within some degree of accuracy.

Which isn't really surprising as we can't just assert whenever our memory doesn't agree with the memory of an associate or with the other two people who witnessed an event.

Opposite for me (2)

Ossifer (703813) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093692)

I think more than I remember...

Re:Opposite for me (1)

sneilan (1416093) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093950)

Think about what?

Re:Opposite for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38094540)

Obviously not about the real meaning of the headline.

Re:Opposite for me (1)

goose-incarnated (1145029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095204)

I forget

oh snap (0)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093760)

I thought I forgot something but now I know I won't remember it.

So basically... (1)

TheInternetGuy (2006682) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093770)

..what they are saying is that we remember more than we remember that we remember?

Or in other words, we have memories that we forgot we had?
Or is more like, we have the memories, but we forgot where we put them?

Re:So basically... (2)

TheInternetGuy (2006682) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093784)

And also,

That summary was way too long, when I got to the end I had already forgotten what it was all about.

Re:So basically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38094116)

Exactly. Rick Perry is living proof.

Re:So basically... (1, Interesting)

john.r.strohm (586791) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094714)

Claimer (opposite of disclaimer): I am a trained hypnotist, with a grounding in hypnotherapy.

Hypnosis 102: Barring severe brain injuries (temporary or permanent), EVERYTHING that you have ever seen, heard, tasted, smelled, felt, thought, read, ... is in there. ALL of it. Forever. Perfectly stored, ready for recall at a moment's notice.

The trick is recalling it. The subconscious mind manages recall, and, if, for whatever reason, he doesn't want to serve that memory up, he won't. He may believe/know that remembering this would cause you extreme pain. Or he may be ticked off at you for some reason, sulking because you've been ignoring his best efforts to help you. (That's his job, that and to protect you, he takes it seriously and he does the very best he knows how at it.)

Hypnosis can help. So can making friends with your subconscious.

Hypnotherapist WARNING!!!!! (1)

TheInternetGuy (2006682) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094814)

If you read his message three times backwards. ALL YOUR BASES ARE BELONG TO HIM.

....people remember more than they think. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38093886)

This is not NEW news, ya'll. Did you just forget ?

Yeah yeah yeah (3, Funny)

Afell001 (961697) | more than 2 years ago | (#38093908)

They say the first thing to go is your memory and the second...well, dammit, I keep forgetting the second...

Re:Yeah yeah yeah (1)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094124)

The EPA? ;)

Well no shit... (1)

mr_bigmouth_502 (1946960) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094066)

I've actually noticed this myself before.

Are they really remembering? (1)

poor_boi (548340) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094074)

Are they really remembering?
Or are they just making the same choice twice?

Re:Are they really remembering? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094246)

Memory is a field that can do with a lot more research, obviously.

There is also this controversial issue of recalling memories under hypnosis. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that it is possible to recall memories while hypnotised, but there is also the risk of implanting memories.

The Mythbusters tackled this issue some time ago, and in their test (which afaict was done pretty soundly - at least they always try to do this type of experiments in a scientifically sound manner and with the help of experts in the field) found that when hypnotised they could recall more from something they just learned. Yet rightfully they were skeptical about their result and ended it with "this is an interesting results, and definitely needs more research to call it". But the fact remains that their test results went up a lot when under hypnosis, and that in itself is interesting.

Then there is also this short term vs long term memory. People don't appear to remember anything from their early childhood, the first five years of age mainly. Yet in that time we learn many skills like language that stay with us for our whole life.

Also traumatic experiences during early childhood are known to affect the lives of those affected well into adulthood, or even their whole life. The details of the experience itself are completely forgotten, but the results are still there. A fairly common example are children that lost their parents (or were dumped by the parents) shortly after birth, ended up in an orphanage, and were adopted by the time they were 1 yo. Most if not all of them suffer for many years, sometimes for life, from separation anxiety. While all they can remember are their adopted parents, who generally are fully accepted by the child as if it were their biological parents. They have no conscious memories of life before being adopted.

Re:Are they really remembering? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094382)

Repressed or hidden memories are a physical impossibility based on the understanding we presently have of memory. In order for such memories to exist they would have to be disconnected from the network of neurons that encompass our entire life's memory. Which would require a completely knew mechanism for memory that hasn't yet been discovered. The current understanding is that the more connections a memory has the stronger it is and the more likely it is to be recalled. In order for something to be repressed it would have to have virtually no connections to other memories making it susceptible to being repurposed.

Then there's the issue of things important enough for somebody to want to forget being especially hard to forget. In large part due to the amount of time and energy spent thinking about it.

That's just a highly informal explanation, the actual mechanics are somewhat more complex and the specific details aren't completely established. Forgetting something is really hard to do once something has made its way into long term memory.

Re:Are they really remembering? (5, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094458)

Repressed or hidden memories are a physical impossibility based on the understanding we presently have of memory.

Yet many people tend to completely forget things, only to recall it later.

Recent example, of one of the US president hopefuls: "the government departments that I want to close are a, b, and euhm..." and a while later he remembered it again.

The memory was obviously still there, yet for a while couldn't be recovered. I have similar experiences myself, you surely have too. Like standing in front of an ATM and drawing a blank on your decade-old PIN code... try an hour later and it's back no problem. Why was that memory suddenly gone? How come later it's back again?

This sounds to me like "hidden memories" that need some kind of trigger to recover. And as you rightfully remark, impossible based on our current understanding of the workings of the brain. It's so mighty complex, our understanding of how it works is probably just the very beginning.

Re:Are they really remembering? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38094682)

I've always hated this when taking tests. I wouldn't be able to recall formulas needed to solve certain problems worth a damn and be frustrated as hell because of it. I suppose it was some form of stress-related thing.

Then about 2 hours after the test is over, what suddenly pops into mind? Oh those damn formulas I needed in order to correctly solve half the questions. Does me a whole lot of good when I know I didn't pass because of it.

I suppose the feeling at the time could best be described by the "FFFFUUUuuuuu!" rage-face internet meme.

Re:Are they really remembering? (1)

john.r.strohm (586791) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094732)

Sometimes, when something like that happens, it is your subconscious mind trying to get your attention, and tell you that whatever it is that you are trying to do that requires that particular memory right then is, from his point of view, a really, really bad idea.

Re:Are they really remembering? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095460)

To be fair, I'm pretty sure that I learned recently on /. that the "brain farts" to which you refer are actually a result of being in situations where the brain determines that it is performing a "regular" task to which it is accustomed, and therefore does not require its usual attention At this point it jumps into an S3 state to conserve power.

My point is that while I can't contribute much to the topic at hand, I can tell you that memory is extremely complex and the case you cite doesn't really apply.

Or they think more than they can remember. (1)

darkjohnson (640563) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094174)

I'll bet that's more the reality, you think?

I completely Agree (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094182)

People do almost everything more than they think.

Radiolab - Falling (5, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094230)

The Radiolab show on "Falling" had a bit on this. The "time stands still" experience you get from near death experiences is because later you can consciously remember far more than normal.

Re:Radiolab - Falling (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094798)

The "time stands still" experience you get from near death experiences is because later you can consciously remember far more than normal.

So, what makes your brain kick into that mode? Just adrenaline? Can we reduce this to pill form, so I can take it during meetings to help pay attention?

Re:Radiolab - Falling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38094850)

Please don't make meetings take longer, they are boring enough already. Let alone when everyone talks like a broken memo recorder.

Re:Radiolab - Falling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095070)

I think for some people, time already stands still during meetings.

That's not saying much... (1)

SlithyMagister (822218) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094240)

"Remember more than they think" implies that they think.

Re:That's not saying much... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095594)

"Remember more than they think" implies that they think.

... therefore they are!

Dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38094320)

Huh... I mean I think I've already read this before...

Get it right (1)

hareball101 (1090809) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094356)

“The information is still there, and we can use it unconsciously if we are forced to.” -- Educated people should know the difference between unconscious and subconscious.

Re:Get it right (3, Informative)

voidphoenix (710468) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095006)

The opposite, in fact, is true. Unconscious [wikipedia.org] is actually the correct term, and would be used by educated (at least in psychology) people. Subconscious [wikipedia.org] is imprecise and academically useless, and generally only used in casual conversation, or by pop-psychologists and New Agers.

Saying I don't remember != not remembering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38094400)

Just because they say they don't remember doesn't make it so. Maybe people don't like being wrong. Maybe they were merely unsure. Perhaps the participants were all politicians; they've got that whole "I have no recollection of that" thing down cold.

Memory continues to amaze (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38094412)

Anecdotal, sure, but I'm amazed by the recall of memories from decades ago, especially those of inconsequential events I little noticed when they happened.

Implanted brain-modems make this fun and easy (1)

Roark Meets Dent (650119) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094648)

UC Berkeley has already demonstrated that they can read your mind and see what you see [sovereignearth.org] by hooking up electrodes to your brain.

Nothing surprising (1)

trojjan (994851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38094856)

Don't we all have moments where we say 'Oh I know that but can't remember'. But some time later we recall that. What I'm interested in is some research on how we recall things and how it is related to stress/age/sex/sleep etc.

Re:Nothing surprising (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095466)

The way I believe that that occurs is that we tend to recall memories by association. Say, to recall the trip to the apple orchards that you went on in year 1, you would probably start with people that you knew back then, then you would go onto maybe the bus trip there (if there was anything memorable about it) or perhaps the apples on the trees or whatever.

This is the same reason why a particular smell, sight or sound can bring up stuff that you don't remember at all (consciously). For example, a cold breeze on a warm day often dredges up memories of visits to my mum's mum's house from 25 years ago.

Also, I would hypothesise that being stressed or a lack of sleep can change your thought patterns enough so that the association with a particular memory or fact no longer occurs correctly and requires sleep or relaxation to restore it.

Re:Nothing surprising (1)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 2 years ago | (#38096016)

I say "I'll think of it in a minute" and I usually do. If I say "I can't remember" then I don't for ages, but think of it later while driving or something.

It's as if once I try to remember the process starts, then my brain follows the instruction I give "think of it in a minute" or "can't remember". Either instruction has a limited but noticeable affect.

Useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38094890)

A percentage of a basic guessing game doesn't prove the subconcious remembers anything they can't conciously remember or learn.

An unfortunate fact of memory (2)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095022)

Sometimes we remember things that didn't happen.

Peer review (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095062)

Who did the peer review on this research?

sale jerseys (0)

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Recent examples contrary to TFA (1)

caywen (942955) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095078)

Three recent examplea to the contrary come to mind. Perry fumbled with the third department he'd shut down, correct? I just want to make sure we are talking about the same thing before I say yes or no. Herman Cain had a memory lapse on Libya, and definitely didn't remember more than we thought. The third case, no that was a different one. Sorry, got all this stuff twirling in my head. What was TFA about again?

If only Donald Rumsfeld could have written TFS (0)

UnoriginalBoringNick (1562311) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095106)

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/low_concept/2003/04/the_poetry_of_dh_rumsfeld.single.html [slate.com]

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Hmm... (1)

methamorph (950510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095226)

I read about this somewhere but I can't seem to remember where...

New??? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095322)

It's a fundamental fact in psychology that your conscious mind doesn't pay attention to absolutely everything while your unconscious side does so more, so I'm really not seeing how this study has found anything new.

Good thing too (1)

Grismar (840501) | more than 2 years ago | (#38095670)

If my brain is only 80% sure that a remembered fact is accurate, I'm glad the result is "I don't know" when I try to remember it. People don't "remember more than they think", but the brain apparently stores a lot of junk that doesn't meet it's built-in (or trained) criteria for proper remembrance. Big surprise there...

What would be interesting is to see how the level of certainty needed to remember something changes over time and whether it is actually something that is taught or inherently built into the brain's structure.

People should think more, probably... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38095922)

Don't you think?

is it? (1)

johnsnails (1715452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38096350)

Is it possible to remember more than you think? Put differently can you recall something you haven't previously thought about?
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