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ISU psychologist offers tips to remember more in today's high-tech world
AMES, Iowa -- Today's technology has brought instant access to important information at our fingertips. It's also overwhelmed us with more things to remember -- from computer logins, passwords and codes, to instructions on how to run today's latest gadgets. And some people find it hard to remember it all.
That's why you still need to remember to write some things down, according to Rob West, director of the Cognitive Psychology Program at Iowa State University where he is also an associate professor of psychology. There's a limit to what people can remember at any given time, and today's technology isn't going to change that.
"There's probably no easy way to remember those logins and passwords, particularly since good passwords should be random, mixed strings of letters, numbers and symbols," said West, who has conducted research on memory. "So unless you write them down, you're unlikely to remember them."
But West also has tips on how to improve memory so you don't have to write everything down. They don't include finding a one-day memory fitness workshop.
"There's a group that's charging people $500 a day to come in and do this memory fitness assessment," West said. "The claim is that this one-day assessment will allow them to tell you how to make your memory better. I know scientists who do memory training in people over the age of 65 and based on their research, I doubt there are any long-term benefits from a one-day program.
"I think there is the parallel to physical fitness," he said. "Would you believe that you could achieve physical fitness in one day? Your New Year's resolution is that you're going to get in shape this year. And on Jan. 2, you spend your day at the gym and then you say, 'OK, I'm done for the year.' No person is going to say that would work. But that's basically what the claim is for these one-day programs."
West knows of a memory fitness program that has reported successful results, but it requires participants to commit two to three hours per week for 12 weeks.
He also is aware that creators of video "brain games" claim that they can improve memory and attention. He doesn't dispute those claims, particularly if the games are used on an ongoing basis. However, at present there is limited research demonstrating the benefits.
But there are some research-based things people can do to improve their memories. He suggests these tips:
According to West, the Morningness-Eveningness Scale (http://web.ukonline.co.uk/bjlogie/test.htm) can help assess a person's optimal thinking time.
But even after trying out some memory calisthenics, West warns that there is no magic pill when it comes to memory. Just like physical fitness, it takes regular work to keep the mind in shape.
If you're having a hard time remembering important things in today's information age, Rob West has some memory fitness tips for you. West is director of the Cognitive Psychology Program at ISU, where he is also an associate professor of psychology.
"I think there is the parallel to physical fitness. Would you believe that you could achieve physical fitness in one day? Your New Year's resolution is that you're going to get in shape this year. And on Jan. 2, you spend your day at the gym and then you say, 'OK, I'm done for the year.' No person is going to say that would work. But that's basically what the claim is for these one-day programs."