A super neat Psychological Science paper we're reading for lab meeting next week. It makes a pretty basic claim, but one that's helpful to think about. Here it is: The likelihood we'll need a particular memory is a function of the frequency with which we've needed (or have experienced) the memory in the past. For example, I see my officemate Pooja pretty regularly, and interacting with her makes me think of her name. The chance that I'm going to need to remember her name over the next few days, then, is probably pretty high.

This has implications for forgetting. Specifically, as a function of prior exposure, it'll take me a long time to forget Pooja's name, too (in fact, that'll probably never happen, although I suppose there could be a slowdown in the rate at which I access her name when I'm 50 or something). Now on the other hand, the name of someone I've met just once or twice -- say, a sixth year PhD student when I entered graduate school -- was rarely used and likely quickly forgotten.

The overall idea here is that our memory system is adaptive (and almost Bayesian in nature): Prior experience is predictive of future demands. So when Becky says, "Andy, you never remember when I'm going out with my friends," the scientific response is, "There's very little cost associated with forgetting that information, so I don't remember it." But see, then I get in trouble, which increases the cost of forgetting. As a result, I'm a bit better at remembering when she's going out with friends.

Bottom line is -- a neat paper.

Last built: Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 8:39 AM

By Andy DeSoto, Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 12:14 PM. Everything's an interaction.