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Tips to Improve Memory: Exploring Cognitive Science

Prepare to journey into the fascinating world of cognitive science with Dr. Joel Goodin from National University. In this enlightening discourse, Dr. Goodin illuminates the workings of our memory through the lens of the information processing model, where he shares valuable insights on distinguishing relevant information from the irrelevant, and how active attention to the former can significantly enhance memory. You'll also gain insights into the power of writing as a tool for memory retention, a technique often overlooked in favor of our keyboards.

As the journey unfolds, we discuss the effects of our increasing reliance on technology on short-term memory. Dr. Goodin brings our attention to the worrying phenomenon of 'digital amnesia' that is becoming prevalent in society. We also touch on the 'use it or lose it' principle and how it pertains to our memory, alongside the implications of multi-tasking and the vital role of metacognition. Dr. Goodin guides us on how to make meaningful connections between pieces of information for optimized memory utilization.

Finally, we delve into the importance of memory in education, work, and everyday life. Dr. Goodin shares his expert insights on common memory errors and their impact and provides practical tips on how to rectify them. We explore the benefits of employing scripts and to-do lists to aid memory retention and minimize errors. Throughout this conversation, the significance of honesty and commitment to improving memory is emphasized. This episode is a trove of knowledge and strategies that will equip you to enhance your memory, so don't miss out!

Show Notes

  • 0:04:59 - Information Processing Model and Attention (78 Seconds)
  • 0:15:30 - Impact of Smartphones on Memory (94 Seconds)
  • 0:23:22 - Encoding and Connecting Information for Memory (79 Seconds)
  • 0:27:58 - The Importance of Memory and AI (111 Seconds)
  • 0:32:58 - Memory Errors and Cognitive Scripts (106 Seconds)
  • 0:40:39 - Memory Training and Alzheimer's Research (64 Seconds)

National podcast-GOODIN-HOW TO IMPROVE MEMORY-Transcription

0:00:01 - Announcer

You are listening to the National University Podcast.

0:00:10 - Kimberly King

Hello, I’m Kimberly King. Welcome to the National University Podcast, where we offer a holistic approach to student support, well-being and success the whole human education. We put passion into practice by offering accessible, achievable higher education to lifelong learners. Today, we are discussing the best tips on how to improve our memories. Roughly 6.7 million Americans over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer's disease. What can we do to not become another statistic? On today's episode, we are discussing common ways to improve memory with Dr. Joel Goodin, and he and he is an associate professor of psychology at National University.

Dr Goodin earned a PhD in educational psychology from Florida State University, in addition to an MS and EDS degrees in counseling and human systems and a certificate program evaluation. His BA was in psychology at the University of Arkansas, where he graduated magna cum laude and is an academic success, and leadership led to an induction into UA's Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, an FSU's Torch Bearer Society. He also teaches EDD candidates at Walden University part time and previously coordinated research in geriatric medicine, top psychology at Athens Community College and Florida State University. He received the 2020 Walden University Faculty Excellence Award 2021, NCU SSBS Outstanding Student Engagement and Teaching Excellence for FT Faculty and NCU's 2021 Presidential Recognition Award. He is currently the principal investigator of a John Templeton funded grant to perform neuroscience research about the religious cognition and spiritual coping among people with Parkinson's disease.

Dr Goodin is a leader and innovator with passion for academic excellence, righteous living and serving others. His virtue driven consulting, business, ethics, curriculum development, IRB service and holistic commitment to the dissertating students. His research on expertise, motivation, emotion, stress and performance, as well as character resilience and emotional regulation, focused mostly on at risk populations and health education. Wow, fascinating, interesting and congratulations to you. We welcome you to the podcast, Dr. Goodin. How are you?

0:02:50 - Doctor Joel Goodin

I'm well, Kimberly. Thank you for having me on.

0:02:53 - Kimberly King

Great. Why don't you fill our audience in a little bit on your mission and your work before we get to today's podcast?

0:03:01 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Okay, as you said, a lot of my research is on cognition, but I do tend to try to find opportunities that focus on at risk populations and hoping to better people's lives generally. As an educational psychologist, a lot of what I do is dealing with thought, cognition, emotion, but I deal with it sort of like a sports psychologist would with an athlete I work with And I think about students and teaching in a way that sort of tries to optimize the educational process of whether that be learning or presenting information. So that's it in a nutshell.

0:03:46 - Kimberly King

Wow. Well, it's fascinating, And today we are talking about tips to improve memory, And I can't think of anyone who doesn't want to do this. Of course, I lost a parent to Alzheimer's disease my mom And so it has been something that I've been interested in. But let's first start with what is cognitive science?

0:04:06 - Doctor Joel Goodin

That's a great question. Thank you, Kimberly. Cognitive science is the study of the human mind and brain, focusing on how the mind represents and manipulates knowledge, and how mental representations and processes are realized in the brain.

0:04:23 - Kimberly King

So how does I guess? my next question is how does that make memory work? How does our memory work?

0:04:30 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Well, there are various models, representations that try to explain how memory works. The most prominent representation of how memory works you may have heard part of its pieces before the information processing model. It's well respected but also has some flaws that cognitive scientists are working to address.

0:04:54 - Kimberly King

And what would those be Like? could you explain some information about that processing?

0:04:59 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Sure You may have heard of the sensory memory or short-term memory or long-term memory, things like that. Those are part of the information processing model. It starts with sensory memory, which is somewhat like it sounds. Sensory information has to do with our senses, this touch, sight, sound, smell from our environment, and that's the start of all information getting into our minds and thus into our memories.

To be clear, most sensory information, like the sound of a car passing by your house while you're studying for a test, is a lot of it's useless or extraneous. So we have to train our minds which all of us have done to some degree over time to only pay attention to the pertinent or relevant what we call germane information from our environment, like an urgent text message from a family member. Of course, most of us don't think about separating extraneous sensory information from relevant information actively. We don't think about it. This is especially difficult with the attractive extraneous information like a message from a good friend or an interesting post on social media. It's almost more difficult for those of us that have attention disorders and difficulties like ADHD.

0:06:19 - Kimberly King

So, to go along with what you're saying, I guess we have to really pay attention to something before so in order to remember it. I know I write a lot of things down just so that it helps me, rather than type it For me. I can memorize it better when I write it.

0:06:34 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Right. Yes, we can remember things passively without putting effort into it, because so much information is always bombarding our senses And so there's some that we learn without trying. Anyone listening can look around their room right now and notice objects in the room they haven't noticed today or anytime recently. Or you might listen closely beyond this podcast audio to hear other sounds in your environment, like traffic sounds, the songs of the birds or an apartment neighbor shuffling around on the floor above you, for example, the light off. Any object within our field of vision, like a coffee cup here on my desk, is actually entering our sensory memory for about half a second to three seconds depending on its intensity. But unless we notice that information and pay attention to it, our mind will not recognize it and will not remember it at all, even though technically it has passed through our mind in a very passive way. I think of the sensory register, like the fish Dory from the movie Finding Nemo. The duration and capacity of information in this phase of our memory is extremely short. Auditory memory that we hear is called an echoic memory And it lasts about four seconds, whereas visual sensation is represented by iconic memories and it decays very rapidly. All the information in our environment, things we see, smell, hear, feel, taste. They compete with our attention, but our sensory registry has a capacity, in other words a ceiling, of noticing about three units of information. Like the sound of this podcast, the Twitter feed, you may be scrolling through. The smell of the coffee on your desk only maybe those three things capped out at three.

The first pro tip I would have for a learner is to pay attention to the right environmental stimuli. You can start doing this by identifying the types and locations of relevant information in your surroundings. I'll note here that sight and sound, iconic and echoic are the most prominent sources of sensory information. You can work to remove extraneous information If you're cramming for a test and we'll discuss cramming later. If you're cramming, this could mean logging out of social media, putting your smartphone on silent, making sure you have a quiet place to study. Removing obvious distractions can help a lot. You have to know yourself and what environmental distractions will distract you from attending to the information that you conscientiously want to attend to and learn. A memory that we don't pay attention to disappears because of that process I mentioned called decay. If we focus on important information, we can avoid that decay and investigate it further.

0:09:41 - Kimberly King

Really interesting. You're talking about what happens when we pay attention to this sensory information. I keep thinking that our attention spans are getting so small That sensory for visual, for a text or for an email that we see, or any Twitter feed, as you mentioned it goes away quickly, doesn't it? What happens when we pay attention to this sensory information?

0:10:11 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Right, what I mentioned investigating further. And, yes, our attention is definitely, I think it's more drawn apart by all the things in our atmosphere. We've sort of as a society come to believe and we know scientifically that it doesn't work.

But multitasking is sort of the status quo of our society And it doesn't work. Science has shown us that what we do actually, when we think we're multitasking, is switching tasks And that often leads to not giving great attention to any one particular thing. And if you're truly multitasking then you're probably not thinking as effectively as you could. I was going to discuss the information processing model. It's sort of like a flowchart, if you'll imagine, like three boxes in a flowchart next to each other, with information entering from the left that goes into our the first box, the sensory memory, and then imagine a multitude of arrows sort of going into that box representing all the types and instances of sensory information. They're aimed at that first box or the sensory memory, and that information. If we pay attention to it when it, when it enters, when that sound we might hear or that smell it, if we pay attention to it, it can enter the second box, our short-term memory, and that's also called our working memory. Once in our short-term memory, we usually need to use some strategies if we want to hold on to that information for more than a few minutes. By doing so, that information can get encoded into the third box, our long-term memory. So if we focus on or pay attention to relevant or important sensory information, like the sound of a professor's voice or the words in the document we're editing. We are investigating further, so to speak. In our model, this sensory information that has moved into our short-term or working memory is being worked on. Short-term memory is where our consciousness exists, it's our active thought process. It's limited to about five to nine items and can last about 15 to 30 seconds after we focus on it, and this is based on the work of early memory researchers. I'm not going to mention most of them, but Atkinson and Schifrin in 1971 sort of did the seminal research in this area. So this is the second box or the middle box in the flow chart.

I asked you to imagine if the sensory memory was like the easily forgetting dory fish from finding Nemo, the short-term memory or working memory and I apologize for this metaphor, but I've always used it when teaching. It's like the hot dog rotisserie at a gas station I don't know if you've ever seen those where it's probably not meant to be eaten by anybody that's thinking about their health, but you know, it's like the hot dogs they have to keep them warm. So the idea is to keep these hot dogs warm and available rather than growing cold. So that's sort of what our working memory does, if we're sort of paying attention to whatever it is going on in our mind. So if you're walking through a hospital or other large building trying to locate a certain office or room these days, you might be given some information at the front desk, like go down to the end of the hall, take a right, use the stairs and the door on the left after the water fountain right, go up to the fourth floor, etc. So I used an in-building navigation process instead of like an outdoor how to get somewhere, because so much of our navigation on roads now is guided by GPS. I'm not sure I could get anywhere without GPS now, and the GPS tells us when to turn and show it, shows us maps as we travel.

So examples from 30 years ago are difficult for many younger folks to remember. If you met an attractive person at a party in the 90s, you might ask for their phone number, right, if you were lucky and they said, yes, i'll give it to you, you had to have a pen and paper handy, or well, just now we would use our smartphone and immediately enter that information into our phone. However, just as travel in unfamiliar areas required a lot more remembrance of direction in the 90s, getting new information, like a phone number from an attractive party guest, often required some strategy to remember the number, so we'd have to repeat it. With unfamiliar directions many people would picture the turns in their mind, a type of sort of imagery process strategy With phone numbers.

People would often repeat the seven digit number 10 if an area code wasn't obvious, like eight, six, seven, five, three, oh, nine right over and over again in their mind until we reach a piece of paper to write that number on, to store in our wallet so that we can call later. Clearly, smartphones have really changed our reliance on our short term memory process, such as the need to rehearse that information, saying it over and over again to sort of keep it warm like the hot dogs. So there appears to be a use it or a lose it phenomenon that occurs with rehearsal and processing strategies in the working memory. But smartphone reliance has also resulted in what some researchers refer to as this digital amnesia, where we were remembered, where we store information like on our phone, rather than the information itself.

0:16:07 - Kimberly King

So interesting and I feel like we should be calling them dumb phones now. I mean, yeah, they're smart, but they're dumbing us down in so many ways and I feel like the rate of Alzheimer's, especially now that we have a name to call it, has just gone up through the roof. The numbers have, and it's probably for all the reasons why you just said. You know, and this is certainly not helping right as we move for this. So I guess what are those mechanics and processes of our mind that we're left to do once we like, use it or lose it? you say so what does that? what does that mean? how can we?

0:16:42 - Doctor Joel Goodin

I'll touch on the smartphone thing just a little more 44% of Americans in 2018 said their smartphone served as their memories and about half of young people said that losing their device data would cause great sadness, because their data are their memories, it is equal to their memories and they cannot get it back if it's lost. In a Kopersky study, 75% of mobile phone users couldn't remember their children's phone numbers. 87% couldn't remember the numbers to their children's schools. A recent study revealed that a third of women under 30 not to target women, that's just what the study included women under 30 couldn't remember their own phone number. At 33% of them couldn't or and could not recall the birthdays of just three of their close relatives generally, including all genders. One in five Americans can't remember their own phone number.

Giving partial attention due to multitasking changes our perceptions of our own lived experience. All minds are not created equal, but there is neuroplasticity, which is the capacity of the nervous system to create new connections. So, before focusing on improving our memory, I’ll start by discussing how we can use our memory most effectively. The word metacognition is simply means thinking about how we think. A more complex definition of metacognition is the processes and mechanisms we can use to control our thinking and learning. Metacognition shows an understanding of our own functioning related to specific tasks and how to best adapt our learning and memory strategies. So what is working, what is not working? these are often strategies we can use to improve our thinking, otherwise known as our cognition. So recapping or recapitulation is like reflecting or pausing during our learning process to address or distinguish what we truly have learned and truly know from what we think we have learned and know, and I'll get back to that. But that's one of the most important things in the learning process and in terms of forgetting and how it's useful in life and especially in education, where I work. Knowing what you truly know and what you truly remember versus what you thank you know and can remember. That's probably the crux of the matter. One of the best study techniques I could suggest to any learner or student is actually memory strategy based on the retrieval process, and this means getting the information back out of our long-term memory.

If you can't retrieve information you've been learning, it doesn't necessarily mean you didn't learn it at all, but it is probably not accessible enough for you to retrieve it. Well, on a test or when you might need it. Your spouse won't be impressed that you know the month and year of their birthday if you can't remember the day. Also, the more meaningful you can make each piece of information, the more likely you are to later be able to retrieve that information.

Think of the often used rope metaphor that is used to describe strength in numbers. Imagine having three or five strands of rope interwoven as opposed to one. It's stronger, in the same way that if you've made a connection between new information and three to five other pieces of information that already exist in your mind, then it's stronger. You're more attached to that memory As you learn. Make connections. It's good to underline, doodle, draw pictures, draw connecting lines, draw arrows or make flow charts. Making it stick is one of my favorite books about memory and retrieval. It's exactly what you need to do to make it stick, to make sure that information is accessible to you when you need it later, like on a test or a spouse's birthday.

0:20:55 - Kimberly King

Making it stick. I'm gonna look that up right now. I'm gonna order that. So thank you for that tip. This is really interesting information, doctor, we're gonna have to take a quick break. We will be back in just a moment, don't go away. And now back to our interview with Dr Joel Goodin. We're talking about ways to improve memory So interesting. We were just talking a little bit about why people forget things that they have actually known at some point. Why does that happen? Where they forget things but we really do know what's going on? We have to pull it out of somewhere, I guess.

0:21:31 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Right. So there are many reasons for forgetting that are not related to the aging process, so I'll focus on those. Many people use ineffective strategies for memory which result in later forgetting. We don't use the right strategy. a lot of times So wrote. memorization is not an effective way to move information to the long term memory. It works and that's like memorizing facts like here are the capitals of the states of the United States. It works, but it is easily lost if not used often. There are stronger, more strategic ways, techniques to store information in the long term memory.

Usually, if someone forgets something that is stored in their long term memory, they have simply forgotten how to retrieve it or where it is stored. Think of the long term memory, if you will, like I talked about Dory being the sensory memory and then I talked about the hot dog or rotisserie in the short term memory. Think of the long term memory, like the attic of a house. You may store books, a holiday tree, other random things, some more important than others, in the attic or the long term memory. The more often you retrieve something or pull it down and get it out and do whatever you want with it, the more likely that you know where you put it in the attic and can retrieve it in the future. Memories in the long term memory are similar. You likely remember many of your college friends names when you're in college or the years following college. but after 10 or 20 years you may be left dumbfounded trying to remember a college friend's name if you haven't had to remember it and use it in a long time. So in order for information to move from short term memory to that long term memory, the attic, we must pay attention to it within 5 to 20 seconds, depending on the type of information. We must link that information to prior knowledge, the things we already know, and we encode it so that it is permanently stored in long term memory.

So long term memory is often regarded as a network of ideas, like a web. So encoding or processing strategies are like chunking information, imagery and elaborating on information. So a good instructor or conversationalist will try to explain new information based on what the audience already knows, so that new information can be connected by whoever is listening to whatever they already know to known information. Adding new information to known information is called elaboration. However, you cannot control your audience. obviously you can prepare the information strategically, but if the listener is not actively involved in connecting the dots between the new and known information, it is likely not to take hold to be remembered.

Studying for a test should involve a lot of active processes for encoding information and pausing to test the effectiveness and ability to retrieve that information That is believed to. you believe it to have been encoded, but you can't be sure until you actually do retrieve it. This is testing your memory network, just as one might test drive a used car before buying it. They want to know it's going to work later. If it's not, in the long term memory, don't expect to remember the material next week's test.

So one of the biggest issues with midterms and final exams is the sheer quantity of information that a student is required to be able to retrieve all at once. So many students have underdeveloped strategies that they depend on ineffective strategies like cramming, which tend to overwhelm them with too much what we call cognitive load. Too much all at once. It's like trying to carry too many items in a cardboard box It falls through. Pop quizzes are the bane of most students' existence and they're meant to encourage students or even force them to learn as they go. But students are exceptionally clever at finding ways to avoid truly learning until the time in their life when they are truly invested in the process. So it's rare that students understand the importance of learning over time. As long as they can get away with cramming, students will continue to use it, and the network, therefore, is not built and is not tested properly.

0:26:19 - Kimberly King

I wish I was speaking to you before. I knew this. My brother-in-law is in medical school and he is third year student. He literally had seven three-hour tests in a four-day period. So as you talk about that cramming and I'm like, how does anybody do that? Much less, and he's 43 years old, by the way, and he served three tours of duty. So anyway, to me it's a miracle that he's passing. So let's talk a little bit about what are some of the deficits or critiques of information processing theory.

0:26:57 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Well, it's reductive, it's overly simplistic. it kind of portrays thought and memory as linear, when it's much more complex than that. It's not just three boxes and it's comparative to a computer like a hard drive and storage, so it's just not that simple. It doesn't take into account simultaneous or parallel processing, where humans can truly learn more than one thing at the same time. It doesn't take into account automatic learning. it may occur when there's an extremely important or emotional event that is immediately encoded by the brain and the body, like a trauma or a 9-11 sort of event. People who experience trauma often have that memory ingrained in their mind somehow, somewhat against their will, to the extent that the events often play over and over again in nightmares. Anyone familiar with information processing theory knows or can easily understand how it compares humans to these computers. However, traditional computing doesn't approach the complexity of what is occurring in the human mind And now that we have AI, it's going to be very interesting to me, with artificial intelligence, to see if that can better represent the processes in our minds.

0:28:15 - Kimberly King

That is going to be really interesting. I feel again like another version of our smartphones. now here comes AI. So there's the research and the information that we aren't doing. We're having it done for us Interesting. So why does memory matter so much?

0:28:34 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Besides all the everyday life needs and demands of a good mind, working memory is obviously essential at school, in education, in college, in grad school, because it's tied to grades. So a study in the UK of 3,000 grade school and junior high students found that weak working memory predicted struggles better than a low IQ. So working memory mattered more than IQ. So researchers also found that almost all children with a weak working memory score lower on reading, comprehension and math tests. So obviously memory, especially working memory, is extremely important. That's interesting.

0:29:28 - Kimberly King

So what are some common memory errors and how can we fix them?

0:29:34 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Right. So I'll talk about working memory first, because I think that's the best area to sort of emphasize. You don't want your working memory to be weak. Obviously, here are some issues you have when your working memory is not as strong as it could be. You consistently lose things like your keys, phone or wallet. All of your friends know it. You get lost easily, even when you were just given directions. Again, your friends will insist on driving. That's you.

You might find yourself wanting to join conversations, but you forget what you wanted to say. Your friends may not mind this because they get to talk more. You have trouble following a conversation because you forget what the other person has just said. Your friends might not be so friendly about that. You have unfinished projects because you become distracted and forget about the first project.

From middle school to corporate work, wherever you are in life, finishing tasks and projects is increasingly important. You miss deadlines at work because of your disorganization and inability to follow through on projects. One key factor in hiring is attention to detail, which includes finishing tasks and finishing them on time. Maybe you might also plan to do some work at home, but you forget to bring the necessary items with you from work. Hopefully you'll use this mistake to get some exercise or something, but you're not going to get that extra thing done that you meant to Also. just think about reading a book or whatever you might do. Even an audiobook. You have to reread or rewind or scan back. You have to reread a paragraph several times to retain the information. That's a good sign that you're not using your working memory effectively.

0:31:37 - Kimberly King

That's a good. that's a great. How can we make the most of our memory? You just talked about reading and I guess just having conversations with people and asking questions, active listening, I suppose, Right.

0:31:52 - Doctor Joel Goodin

The first step to a better memory is really being honest with yourself and being committed to the effort The effort it may take to improve your memory. You'll need to understand how memory works That's very helpful and accept that as a human, you're going to have human limitations. So don't rely on easy excuses like, oh, I forgot and just not try, which is what I do with some people's birthdays. You know, if I don't really want to, then I don't have to, and if I don't choose to, I don't put in the effort. But if we don't use those excuses, if we use strategies, we can avoid forgetting or we can at least increase the likelihood of remembering.

Busy people with jobs that require lots of organization and people with ADHD often use reminder systems to keep things in order. So knowing your weaknesses, remembering to make notes, what you need to remember is important to do while you're thinking about it. One big common error that we make with our memories is thinking well, remember something later, I’ll remember it later, when I wake up tomorrow, instead of preparing a reminder for ourselves. So the simple process of writing a to do list for the next day can help us remember to do those things Well, also obviously decreasing our anxiety about remembering them, which to me is really helpful to decrease that anxiety as well. We feel more in control and remember things better the next day, often without even looking at our to do list again, because we've written it down. We tend to remember what's on it, but be cautious about ignoring that to do list. Recall as much as you can, but then make certain by going back and checking that to do to do list. So other common memory errors have to do with higher order memory.

So I talked about how more advanced learners often remember the gist of specific information. We remember the overall point instead of all the tiny details. But if we don't remember the caveats, disclaimers, the exceptions, then we may get stuck with the gist, sort of leading us astray. We use scripts to predict, assume and expect what will happen in a particular situation, for instance. We use them because they typically work really well. However, when we're placed in a different culture or situation where the scripts are no longer relevant, our cognitive scripts can lead us astray And they lead to things like stereotypes. You asked about how can we make the most of our memory Working memory where information goes in for storage or comes out of our long term memory to be used during retrieval is usually the most emphasized part of the memory to improve. So, while chunking information, putting multiple pieces together and sort of having them represented as one unit instead of maybe five units, like did anybody when I said the number 8, 6, 7, 5, 3, 0, 9, Kimberly did you?

0:35:24 - Kimberly King

recognize that number. Yeah, I don't recall the band, but I know the song 8, 6, 7, 5, 3, 0. Oh, there you go, thank you.

0:35:37 - Doctor Joel Goodin

So that's chunk. You remember that as a single unit of information, right? I think it's a great way to remember a lot of information. You must first understand and make meaning from the pieces of information that may later become a group or a chunk. So focus on the details of each small piece at first. As you go from one to the next, make connections about how they are alike or different, compare and contrast. This helps build a network between and among the pieces of information. So imagine drawing a map as you explore the countryside, the first two mountains you ascend can be compared The small one with the boulders and the taller one with the waterfall. And note that by saying the smaller one had boulders, you're saying the taller one did not, or at least not to the same extent. So you've also implied that the smaller mountain had no waterfall.

A more practical example could be preparing for a trip. You have to renew your passport, find a pet sitter, pack, forward your mail, 30 other things, right, depending on the length of the trip. But if you need to focus on one at a time, this helps you remember what you're doing, helps to decrease your anxiety, and anxiety is a common nemesis of our memories. So with multiple steps that might not all fit together logically in our minds. It's good to go back to that checklist. This may be. do you use one of these at the grocery store?

0:37:09 - Kimberly King

The checklist, the to-do list or the.

0:37:12 - Doctor Joel Goodin

How do you? what's your process at the grocery?

0:37:15 - Kimberly King

Yeah, I have to. I write it down. Like I said in the beginning, I’d like to write things down, but sometimes if I'm going to bind and I quickly, i just put in my notes on my smartphone. But I do. That's my check. I love to-do list and I love more than anything to see the check mark that it's done. That's my little reward.

0:37:34 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Yeah, that gives you a little I don't know a sense of completion. I don't know, it's a little dopamine hit right.

0:37:42 - Kimberly King

It makes you feel good.

0:37:44 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Yeah. So putting the tasks down on paper or in our smartphones provides a sense of cognitive control over the tasks, helping us remember what to do. It also decreases any sense of overwhelm we might have. So checklists also keep us on track if there is interruption or interference, because we can find our place on the checklist again. Yeah, we can look back at it, and we've been. if we've been checking things off, we can look at the one that's blank, that's next in line. So they keep us on track if there's interruption or interference. Checklists can even be categorized to front load the most important tasks, but the most important tasks at the top, leaving less important tasks for a later time if you run out of time.

Routines are essentially automatic processes and that's really where we can save a lot of cognitive effort, a lot of mental energy, so to speak. When you learn to drive a car, it was hard at first, right, but that process became routine When you learned to drive to the grocery in your new city. if you just moved to a new city, it was hard, but now it's routine. Even your smartphone now knows where you're going, right. Have you ever experienced your phone offering directions to get you back home?

0:39:07 - Kimberly King

Yeah, I have. Have a little another passenger along with me, right.

0:39:12 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Right. So putting your keys in the same place every time, making a habit of locking the door when you walk in these routines, we can depend on our patterns as a way of sort of offloading hard work or at least minimizing the frequency of the not so fun where are my keys? game. Or the did I turn the oven off? game. That's also not a fun one. So there are thousands of potentially effective brain training apps on our phones. Or you can practice your working memory skills using active activities created for the purpose of improving our working memory. So you can challenge yourself to write down six unrelated words. If you're truly committed to this, and I think a lot of us say I want a better memory, I want a better mind, I don't want to forget, but how many of us would actually do this suggestion? Challenge yourself to write down six unrelated words. Well, I’ll challenge myself, but I probably won't go through with it because I don't have time.

Right, I would say to myself right, but if we did, if you actually did this, then you'd try to remember the first two words without looking. I keep adding another word to your remembrance task and so that you can practice retrieving information, it's a good way to keep your working memory healthy and effective. But how many of us are going to slow down?

0:40:37 - Kimberly King

That you know what. That is great advice. I remember actually I was at the doctors with my mom when she was just diagnosed with Alzheimer's And that is one of the tasks that they give you as the patient. They, the doctor, said in the beginning of the interview here are five or six words And I want you to remember them and see if you can recall them So that, as a daily activity, is probably really good at staving that off a little bit. Right, that's good.

0:41:03 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Right. There are some products and services that do have a little research behind them, scientific principles, a lot of the apps I've seen and you know if you're like me, you're always getting an app that some game that says do this to find out if you're a genius or whether your memory works, or whatever. But Cogmed comes to mind. Play attention is another one built on scientific principles, but the research is still has mixed findings about the benefits That they have to our working memories after the training in. So it temporarily improves our working memory, but we don't know for sure how long that will last.

0:41:44 - Kimberly King

Thank you so much for your information and for all of your time, doctor, great information, and if you want more information, you can visit National University's website nu.edu. And we look forward to your next visit. Thank you so much.

0:41:58 - Doctor Joel Goodin

Thank you.

0:42:01 - Kimberly King

You've been listening to the National University podcast. For updates on future or past guests, visit us at nu.edu. You can also follow us on social media. Thanks for listening.

Show Quotables

"Science has shown us that what we do actually when we think we're multitasking is switching tasks. And that often leads to not giving great attention to any one particular thing... you're probably not thinking as effectively as you could." - Joel Goodin https://shorturl.at/bcdgo Click to Tweet
"Busy people... and people with ADHD often use reminder systems to keep things in order. So knowing your weaknesses, remembering to make notes, and what you need to remember is important to do while you're thinking about it." - Joel Goodin https://shorturl.at/bcdgo Click to Tweet