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Active Memory: memory games

May 10, 2014

The ACTIVE MEMORY program : 1000 plays!

I have been working on the Active Memory program consistently over the past few weeks.  I enjoy it and find it motivating. Watching the graph of my progress on the three cognitive components that the program targets, attention, memory and flexibility is indeed interesting (see below)! I even find that I can cheat a bit on the memory games…..as long as I avoid one particular game (Flora Span) my memory improves! If you look at the graph below you can see that I have had about 1000 plays. However after some progress in the memory games the yellow line on my graph seems to hit a wall and descend drastically! (Note that the games have built in level changes, and I progress to the next level as long as I get three scores in a row that are HIGH…. ).

Visual Memory Failure

You can see that my memory failed after a certain number of items (see below) and then crawled back up with many disasters! until I worked out which memory game was making me fail. At about nine hundred plays I tested my theory and the yellow line dropped dramatically once again! So as long as I avoid that particular game I may be OK! What does that tell us about the Memory Games I wonder? By avoiding one game my memory can continue to progress with training, or is there a limit for all the memory games? We shall see…

Memory capacity

My failure I am sure, relates to current thinking about the limitations of working memory. Working memory lasts less than a minute, and has clear capacity limits, depending on the information. George Miller (1956) demonstrated that one can repeat back a list of no more than around 7 (plus or minus 2) randomly ordered, meaningful items or chunks (which could be letters, digits, or words). Some time ago when I was doing the Posit Science (Brain HQ) exercises such as “Listen and Do” I struggled to keep track of 3 or 4 items (sometimes only one or two) and made little progress even after long training. Some older people that I spoke to however were able to improve their memory capacity with training, but not often beyond 5 items. All felt fatalistic about their lack of improvement however hard they tried. In all probability they were really performing at their best given the accepted limited capacity of human working memory.

Visual Memory Failure using "Flora Span"

Visual Memory Failure using “Flora Span” Visual Memory failure

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