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Remembered names!

April 9, 2013

POST SCRIPT  to Remembering Names: a naturalistic experiment

My training to remember names using the Posit Science Brain HQ program seemed to help primarily by raising awareness of the sustained attention required to remember names. This was crucially heightened after training on the people skills “remembering  names” component.

However immediately after the teaching session I only remembered 2 out of the 8 people. I could recall the visual details of the people in the group but no more names. By next morning I could recall 6 participants names but was unsure about two of those. The following week I looked through the list (a prompt not available in everyday life, but recognition is considerably easier than recall!) and found that what I was doing  had also happened during the training…..I was attempting to link the name to something about the person….to make it more meaningful perhaps. By the end of the second session I had all 8 names of the people in the Community Centre off pat. I also at no time hesitated about the names of the painters (Cezanne, the Dutch Painters, Margaret Olley ) that we were looking at …..(whew!) and hence I enjoyed every minute of the session. I shall continue training to get to the higher levels in the program. It has certainly increased confidence in my neuro-plasticity … is working…

Note: I have no connection at all with  Posit Science Brain HQ or any of its members or researchers.


Your personality revealed by what you “like” on FACEBOOK!

March 18, 2013

A new study from the Psychometric Centre in the University of Cambridge suggests that “liking” things with Facebook really  gives away  a lot of information about yourself.  David Stillwell  developed a tool (which you can access at ““) in which he took people’s Facebook Likes and put them together with the results from their IQ and Personality teats to see if they could predict their personality. like

The introverted/extraverted personality

A presenter on the radio program “The Naked Scientists”  tried out the tool. She found that her personality type from Facebook “likes” was categorised as liberal and artistic, well organised, assertive and competitive. She agreed with that. But it also defined her as emotional and rather shy and reserved.  Another presenter, David, found the program had described him relatively well… had got the artistic angle on him  but also that he was quite introverted. That is quite a subtle thing to pick up. Others were found to be conservative and traditional personalities but also shy and reserved. Some were assessed as calm and relaxed.

Openness, IQ, sexuality and ethnicity
How accurate are predictions of people’s personality  from their Facebook likes? For “openness” for example as a personality trait, the  prediction is 80% as good as a personality test itself! That is pretty amazing when you consider that no questions have been asked and it is completely based on the data on Facebook….
For IQ , predictions from Facebook are about half as good as an IQ test. The team at Cambridge also predicted some other things such as sexuality and ethnicity. They could predict which is which 88% of the time for sexuality and 95% of the time for ethnicity.
So what are you telling Facebook about yourself as you tick “like” on the web? Is it only an image that you want to present? Probably not. The time factor for  the Facebook “likes” amasses data that builds up over years and makes it likely that it will be fairly representative and also difficult to fake.

What are companies like Facebook doing with our data?
In relation to advertisements it could use the Facebook information to limit products to three of four that could be of real interest.
More sinister are findings like being introverted. If an employer is looking for someone who works well in teams you just might not be interviewed…..

The tool doesn’t work for me as I have  never “LIKED” anything apparently….wrong generation!

Remembering names: a naturalistic experiment

February 24, 2013

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my appalling inability to remember names. This week I start teaching  and with that in mind I determined to see if my memory for names could be substantially improved …..and then test it out in the real world. A naturalistic experiment handed to me on a plate (even if n=1!)

The Posit science Brain Training Program: remembering names.

By chance I discovered that Posit Science Brain HQ had an iPad app available at the App Store and it is free to download! It gives you just the flavour of their more expanded Brain Training program available for computer.  There are three units for the iPad, “Beginner’s Brain Challenge”, “Alertness Boost “and “Visual acuity”. But these are not what I need at the moment …. what I really need is very specific……is there a training component to help me remember  names? At the gym last week a new student on placement introduced himself to me, and as usual, after the to-ing and fro-ing of the conversation I had completely forgotten in a minute that he was called Chris. I could recall his face, how long he was going to be on placement, his university etc. but not his name….. I had to ask again and then rehearse it!

Training to remembering names: sharpening the brain structures to remember informationbrainHQ

Having subscribed to the new online Posit Science Brain HQ some time ago (but not got round to using it), I searched through the units and found a “People Skills” unit, and sure enough there is one sub-unit which trains remembering names, facts about people etc. The “People Skills” unit has several facets at various stages of difficulty directed towards components of social interaction. They are

designed to speed up and sharpen the brain structures responsible for processing, storing, and remembering information that comes in handy in the social situations we all face every day.”

So I logged in and started.

What happened was difficult to describe. I was so bad at remembering any detailed facts at all that I kept having gongs every time. The unit presents one face at a time and three facts to associate with it: name, place and family facts. The latter two are changed as you progress. You are then assessed by being asked to remember which fact is correct for which face. Sounds simple? Not for me!

BRAIN STRAIN: the need for attention

Recall and recognition are very different memory skills. Initially I found I was able to eliminate wrong answers from the multiple choice to get to the correct one. But it does not work that way in real life…What was astonishing was the strain! I felt, above all, that my brain’s attention mechanism (that crucial component) was being dragged kicking and screaming into use.  The feeling of complete focus, the narrow spotlight, and the hard and rusty search for the right answer was exhausting after a short time. If nothing else it taught me that if I want to remember names and detailed facts I have to be “in the moment” and intensely so!.

Progress after much repetitive practice

My score was only 2 and then 3 names/people after many repetitions. I shall certainly continue training this week, trying to move on to Stage 2. However as I woke up this morning I found I could recall five faces and matching names easily and also some of the facts about them……

My naturalistic experiment begins in situ this week when I meet up with a group of new people. The issue of transfer of training to the natural environment has been a constant problem for training programs, so, given high motivation and a great opportunity….. we shall see………

Age is of no importance…..

February 17, 2013

cheese_photoFrom the Tasmanian Cheese


Aging and Situational Awareness: what pilot training can teach us!

February 13, 2013
Cockpit SIM

Cockpit SIM

I have written previously about one of my sons. He is a pilot of many thousands of hours of flying, and yet every two or three times a year he goes through a “SIM” where, among other things, he is tested under simulated flying conditions in order to demonstrate that he can cope with any emergency. He also checks and trains other pilots and is checked and trained himself by a chief pilot. The chief pilot and the airline are checked and regulated by CASA, the Civil Aviation Safety people. And a good thing too, I can hear you say. Just imagine if all doctors or teachers or builders had someone sitting at their elbow looking for best practice?

Situational awareness: a pilot’s flying hours and cognitive ability 

Situational awareness (SA) is a skill often deemed essential to pilot performance in both combat and noncombat flying. Given the complexity of the cockpit, co-pilot , weather  threats and updates, airport controls etc., a pilot requires a continuous “perception of self and aircraft in relation to the dynamic environment of flight…..and the ability to forecast, then execute tasks based on that perception (Carroll, 1992).”

A study in 1997 found that number of flying hours was the best predictor of “Situational Awareness”. The more hours -the greater experience- made pilots more situationally aware. When the researchers controlled for number of flying hours, the best predictor of situational awareness was cognitive ability, namely working memory, spatial reasoning and divided attention.

Aging and situational awareness

Well I have decided that I will adopt the concept of situational awareness in everyday life. I have had a few “crashes ” (or falls) recently and don’t want any more if I can help it. I will walk the pavements with greater trepidation, I don’t mess about on bikes with the kids any more, I watch for the steps and the hose in the garden. I have become situationally aware. My doctor said (as he examined my cuts and bruises)  “Margaret, you are OLD”…   Even if I don’t feel old I need to be more aware. Like a pilot I have many hours of living behind me (and many ahead), and I need to be able to sharpen my predictions so that I can adapt to many different situations.

HABIT is part of the problem

I don’t pay enough attention to things that potentially may be threatening because of habit. I have been doing the same things, walking the same hallway and driveway getting the letters etc., walking the same carparks and pavements. I don’t seem to be sufficiently situationally aware to lift and place my feet quite as I should. Rough ground or uneven pavements or slopes down to a rocky beach need more attention. My habits have been too much in charge and their expectations are that everything will be as before.  I now feel that my attention needs to be focused more immediately on the task in hand, (like in a cockpit) while I also engage in completing what I set out to accomplish. ….nowhere is this more important than when driving!

Situational awareness captures the richness and complexity of the pilot’s world.

For pilots SA reflects the importance  of mission accomplishment. “SA captures the richness and complexity of the pilot’s world.” It emphasizes perceiving what is important and then uses that perception to guide the selection and performance of appropriate behaviors.  Age and falling has brought this concept to my attention and together with more detailed training in working memory, spatial awareness and divided attention as in the Posit Science Brain HQ training program, things should improve.

Reference: Herbert H. Bell Wayne L. Waag (1997) Using Observer Ratings to Assess Situational Awareness in Tactical Air Environments. United States Air Force Armstrong Laboratory.

March 1997

Remembering names

February 5, 2013

I have always been hopeless at remembering names and it certainly seems to get worse with age. So embarrassing sometimes!

However….. I have surprised even myself recently. I am about to re-enter the workforce (yes, the paid workforce) and will be teaching a small group of adults over 4 weeks. So remembering their names and the names of things and people that I will be talking about will be a real challenge…..

IPad drawing and painting: art, technology and memory load

Japanese Bridge by Monet

Imagine if Monet had an iPad!

My re-entry into the workforce will entail  meeting new people (and remembering their names), while teaching and relating  the processes of drawing and painting in the real world to the technological requirements of appropriate software for the iPad. Digital art in the virtual world  is a different ball game altogether from paint and canvas: however I hope to provide some skills to a small group of people so that they feel they can draw and paint without all the paraphernalia that generally goes with it. No mess and clutter and great entertainment or even therapy sometimes!

Given the level of complexity, and taking memory load into consideration, I will resort to some printed and some virtual materials as clear visual prompts both for myself and the group, which should (I hope) keep my memory fairly fluent and clear.

Most of us are especially hopeless at remembering names

A recent article in the BPS journal gave me some comfort

 “With  the exception of memory champs and their fancy mnemonics, plenty of research shows that most of the rest of us are especially hopeless at remembering people’s names, as compared with other items of information, such as professions. It is the arbitrary nature of names that makes things difficult …that we cannot embed them in a web of meaningful connections.”

Boost your memory for names by making a game of it

The researchers suggest that you should turn the task of memorising names into a game.

It would work like this:- I would award myself points for remembering the name of the boss, the receptionist, the number of males/females in the group. Ten points for example for recalling the name of the boss and receptionist, 8 points for example for recalling the names of the oldest or most talkative  persons and 5 points for the remainder, or the one wearing red etc. The new research suggests that incentivising the memory challenge in this way will give me a far better chance of recalling at least the most important names. This could prove handy, helping you feel better in future meetings!!

The results of the research showed that participants did a superior job at remembering high value (10-point) names, than low value names (33 per cent vs. 21 per cent). It’s as if the extra incentive prompted participants to go to greater lengths to process the names and encode them more deeply. I seem to be able to  remember what people do, i.e. their job, and what they look like, but not their name… this may help.

But the main message of the researchers remains upbeat: “Although names are difficult to remember,” they concluded, “actions can be taken to facilitate their recall.”

Festini, S., Hartley, A., Tauber, S., and Rhodes, M. (2012). Assigned value improves memory of proper names. Memory, 1-11 DOI:

The Fremantle Scream Team

January 20, 2013

I have become a member of the Fremantle Scream Team.Scream TeamSam_CWR

This is us shouting farewell to my grandson as he sails from Fremantle on “Whale Song II”  as a crew member (deck-hand, fisherman and ukulele entertainer) with a group of marine biologists who continue vital research on blue and humpback whales.sam_boat

What an opportunity for Sam at 18 years of age!sam_dolphins

Makes me wish I was young again……

Maybe not…..