Penn State Psychologists Conduct Study on Human Memory

Have you ever watched a professor explain a homework problem, only to forget how to do it two minutes later? Well, according to Penn State psychologists this could be due to a phenomenon called “attribute amnesia.” The concept is simple – if you don’t think you’ll need to use certain information later, then your brain won’t remember it.

Brad Wyble, assistant professor of Psychology, and Hui Chen, a postdoctoral fellow, performed a series of tests on undergraduate students that found that humans have a difficult time remembering simple information when they aren’t expecting to be tested on it, according to a Penn State press release. 

During the experiments, students were asked to remember the location of a letter on a small grid. Nearly all of the students could remember the location of the letter without a problem, but then researchers asked the students what the letter was. According to the press release, only a quarter of participants could recall which letter they had just located.

This suggests that the human brain is selective with what information it chooses to store, even if that information is relevant to a task a person is performing, said Wyble and Chen.

The findings, which were recently published in the journal Psychological Science, suggest that the human brain may “lose” certain information to keep the brain from storing too much useless information.

Penn State psychologists plan to continue this research on memory.

Photo: Penn State

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Sarah Caskie

Sarah is a senior majoring in Journalism. She can usually be found at Saint’s looking up cat videos, or writing about music and stuff. She can be reached on Twitter at @classycaskie or via email at [email protected]

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