Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The brain wasn't built to endure chronic stress

The Science of Thinking Smarter.
By: Coutu, Diane,
Harvard Business Review,
May 2008, Vol. 86, Issue 5


Interesting points

Our brains were built to survive in jungles and grasslands - we were built to handle acute stress.

Is there any hope for producing reliable long-term memories?

Yes, but you will need to consistently re-expose yourself to the information. The phenomenon is called "elaborative rehearsal," and it's the type of repetition shown to be the most effective for the most robust retrieval. We do know, for example, that you can improve your chances of remembering something if you reproduce the environment in which you first put it into your brain. If, say, you learn something while you are sad, you will be able to recall it better if at retrieval you are somehow made suddenly sad.

I wish I could tell you what all this means for business - for marketers, for example. How often must you repeat the message before people buy a product? What determines whether customers still remember the product's name and characteristics six months later or a year later? Scientists still don't know the answers to those questions. All I can say is that memory is not fixed at the moment of learning, and repetition improves the odds of retrieval.

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