As frustrating as it may be to never remember where you put your car keys, it turns out there may be an unexpected upside to being relatively forgetful – you might be able to enjoy things for longer. A new study from the University of Kansas has found that people with a higher-capacity memory tend to get bored faster, due to the fact that they remember experiences in more detail and feel more satiated by them.
To test the correlation between memory and boredom, the researchers first measured the working memory of participants in terms of how well they could remember sequences of letters and tones. Then, they viewed a series of paintings or listened to music clips and were asked to report their level of enjoyment at regular intervals.
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"People with larger working memory capacities actually encode information more deeply," says Noelle Nelson, lead author of the study. "We found that their capacity predicted how fast they got tired of the art or music. People with larger memory capacities satiated on these things more quickly than people with smaller capacities. Essentially, large-capacity people perceive that they've experienced things more times because they remember those experiences better."
Conducted by marketing professors, the research was carried out with the goal of finding ways for companies to keep consumers interested in their products for longer, but the findings could have other potential applications for the general public. Although it's not clear how it might be acted on, the team says that understanding these memory processes could eventually help people kick unhealthy habits like smoking or junk food.
"Because a big part of overeating is psychological, a psychological solution such as memory processes could help people control their eating," says Nelson. "Consumers might be able to satiate more quickly by simply recalling the last several times they ate."
The research was published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Source: University of Kansas