News and Tribune


May 17, 2013

STAWAR: We’re all losers


Winograd and Soloway have said that the use of such stashes is a “misapplication of the distinctiveness theory of memory.” The Von Restorff effect works well in tasks that require recognizing one special item, but is not very effective in jogging the memory as to where an item is located once it is forgotten. 

We may choose special hiding places in order to conceal an item from other people, but unfortunately our future selves are also other people. Practically speaking, it is always better to put objects in the most obvious places possible if you want to assure that you will be able to find them later. 

Children are always losing something, but losing things also becomes an issue as we get older. Texas A&M neuroscientist William R. Klemm says memory problems sneak up on us, especially as our short-term memory fades, which is crucial for new learning. 

He advises that we get better organized, saying, “Life is a lot simpler when you have a place for everything ... habit relieves the memory.” 

He also suggests that we work on paying closer attention and filtering out distractions. He recommends using conscious rehearsal to remember things. Such “effortful processing” can help increase memory significantly. 

 According to Klemm, getting enough sleep and keeping healthy with a balanced antioxidant diet can also help, as can exercise and mentally challenging yourself to keep sharp. Reducing stresses that might impair memory is also important. Putting undue pressure on yourself to locate a loss object can have a paradoxical effect.

So just relax. Maybe you left your flash drive in the freezer when you were getting some ice last night. So you might want to check it out, and while you’re at it, you might as well pour yourself a drink. 


— Terry L. Stawar, Ed.D., lives in Georgetown and is the CEO of LifeSpring the local community mental health center in Jeffersonville. He can be reached at Checkout his Welcome to Planet-Terry blog and podcast at

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