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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-21-11 05:54 PM
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Cognitive load...and overload:
Cognitive Load

You're sprawled on the couch in your living room, watching a new episode of Justified on the tube, when you think of something you need to do in the kitchen. You get up, take ten quick steps across the carpet, and then, just as you reach the kitchen door poof! you realize you've already forgotten what it was you got up to do. You stand befuddled for a moment, then shrug your shoulders and head back to the couch.

Such memory lapses happen so often that we don't pay them much heed. We write them off as "absentmindedness" or, if we're getting older, "senior moments." But the incidents reveal a fundamental limitation of our minds: the tiny capacity of our working memory. Working memory is what brain scientists call the short-term store of information where we hold the contents of our consciousness at any given moment all the impressions and thoughts that flow into our mind as we go through a day. In the 1950s, Princeton psychologist George Miller famously argued that our brains can hold only about seven pieces of information simultaneously. Even that figure may be too high. Some brain researchers now believe that working memory has a maximum capacity of just three or four elements.

The amount of information entering our consciousness at any instant is referred to as our cognitive load. When our cognitive load exceeds the capacity of our working memory, our intellectual abilities take a hit. Information zips into and out of our mind so quickly that we never gain a good mental grip on it. (Which is why you can't remember what you went to the kitchen to do.) The information vanishes before we've had an opportunity to transfer it into our long-term memory and weave it into knowledge. We remember less, and our ability to think critically and conceptually weakens. An overloaded working memory also tends to increase our distractedness. After all, as the neuroscientist Torkel Klingberg has pointed out, "we have to remember what it is we are to concentrate on." Lose your hold on that, and you'll find "distractions more distracting."

More, scroll down:
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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-21-11 05:56 PM
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1. This somehow makes me feel better, thanks.
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Kali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-21-11 06:01 PM
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2. SEVEN items at a time?
not me! :rofl:
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monmouth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-21-11 06:07 PM
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3. Welcome to my world! Wait.......what?...LOL....n/t
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themadstork Donating Member (797 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-21-11 06:10 PM
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4. I think the scientific evidence so far is against me, but I feel like this can be improved.
Edited on Mon Mar-21-11 06:16 PM by themadstork
Although honestly I don't totally understand the relation they're drawing between working memory and the "overload." is overload really an instantaneous overloading of the working memory, or is it rather a sort of intellectual fatigue that's brought on by constant topic-switching as well as the duration of the info-uptake?

Over the past year I've made a little self-improvement experiment out of seeing just how much information a person can be trained to absorb. And while progress has been slow, it does seem clear that I'm now at a speed and intensity and duration of sheer asorbtion that would have been utterly overwhelming a year ago. It's actually not as hard as you'd think. Begin thinking of your brain as hard-drive and see where it takes you. I can recall most the stuff I take in throughout the day now, at least if I'm not short on sleep. You sorta have to self-consciously partition off your memory.

Edit - I realize the brain in no way works like a hard-drive. Just meant it as an organizational tool, before anyone thinks I'm nutters.
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trof Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-21-11 06:25 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. I now relate tasks to visual cues. Example:
OK, this is petty and boring, but...
I used my compressor to fill a tire.
Put the compressor away in the tool shed.
Later I remembered that I should pull the relief valve to bleed off pressure left in the tank.
Not good to leave the tank pressurized.

I was going to the grocery store later.
Rather than walking back out to depressurize the tank, I thought 'Grocery store-relief valve'.

Most of the way to the store that thought kept recurring.
On the way home I started to think 'see carport, relief valve'.
It worked.
Listened to the radio, thought about all manner of things on the way home.
But when I saw the carport I thought 'depressurize'.

When you're 5 months away from 70, this is what you do.
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Newest Reality Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-21-11 06:37 PM
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6. I forgot what my comment was going to be. - NT
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