Stuff that’s hard for your brain to explain may be more memorable

What makes a memory? It may be related to how hard your brain had to work, researchers report.

The human brain filters through a flood of experiences to create specific memories. Why do some of the experiences in this deluge of sensory information become “memorable,” while most are discarded by the brain?

A new computational model and behavioral study suggests a new clue to this age-old question, researchers report in the journal Nature Human Behavior.

“The mind prioritizes remembering things that it is not able to explain very well,” says Ilker Yildirim, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University and senior author of the paper. “If a scene is predictable, and not surprising, it might be ignored.”

For example, a person may be briefly confused by the presence of a fire hydrant in a remote natural environment, making the image difficult to interpret, and therefore more memorable.

“Our study explored the question of which visual information is memorable by pairing a computational model of scene complexity with a behavioral study,” says Yildirim.

For the study, which was led by Yildirim and John Lafferty, a professor of statistics and data science, the researchers developed a computational model that addressed two steps in memory formation—the compression of visual signals and their reconstruction.

Based on this model, they designed a series of experiments in which people were asked if they remembered specific images from a sequence of natural images shown in rapid succession.

The team found that the harder it was for the computational model to reconstruct an image, the more likely the image would be remembered by the participants.

“We used an AI model to try to shed light on perception of scenes by people—this understanding could help in the development of more efficient memory systems for AI in the future,” says Lafferty, who is also the director of the Center for Neurocomputation and Machine Intelligence at the Wu Tsai Institute at Yale.

Source: Yale University

(Images Credit: Getty Images)

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Mensa International Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00848100


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