As I was scrolling on Twitter taking a mental break from school work, I came across a tweet originally posted by @brjxv_ on February 13th and I immediately went “Holy crap this is perfect for my next blog post!” The tweet said “so you’re telling me my brain can save the exact features of a stranger I saw once on the subway in 2010 so they can appear in my dreams but I can’t recall the answers to a test worth 25% of my final grade? It be ya own memory storage smh”. However, how accurate is her tweet?
Dreaming has always been a complex topic and although we see lots of studies on dreaming, there is still so much psychologist don’t know yet. According to Mark Solms in his article “The Interpretation of Dreams & The Neurosciences” (1999), dreaming seems to be concentrated in “the frontal and limbic parts of the brain concerned with arousal, emotion, memory and motivation, on the one hand, and the parts (at the back of the brain) concerned with abstract thinking and visual perception, on the other”. If this is the case, it’s very possible for memories to be involved in dreams if the same brain processes/areas are used. It’s also possible that the man’s face that she claimed she only saw once appearing in her dreams is due to implicit memory, which are memories often guided by previous experiences (such as priming), however the individual has no conscious realization of this, according to Cognition: Exploring The Science of The Mind (6th Edition) written by Daniel Reisberg (our cognitive textbook). I believe that it’s likely that the man she claims she saw once on the subway was actually someone she saw often but was unaware of actually seeing them (for example it could’ve been someone who has the same commute as her) or the man looked similar enough to other people she saw often enough for her brain to dream about this man. Of course, this is all speculation but I think it’s still interesting to think about. There are people who claim that with dreams, the brain cannot create new faces and the people you dream about are actually all people you’ve seen before, however I found no evidence to support this. There is still much to learn about dreaming
Now onto her struggling to recall (although retrieval is the more accurate term to use, which is “locating information in memory and bringing it into active use”- according to Reisberg) the answers to her test, its most likely her using the wrong type of strategies for studying the material. The main issue with people forgetting the information needed for a test is that they often use maintenance rehearsal, which is when the “person simply focus[es] on the to-be-remembered items themselves with little thought about what [the] item means or how they relate to each other”. For example, creating notecards with the definition of words and you simply memorize the definition on the back of the card is a type of maintenance rehearsal. You are rehearsing the definition, yes, but you are not thinking about it on a deeper level such as “how does X relate to Y?” or “what is the significance of knowing the definition to this word?” Thinking about materials on a deeper level is known as elaborative rehearsal. Creating multiple connections (retrieval paths) to memory storage will help you do better on tests because if you create only a singular retrieval path, that path may not be strong enough to use when you come across the question. If the question is not strong enough to illicit an activation of that one and only retrieval path to memory storage, you will not be able to retrieve the correct answer. Just like in life, it’s always a good idea to have back up plans, including retrieval paths.
Overall, @brjxv_ tweet has some evidence to back up her claim. However, the usual goal of tweets is to make you laugh and this tweet definitely achieved that goal (well at least for me but I hope you found it funny too).