People with good memory get bored faster

Science has shown what many already suspect — a good memory means you might get bored much faster, and the reason is pretty simple.

Memory and boredom might have a tight connection. Image via Max Pixel.

Basically, people with more memory spend more time analyzing said memories. They remember more details about their experiences, and that makes them feel like they’ve experienced it more. Being more familiar with your own thoughts can make you feel like you’ve experienced things more than you actually have, which means you’re more likely to grow tired of things you’ve already tried.

Noelle Nelson, lead author of the University of Kansas (KU), says this applies to all sorts of daily activities.

“Our findings suggest that if they can enhance their memory for the other times they’ve eaten these foods, they may feel satiated and then not seek out those unhealthy things,” said Nelson, assistant professor of marketing and consumer behavior in the KU School of Business.

She and coauthor Joseph Redden, associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, carried out four experiments with undergrads. The first thing was to measure the participants’ working memory, which they did in several different ways — for instance, by making them repeat a series of letters or asking them to recall how they performed in a memory game.

In the next stage, they asked participants to do something they would ultimately get bored of, such as viewing paintings or listening to music. They then correlated the two, finding that undergraduates with better memory got bored faster, or to use a more technical term, they were satiated sooner. Of course, this doesn’t imply causation, but it does seem to strongly suggest that working memory capacity is a critical cognitive mechanism associated with satiation.

This isn’t a novel idea, and previous research has indicated such a relationship in the past, but this is the first study to discuss and shed some light on the underlying mechanism. The study abstract reads:

“We also develop insight into the underlying cognitive mechanism using mediation and moderation to show that people utilizing a larger working memory capacity satiate faster because they more deeply encode and process each stimulus.”

Researchers say that the most immediate application is in marketing, where marketers could devise better strategies to keep users engaged for longer periods of time. However, this approach could benefit several other areas. For instance, schools and universities could improve the teaching process and thus benefit education as a whole. Or, psychologists could use it in their treatment to tailor an individual approach to different patients. Even, as the researchers themselves say, in weight management.

“Because a big part of overeating is psychological, a psychological solution such as memory processes could help people control their eating,” Nelson said. “Consumers might be able to satiate more quickly by simply recalling the last several times they ate.”

Although the usefulness of this study should not be underestimated, when it comes to boredom, I’m with Louis CK on this one — in this day and age, you simply don’t get to be bored, at least not in the sense that most people are saying it. You’ve got the internet, which is pretty much the entire knowledge and humor of mankind. You’ve got an endless amount of documentaries or funny videos, and there are more books than you could hope to read in a hundred lives. So really, don’t try to see this as “oh, I must have a great memory that’s why I’m bored all the time.” No, if this is the case, you’re not bored, you’re just lazy. Seriously, you don’t get to say “I’m bored,” and here’s why:

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