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    Facebook Trumps the Face

    Written by

    Ben Richmond

    Contributing Editor

    It’s happened to us all: You’re face to face with someone who’s name just isn’t coming, mangling quotes from Shakespeare, but you know with perfect clarity who has the ugliest kids on Facebook and the best dick joke on Twitter this morning. The good news is that now you’re off the hook.

    A study co-authored by researchers at UC San Diego and the University of Warwick found that people could remember random Facebook and Twitter posts—stripped of their names and context—better than they could remember sentences yanked from books, and even better than they could remember human faces.

    That’s Facebook being more memorable than the face. Two-and-a-half times more memorable, to be precise. 

    “We were really surprised when we saw just how much stronger memory for Facebook posts was compared to other types of stimuli,” said lead author Dr. Laura Mickes, from the University of Warwick. “These kinds of gaps in performance are on a scale similar to the differences between amnesiacs and people with healthy memory.”

    So that sort of stings, but it’s not totally your fault. It’s just the way our minds are wired, and also how we write Facebook posts.

    Not only is a Facebook status gossipy and generally standing alone—rather a sentence of a book, which is surrounded by actual context—the study suggests that our minds can take in and store the posts because the slangy, hastily written post is likely closer to speech.

    Full disclosure: This is my Facebook

    As Mickes explained: “Writing that is easy and quick to generate is also easy to remember – the more casual and unedited, the more ‘mind-ready’ it is.” The study suggests that the quick, close to speech nature of Facebook is a bit of a return to the old fashioned person-to-person, watch-out-for-that-saber-tooth-tiger network, which has been around a lot longer—and is in our minds much deeper—than our ability to memorize Proust.

    In a statement that would surely resonate with reluctant English students everywhere, if only it were a Tweet, Professor Nicholas Christenfield said, “One could view the past five thousand years of painstaking, careful writing as the anomaly. Modern technologies allow written language to return more closely to the casual, personal style of pre-literate communication. And this is the style that resonates, and is remembered.”

    And while the Bard would have you believe that “it is neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so,” you’re much more likely to remember:

    Double stinger, eh?

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