Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Imagination Training

Following my previous post it's amusing to see Science Daily report that a lack of imagination in older adults is linked to declining memory function.

A new Harvard University study reveals that the ability of older adults to form imaginary scenarios is linked to their ability to recall detailed memories.

According to the study, episodic memory, which represents our personal memories of past experiences, "allows individuals to project themselves both backward and forward in subjective time." Therefore, in order to create imagined future events, the individual must be able to remember the details of previously experienced ones extract various details and put them together to create an imaginary event, a process known as the constructive-episodic-simulation.

So I'm off to create a new game called Imagination Training (TM pending) available on all mobile platforms. It's a simple premise - just imagine you're having the best time ever staring at the small (blank) screen of your chosen portable device, then stop and think about how that compared to the imaginary scenario from last week, and the one you're planning next week.

I suspect the queue of celebrities ready to provide their heart-felt endorsement will stretch round the block. But who would be the best choice and why?

Any suggestions?


Clive Shepherd said...

Why does episodic memory diminish with age? Surely older people have more experiences with which to project into the future.

Lars Hyland said...

Clive, I guess not all experiences are equal. Whether young or old, how you use your time and build a body of memorable experiences will vary greatly. Also, the more experiences you have, and the more similarities between them, the harder it may be to distinguish clearly between them and remember the details.

The older we get the less opportunity we give ourselves to imagine different scenarios (as our daily habits/commitments take over) so I guess we just fall out of practice.

I've just finished a book called "Making Time:Making Time: Why Time Seems to Pass at Different Speeds and How to Control It" by Steve Taylor which has some interesting thoughts on how perception of time changes in different circumstances. I'm not entirely convinced by it as a body of work, but as a thought provoker it ties in nicely to some of this type of research.

Anyway, coming back to our field of learning, I think the ability to imagine new scenarios and play these through cognitively as well as physically is key to memorisation and subsequent practice. It's also at the heart of a lot of "role play" style training, but a lot of this fails to live up to expectations, may be for the very reasons this basic research is uncovering.