Brains, Boundaries, and Memory

Greg Miller has a fascinating article in Wired on how the way movies are edited mirror in large part how our brains edit the constant bombardment of information our senses provide. Essentially, we’re not disoriented when a scene switches in a movie because our brains do much the same thing all the time, blanking out the meaningless bits that get us from this perspective to that as we switch from real-life scene to scene.

But what was really interesting is how much experiments have found us to agree on what constitutes a “scene” in real life (do read the article—it’s fascinating stuff), and how our memories function on the borders between scenes, which he calls “event boundaries.”

This is where it meanders into something meeting planners may want to give some thought to: On one hand, we tend to not notice or forget things just before an event boundary, but “when people do successfully reach back across an event boundary to remember something they saw, they activate their hippocampus. That’s interesting, says [Jeffrey Zacks, a neuroscientist at Washington University in St. Louis], because this part of the brain is well-known for its role in encoding long-term memories.”

Think about what you want your attendees to remember—do these things occur right before a scene change/event boundary (which can be as mundane as someone walking through a door)? If so, how can you help them retrieve that memory to help it find its way to long-term storage?

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