People who are familiar with a subject are better at remembering new information related to it, according to a new study done on Pokemon characters, which shows that it is possible to boost memory capacity.
Researchers also found a strong link between prior familiarity in long-term memory and visual short-term memory storage capacity.
“The human mind can store almost an infinite amount of information offline and more importantly process a vast amount of information online in everyday life,” said Weiwei Zhang, from the University of California, Riverside in the US.
“These amazing capabilities are supported by a core cognitive function, working memory, that holds information online for a short period of time, so that we could engage in various mental operations,” said Zhang.
According to Zhang, for example, in active conversation, we need to remember the whole sentence in working memory to understand the other person.
Working memory has a small capacity that can be maintained in the active mind.
As a result, this limited-capacity working memory becomes a bottleneck, limiting cognitive abilities such as creativity and fluid intelligence - like ability to solve new problems or use logic in new situations. So the researchers asked if would it be possible to overcome the working memory bottleneck.
Researchers set to discover if the limited capacity of working memory could be increased by supplementing it with long-term memory.
Most of the participants in the study were college students at UC Riverside, therefore they were familiar with the first-generation characters - released about 15 years ago - than with the more recent fifth-generation characters.
“We wanted to take advantage of the participants’ previous - almost lifetime - experience with Pokemon characters,” said Zhang.
“Specifically, to compare their working memory of Pokemon characters that they are more familiar with - first-generation Pokemon - with Pokemon characters that they are less familiar with, like fifth-generation Pokemon characters,” Zhang added.
Researchers assessed participants’ familiarity with Pokemon by having them name a small set of Pokemon characters, then report how much they liked each character.
In a separate working memory task - they were flashed five random characters fromt the popular animated series Pokemon for half a second and asked to remember them in working memory and hold the memory for one second.
In the subsequent test, participants were shown a Pokemon character, which could be one of the previously presented characters or a new one. Participants had to report whether they saw a new or old Pokemon.
The results showed that people remembered more Pokemon characters that they were familiar with than those with which they were less familiar.
The more familiar they were with Pokemon, the more Pokemon characters they could remember.
The study was published in the journal Memory and Cognition.