Facebook Posts Are Easier to Remember than Faces

Anyone who argues that engagement with social media tends to be transient and therefore less valuable to advertisers may want to reconsider that opinion in light of a new study from the University of Warwick in the U.K. The study, which is titled “Major memory for microblogs” and appears in the January 2013 issue of Memory & Cognition, suggests that people find it easier to remember the contents of Facebook updates than faces or sentences from books.


According to Wired UK the researchers showed 200 Facebook status updates, removed from any context, to 32 participants. They also showed the participants lines from 200 fiction and non-fiction books on the same screens. In each case the participants were asked to determine whether a given update or sentence had been shown before. A similar experiment was conducted with 200 different faces.


Both experiments revealed that participants had an easier time remembering whether they’d previously seen a particular Facebook status update than a particular face or sentence. On average the participants were 1.5X more likely to remember a Facebook status update as a sentence from a book, and 2.5X more likely to remember a status update than a random face.


The Wired UK article quoted this comforting observation from lead researcher Laura Mickes: “These kinds of gaps in performance are on a scale similar to the differences between amnesiacs and people with healthy memory.” However, much of the difference may actually be due to the fact that the unpolished prose of Facebook updates is easier to remember because of, for example, idiosyncratic grammar or punctuation. Mickes added: “Writing that is easy and quick to generate is also easy to remember -- the more casual and unedited, the more 'mind-ready' it is. Knowing this could help in the design of better educational tools as well as offering useful insights for communications or advertising.”

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