I watched prime time BBC show How to Improve Your Memory last night and was very impressed.
Some of the Beeb’s past efforts to do popular psychology programmes have been a bit dodgy to say the least. I am still haunted by the concept of ‘brain sex’ invented by the producers of Secrets of the Sexes to describe how ‘male or female’ your brain was. You had to be there.
In contrast, How to Improve Your Memory was a comprehensive journey through memory science and also gave plenty of effective techniques to improve attention and memory.
It also included try-it-yourself exercises and experiments, and almost all were taken from the scientific literature.
Probably because of this, it was a bit dry in places, but this would easily be fixed if you were in front of the TV with the family playing along.
The show also tried to get viewers to reconsider their negative beliefs about their memory. In particular, it tried to normalise forgetting rather than portraying it as the early signs of decline, and demonstrated how memory could be improved even during later-life.
The combination of teaching new mental skills while getting people to modify their self-defeating beliefs is a common technique used in cognitive behaviour therapy to improve performance, and if it works, can also reduce how often people consult doctors for noticeable but normal cognitive changes.
I suspect this may be the BBC doing their bit for the UK government’s appallingly branded but potentially promising ‘happiness campaign‘ (really an employment campaign).
There are plenty of activities to check out and try on the website if you missed the programme.
Link to How to Improve Your Memory webpage.