One day in 2011, a Facebook user professed a love for clean sheets, ending the humble status update with a smiley face. Little did this person realize, the post would inform our understanding of memory. Scientists have found that, when it comes to mental recall, people are far more likely to remember the text of idle chitchat on social media platforms like Facebook than the carefully crafted sentences of books.
The researchers happened upon the findings by accident. Cognitive psychologist Laura Mickes of the University of California, San Diego, and her colleagues were originally looking into the effects of emotions on memory, and happened to be using Facebook posts to invoke various feelings. But they found that the status updates seemed memorable all on their own. “It was a bit of a surprise for us,” Mickes says. “It wasn’t our original question.”
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