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  Better Memory Begets Boredom


Summer’s here and it won’t be long before school-aged kids across America start complaining that they’re tired…of riding their bikes, playing at the park, swimming in the pool…and all the other awesome activities their parents hoped would keep them entertained for the next 10 weeks.


Well, if it’s any consolation, such rapid-onset boredom could indicate that the kids have amazing powers of recall. Because a new study shows that the better your short-term memory, the faster you feel sated and decide you’ve had enough. The findings appear in the Journal of Consumer Research.


“Though satiation can be physical, like when you feel full after eating too much, we were interested in the psychological side of satiation. Like when you’re just tired of something.”


Noelle Nelson, assistant professor of marketing and consumer behavior at the University of Kansas School of Business. She and her colleague Joseph Redden at the University of Minnesota tried to think outside the lunch box.


“Something that was interesting to me is that some people get tired of things at very different rates. When you think about pop songs on the radio, some people must still be enjoying them and requesting them even after hearing them a lot. But a lot of other people are really sick of those same songs.”


The difference, the researchers posited, might have to do with memories of past consumption. For example, studies show that people push away from the dinner table sooner when they’re asked to describe in detail what they ate earlier for lunch.


So the researchers tested the memory capacity of undergraduates. The students then viewed a repeating series of three classic paintings…like The Starry Night, American Gothic, and The Scream…or listened and re-listened to a series of three pop songs…or three pieces of classical music. Throughout the test, the participants were intermittently asked to rate their experience on a scale of zero to ten.


And the better a participant scored in the memory test, the faster they got bored.


“We found that people with larger capacities remembered more about the music or art, which led to them getting tired of the music or art more quickly. So remembering more details actually made the participants feel like they’d experienced the music or art more often.”


The findings suggest that marketers could manipulate our desire for their products by figuring out ways to distract us and keep us from fully remembering our experiences. We could also trick ourselves into eating less junk food by immersing ourselves in the memory of a previous snack.


As for kids easily bored, just tell ‘em to fuggedaboutit—it might help them have more fun.



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