Having a better memory makes people tire of experiences faster, study says

LAWRENCE, Kan. — They say you can never have too much of a good thing, but that might not be the case — if you have a good memory. A recent study found that people with strong memories grow tired of experiences more quickly than others.

Researchers at the University of Kansas say people with better memories encode information in their brains more deeply, which allows them to remember some of the more trivial details of an event. That, in turn, gives them a more lasting experience, making them feel more fulfilled.

Woman sitting on dock looking out at mountains
People who have stronger memories grow tired of experiences more quickly than others, a recent study found.

“That feeling then leads to the ‘large-capacity’ people getting tired of experiences faster,” explains lead author Noelle Nelson, an assistant professor of marketing and consumer behavior, in a release.

Together with Joseph Redden, co-author of the study and associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, the researchers conducted four separate experiments on undergraduate students. They measured and recorded their working memories in several ways, from remembering a series of letters to playing the popular memory game “Simon,” which requires remembering a series of lights and tones.

Participants then performed tasks designed to make them tire of the experience, such as viewing paintings or listening to music.

The authors found a direct link between participants’ memory capacity to how fast they grew tired of each experience.

“We found that their capacity predicted how fast they got tired of the art or music,” says Nelson. “People with larger memory capacities satiated on these things more quickly than people with smaller capacities. Essentially, large-capacity people perceive that they’ve experienced things more times because they remember those experiences better.”

The results may be of particular use to marketers looking to find ways to keep consumers interested in products. People who want to quit various habits or keep themselves from snacking on unhealthy foods might also try and experience the feeling of eating on a deeper level.

“Our findings suggest that if they can enhance their memory for the other times they’ve eaten these foods, they may feel satiated and then not seek out those unhealthy things,” explains Nelson.

The study was published in October in the Journal of Consumer Research.

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