Theory on Generational Differences in Memory

Have you ever noticed that people who are 50+ tend to remember all kinds of details from their childhood that many of us in our 20s & 30s couldn’t remember if our life depended on it? What makes this even more amazing is how much further removed they are from the events than those 20 years younger than themselves and yet names, places, and events seem to be much more easily recalled from those distant years by older generations. Have you experienced this too or am I just weird and have a very poor memory of my past?

Here is my theory on this. In the 1940s the technological bubble was just beginning to inflate. People who are in their 60’s today remember their first tv, which may have been one of the first in their neighborhood. They didn’t have the internet, zillions of magazines, video games, ipods, iphons, etc. They only encountered a limited amount of information and stimuli on a daily basis. Today I can check my email from the phone in my pocket and constantly get bombarded with information. Facebook provides a million details about people I never wanted to know. I can read from hundreds of excellent Christian blogs. The amount of information we are bombarded with on a daily basis is enormously larger than it was 40 years ago.

Our minds can only retain so much information. The information overload we face today and what we value as important information to retain may mean a difficulty in remembering all the obscure things that older generations remember. It would make sense that you are more likely to retain a higher percentage of the information you receive if you limit the amount of information you perceive. For example, if they had 100 important pieces of information given to them in the 1950s and we have 1000. Who is likely to have a better memory of each of those pieces of information?

Do you think that is plausible or have I thought way too hard about something that is absolutely pointless?


Will a Shortening Attention Span Affect Our Memory?

How many things are you bombarded with on a daily basis? I marvel when I spend time with our preaching minister who tells stories from his childhood from several decades ago. He remembers the names, situations, nicknames, locations, and just about any other detail you can remember. Besides the fact that he has an amazing memory, it makes me wonder if as we are bombarded with more and more messages our attention spans will shorten and our memories will get worse. There was a study done recently that showed older people do in fact have a better memory than younger people. Could it be because the younger generation is constantly bombarded with zillions of images and bits of information, names, websites, etc that it makes it hard to really remember very much of what they are experiencing?