Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Social Networks Communications Facebook Science

Facebook Banter More Memorable Than Lines From Recent Books 78

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-complicated dept.
sciencehabit writes "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 team gathered 200 Facebook posts from the accounts of undergraduate research assistants, such as 'Bc sometimes it makes me wonder' and 'The library is a place to study, not to talk on your phone.' They also randomly selected 200 sentences from recently published books, gathered from free text on Amazon.com. Sentences included, 'Underneath the mass of facial hair beamed a large smile,' and 'Even honor had its limits.' Facebook posts were one-and-a-half times as memorable as the book sentences (abstract). The researchers speculate that effortless chatter is better than well-crafted sentences at tapping into our minds' basic language capacities — because human brains evolved to prioritize and remember unfiltered information from social interaction."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Facebook Banter More Memorable Than Lines From Recent Books

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    people are far more likely to remember the text of idle chitchat on social media platforms

    Not which is more "likely" but what is the average retention time?

    Maybe that 1.5 difference is between retaining it for 2 days and 3 days?

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      The better example anyway would be how long either FB or a real book is remembered compared to movie lines, since most people get their entertainment through movies more than books. Here let me throw out a few and I bet most of you will be able to fill in the blanks..

      " I've had it with these motherfucking... "And I shall strike down with great vengeance and furious anger.." "Houston we've got.."But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, yo

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I used to be a voracious reader, anything really fiction/non-fiction/blahh

    But it's like I hit a quota one day and shifted to reading nothing but stuff online, I'm finding my television and film viewing is also shifting away to YouTube or videos on my computer. Why watch the whole "Daily Show" when I can see all the best bits (in gif form?)

    Is it the narcissistic joy of interacting with an audience that generates tons of new content EVERY DAY that draws me in or something else?

    Or is it just me having a short

    • by XiaoMing (1574363) on Friday January 18, 2013 @07:21PM (#42630395)

      Same here. In fact, this is what your post looked like to me...

      I used to be a voracious reader
      I'm also shifting away to YouTube.
      I can see all the best bits (in gif form?)
      the narcissistic joy draws me in

      short attention span? What is it?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        i used shifting tube in narcissistic joy? what?

    • "What is it?"

      Relevance to your interests. Most information you get from books is not up to date and a lot of it isn't really that interesting, you have to wade through a lot of crap for the 'highlights' the internet tends to focus on and cut to the chase with 'just the good parts'. The reality is, interacting with other human beings in near-real-time is more addictive then a lower level stimulation that requires actual effort and energy to understand.

      The internet concentrates the things that give us the b

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      Who cares? That's just you, a random nobody on the internet (no offense). There is no deep insight to be had from pondering why you like looking at gifs of John Stewart. You like what you like.

      Some people like dub step. There is no great understanding of the human condition that we can glean from that, except the very obvious one: "With seven billion people in the world, you can find an audience for just about anything."

      As for why your interested changed, I would suggest it's simply because people chang

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      I used to be a voracious reader, anything really fiction/non-fiction/blahh

      But it's like I hit a quota one day and shifted to reading nothing but stuff online, I'm finding my television and film viewing is also shifting away to YouTube or videos on my computer. Why watch the whole "Daily Show" when I can see all the best bits (in gif form?)

      Is it the narcissistic joy of interacting with an audience that generates tons of new content EVERY DAY that draws me in or something else?

      Or is it just me having a short attention span?

      What is it?

      Bad quota.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Than latest Oscar winner. Good research. Keep it comin....

    Captcha: Unclean

    No kidding captcha!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe most recently published books are lamer than idle chitchat on Facebook?

    How about a similar study using sentences from acknowledged classics? "To be or not to be, that is the Question", I imagine would be quite memorable, although it might be more fair to choose less well known passages.

    I guess is easy for me to say, since with the exception of Terry Prachett I really only read old stuff available under public free licenses.

    • by Qzukk (229616)

      To be or not to be, that is the Question

      It would be interesting to compare that [google.com] to, say

      How is babby formed?

    • Maybe most recently published books are lamer than idle chitchat on Facebook?

      Yeah. What I have thought sometimes is how anything that is ran through a spell checker and printed nicely between two covers becomes automatically some kind of cherished art. Books are nice, but it's almost automatically thought that reading a book is always a more proper and elegant thing to do than wasting your time reading "crap from the intertubez".

    • uh, what is a "book"?
  • Context (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pavon (30274) on Friday January 18, 2013 @07:17PM (#42630369)

    More likely, the Facebook posts were written to be standalone sentences, and were thus more comprehensible than a sentence taken out of context from a large book. Human have been shown to be much better at memorizing things which they understand and can make associations with than things they don't understand.

    • by Livius (318358)

      I wonder if it's actually another aspect of context - lines from a book might be consistently good and therefore no individual line is remarkable, whereas an interesting or even grammatically correct sentence on Facebook chat will be memorable merely because it contrasts so radically with the other material around it.

    • I agree. With the possible exception of some facebookers that use their status to send oblique cryptic messages (which might be memorable anyway because the brain tries to resolve the riddle before giving up), there can't be comparison between a post and a book. IgNobel nomination material, IMHO. Should they try comparing to haiku poems instead?

  • by Daetrin (576516) on Friday January 18, 2013 @07:18PM (#42630379)
    Some books have very memorable prose. Most books however strive to tell a good story. (Some books manage to do both. Standard plug for Lois McMaster Bujold here.)

    For most books when you get involved in the story you're focused on what's happening in the story, not the exact prose that's used to tell that story. On Facebook you're only going to remember a post if something particularly dramatic happen (which for most people happens fairly rarely) or if they make a memorable quip. And most Facebook posts, especially those that get repeated and spread, tend towards the memorable quip end of the spectrum.

    If you asked people to give a general outline of what happened in the book they read a week ago compared to what was going on in all their friends' lives as posted on Facebook a week ago the results would probably be much more balanced.
    • Well I was going to post almost exactly this but I couldn't have worded it as well. I have hundreds of books in my brain but I don't remember a single sentence from most of them but I could usually give you a meaningful summary just from the name of the book (series excluded they tend to blend into a single summary to me).
    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "Some books have very memorable prose. "

      You mean lines like "Call me Ishmael." or "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" would have been better examples than random crap from recently published books like Larry King's or Snookie's book?

  • by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday January 18, 2013 @07:23PM (#42630411) Homepage Journal

    Probably more people can remember the really good quotes from Shakespere than lines from modern books, too. Doesn't mean Shakespere wrote his stuff on Facebook.

    Second, lines aren't material in works of fiction. All forms of art are about conveying ideas (intellectual, emotional, doesn't matter). Facebook may be great at conveying words, but that doesn't mean it is useful at conveying ideas. The sheer number of flamewars on the Internet would suggest it is an extremely poor medium for transmitting thoughts and feelings. On the other hand, I would be willing to bet that you can remember more of what a book/movie was about, the contexts, the subplots, etc, if you specifically do NOT focus on trying to remember the words.

    • That's also why bad writing hits us so hard. Skilled writers make the spoken and internal dialog of their characters flow naturally, observing and showing the story as it unfolds before them. Unskilled writers stuff words and thoughts into their characters mouths and minds to simply tell the story.
  • put a line like "OMG does my boss suck! happy hour LOL!!!" on facebook between two cute cat pictures, and it's going to be remembered longer than "Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well." more fun and less likely to be a test afterwards. and most likely, your boss has also been on your case and you have not been fearful of insane kings with big-ass swords.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      it's going to be remembered longer than "Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well." more fun and less likely to be a test afterwards.

      Especially since you'd fail the test anyway. It's "Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio." Though I guess your inability to remember it proves your point. Or you were being ironic *shrug*.

      • It's one of the standard misquotes... Like all these "quotes" which never happened:

          * Luke, I am your father.
          * Play it again, Sam
          * Elementary, my dear Watson
          * Beam me up, Scotty
          * Are you feeling lucky, punk?
          * I want to suck your blood
          * Me Tarzan, you Jane
          * Here's another fine mess you've gotten us into
          * Greed is good

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @07:36PM (#42630503)

    This clearly demonstrates the so-called scientists' inability to properly select unbiased parameters for their study. A sentence in a book comes with a lot of necessary and significant context. Whereas the drivel on Facebook and Twitter has virtually no context what-so-ever except for the immediately preceding sentence of drivel. They have performed an expensive study comparing apples and oranges and simply concluded that apples aren't orange in color.

  • by conspirator23 (207097) on Friday January 18, 2013 @07:39PM (#42630519)

    So we have list A, made up of the day-to-day commentary of college undergraduates. Then we have list B, made up of random snippets of contemporary popular literature. The context for both lists are stripped away, and then they are fed to college undergraduates to see which set is more resonant?

    Why of course, this must have to do with some sort of innate cognitive affinity for poorly constructed sentences! What else could it be?!?!?!?! One thing I know for sure... the results of this research are going to be really hard for me to remember later on.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Those book lines have a much higher complexity/density! How did they manage to ignore something so blatantly obvious?!?

    Either they let monkeys do studies now, or this was done deliberately by some grumpy old loser who needed it to be a certain result. If you know what I mean.
    Sometimes I can't tell the two apart anymore.

  • by sirwired (27582) on Friday January 18, 2013 @07:58PM (#42630615)

    The language in which books are written is generally intended to form an overall narrative. It'd be exhausting and confusing to read an entire book of pithy one-liners. It's hardly a shock that lines chosen at random fail to stick in the mind. That doesn't mean that books cannot have memorable sentences in them, just that sentences chosen utterly at random are unlikely to be on that list.

    • Just an addition a book is typically on the order of tens of thousands of sentences why on earth would I remember a single sentence? Hell to remember the specific sentence that they chose to use would be a 1/10000 chance without perfect eidetic memory. So many things wrong with even thinking of this study it makes my brain want to explode.
  • The Facebook posts were written either to be a standalone sentence, or part of a small paragraph, while the sentences from the books were extracted from a much larger overall work. Of course "Omg, hang up your cell phone and put on your shirt!" is going to be more memorable than "She walked in the door."

  • I would say that this shows that people's priority filters work pretty well.

    As popular as it is to put down chit-chat, the truth is that words spoken by real people that you actually interact with about things that actually happen are astoundingly more important for one to remember than well crafted prose from characters who never existed.

    This goes to the core of why learning structured information is often so difficult. The brain's filters have not been trained to treat the information as important so it

  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Friday January 18, 2013 @08:22PM (#42630767)

    This post brought to you by Brawndo. It's got electrolytes! Don't miss tonight's episode of "Ow, My Balls!".

  • Complete information:
    'The library is a place to study, not to talk on your phone.'
    Incomplete information:
    'Underneath the mass of facial hair beamed a large smile,' and 'Even honor had its limits.' What face? Who was it? Santa? What limits are there to honor? What task did honor just require of someone? Who was it?
    When sentences start inviting questions like these, no wonder no one remembers them word for word.
    • Exactly. I see that some cognitive scientist says it's "good research", while the entire linguistics community will be calling it trivial hogwash. It is well known that language is easier to process when it's closest to familiar vernacular speech. This study claims to prove that. This study fails to prove it (as you say, the sentences are incomparable in terms of language content). And yet it's still true.

  • They picked the wrong type of quotes for comparison.
    Yippe-ki-yay Motherf@(#€&!
    Meesa called Jar Jar Binks.

  • So maybe a lot of that care tsken by writers is wasted. If the crap that comes out of peoples' mouths is what our brains want to hea, well...
  • by hey! (33014) on Friday January 18, 2013 @11:11PM (#42631809) Homepage Journal

    until you've examined both things being compared and understand why they are what they are.

    I've just completed my third novel, my first which I feel is good enough to shop to agents and editors. I've spent considerable time testing my manuscripts and scenes by sharing them with other writers and -- even more importantly -- critiquing their manuscripts. The vast majority of unpublished manuscripts are every bit as tedious you can imagine. Now picture yourself pouring over those in minute detail, thinking about them as hard as you possibly can. You'd begin to see that most faults in writing involve mishandling, misdirecting, or abusing readers' attention.

    Suppose you were reading a hundred thousand word novel -- roughly three hundred pages in paperback, and *every single sentence* was written in a way to calculated to grab you by the collar and make you remember. It would be exhausting; I'd be surprised if you made it more than a couple of pages into the story.

    The vast majority of sentences in a well-written novel are meant to transfer information into your consciousness without ever being noticed. They're utility sentences -- the semantic delivery vans of literature -- and when they do their work the action of the novel flows efficiently, without hindrance. Some of my fellow authors refer to this quality where reader attention moves unimpeded through a story as "lightness".

    Fashions vary with generation, of course. Victorian writers wrote many more ornate, dense, complicated sentences than modern ones do. And for some writers conspicuous prose style is the main pleasure. But even a celebrated purple prose writer like EE Doc Smith wrote mostly utility sentences, reserving the "coruscant displays of pyrotechnic splendor" for high points in the story.

    Now there are all kinds of unflattering but true things you can say about most of what gets published, but "hard to read" isn't one of them. It shouldn't be surprising that a random sampling of sentences turns up very few memorable ones, any more than a random sampling of vehicles on the highway turns up more delivery vans and Toyota Corollas than Ferraris.

    • by wisty (1335733)

      tl;dr: Novels have lots of filler (for arguably good reasons).

      • by hey! (33014)

        tl;dr: Novels have lots of filler (for arguably good reasons).

        Maybe, but it's not filler I'm talking about. It's substance. If I could put an idea or event into a reader's head by telepathy, without need for words at all, I'd do it. The very best writing often feels like that.

  • could be situational yes. But I think it's more that (a) the so-called (not by me!) social web at least are avatars of real people, very interesting whether by choice or evolution; (b) those are INTERACTIONS books are not. My self, I think people were built to ACT, and that our prime acts involve either our relations with others or the things we do together if not both. Me, I remember BOOKS. Not the sentences, but the world-situational images they evoke. But surely not the sentences lol. Facts are for sweep

  • "We like our own nonsense and our friends' nonsense more than external nonsense."

    Who would have thought?

    http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/scientific-experiments/10-obvious-research-discoveries.htm [howstuffworks.com]
       

  • Social media will essentially feed short messages with a punch line. A carefully built up story will expand on themes and provide nuances and background.

    What's the bleeding point in comparing the two? It's so friggin obvious that both styles will differ. The effort put into the "research" should have better been put towards creating "world peace". Even "cleaning the appartement" is more sensible than this.

New crypt. See /usr/news/crypt.

Working...