People remember Facebook posts better than faces and book excerpts

facebook memory

Ask someone to recite a book sentence or to try and recall an acquaintance’s face… and then ask them to recall a Facebook status. According to researchers from the University of San Diego discovered, most will stumble over faces and phrases, but nail status updates. The conclusion? Our brains are hardwired for common language processing, and Facebook posts lend themselves to it.

To test out their hypothesis, University of San Diego students were used as the guinea pigs here in two separate studies – one for comparing recalling Facebook posts with book sentences, and the other comparing it with recalling faces.

The first study asked one group of students to read through Facebook statuses, with the other reading through short excerpts from books on Amazon. Both groups were later asked to recall familiar sentences from 200 sentences that mixed 100 dummy texts with 100 statuses or excerpts. The study notes that single word sentences, quotes, and sentences with more than 25 words were omitted to minimize affecting the outcome.

The second part to the study involving the recognition of faces used neutral faces pulled from a facial recognition database called FERET, developed by the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Nation Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This second study tested participants on their ability to recall familiar faces from dummy data.

The results were clear, and as the study suggests the difference is staggering. On average participants asked to recall Facebook statuses fared far better than the book and face recognition group at “a magnitude comparable to the difference in memory strength between amnesiacs and healthy controls.” So our brains are apparently far better equipped to recollect Facebook status updates or short excerpts of text – this can apply to tweets as well – than faces or book excerpts. 

Our ability to recall text fairs better when it’s written in an “understandable” style that doesn’t throw in technical jargon or use elaborately or carefully crafted rhetoric that college professors seek. A conversational style is what sticks, and the study adds that neither the topic of the text, nor the incompleteness hinders a reader’s ability to remember text. Rather it’s the conversational tone and spontaneity that’s critical for leaving a lasting impression.


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