Joshua Foer last Featured Speaker
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Joshua Foer, author of the best-selling book “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” and United States memory champion, closed out the Featured Speaker Series Tuesday night at the University Center at the Kent State Stark campus by giving a speech about the human capacity to remember and recall information.
“The key to memorizing what would appear to be useless information is to make it memorable,” Foer said. “Good memory is not a gift — it is something that is learned.”
Foer began as a journalist looking for a story when he stumbled upon the United States Memory Championship in the spring of 2005. He found it fascinating and decided that to delve deeper into his research, he needed to participate.
After practicing different memorizing techniques for over a year, he attended the competition in 2006, this time as a contestant and emerged as the champion.
“That was an experiment gone haywire. It wasn’t supposed to happen,” Foer said, laughing.
One minute and 40 seconds is the fastest amount of time it has taken Joshua Foer to memorize a deck of cards shuffled into a random order and is the American record for such a task.
With a world record of 21 seconds, Foer compared his time to “a Jamaican bobsled team.”
Foer thinks there are other ways to enhance memory without doing exercises.
“Engage yourself in new experiences, and immerse yourself in new ideas,” he said. “It can definitely help build your cognitive reserve.”
There is also what is often called a “memory palace.” This exercise involves imagining yourself in a familiar place such as your house or apartment, and when you take yourself through each room in your imagination, you encounter something memorable and usual that you create, developing a train of thought using “fun images as a road map.”
Foer explained the reason this works so easily.
“When testing was done on competitors to determine whether or not they were smarter than the average person, it was discovered that while they do not score higher on IQ tests,” he said. “They do use the area of the brain where spatial memories and navigations, such as locations and the placement of people or objects, are stored and we have a tendency to remember significant things such as that as opposed to useless information.”
However, Foer believes that while memory can be learned, people might just be too lazy.
“As a society, we used to furnish our memory,” he said. “The use of technology makes it so we don’t have to.”
Foer even admits to falling victim to technology.
“I still keep everyone’s phone numbers in the address book on my phone, and yesterday I actually forgot my own mother’s phone number,” he said.
Students as well as faculty, including the dean of the Stark campus, Walter F. Wagor, attended the speech.
“I found the speech to be very informative,” said senior music technology major Joe Farr. “And he made a lot of interesting points about the memory process.”
The Featured Speaker Series is one of the many cultural events that occur on the Stark campus every year and has been a tradition supported by the Kent State community.