I’ve just acted as subject in our first investigation into the memorability and impact of information nuggets. The nugget material, in this case, was mindmaps of key points in nineteen esoteric-type books which explore perceived unresolved mysteries from ancient Egyptology to modern secret societies. I discovered that I could remember almost none of the points presented to me and was unable to link any of them to a particular development in my thinking. My immediate reaction to this disappointing – but probably to be expected – finding was that these are not actually nuggets of information but instead are just parts of a summary of each book.
However, on reflection, I’ve reversed that view. After all, when I was picking out the points as I read, I must have thought each of them to be significant – otherwise I wouldn’t have picked them out. So, how is a key point in a book different from a key point in, say, a five page article? Well there are some obvious differences like the book is a lot bigger and has a lot more stuff in it – most of which I’m not familiar with AT ALL. Unless one has a photographic or otherwise superb memory, you wouldn’t expect to remember everything in such a book after one quick casual read. Of course, I have the books on my bookshelf and have the look of each one locked in my memory with some ideas of what it’s about. However, this is the case because there are just a few hundred of them, and they have a rich content and the covers and spine usually have distinctively memorable images. In contrast, the articles and documents in my work collection (which are due to be investigated next), are much more numerous; are hidden away in my computer (with just a few in my physical archive box); and they all look very similar and have very few distinctive markings.
I guess I’ve expanded my thinking this morning about all this. However, I’m only the subject and we’re only half way through the overall exercise. The interesting bit will be what the researcher concludes from it all.