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I’m going to have to ponder this when I get out of my current Galatians tunnel. At first blush, it would seem to provide some relevant insights into how the early Christian communities remembered and passed on the stories of Jesus during the period of oral transmission of the Gospel materials.
Although it might seem a good idea to work with other people to remember important information, the evidence suggests that this typically isn’t so. Individual recall is most efficient whereas social remembering comes with drawbacks, tripping up our flow and inhibiting memories. But this evidence mostly comes from asking people to collaborate with a stranger. What happens when you know each other really, really well?
Citing research from Celia Harris and others at Australia’s Macquarie University, the article continues:
Their data showed that on standard tasks, such as reproducing words from studied lists, couples working together often did as well as when they worked alone. This lack of a penalty from social remembering is itself notable, but it’s just a gateway into more intriguing findings.
During another study, the researchers noticed that although couples did more poorly at listing their shared holidays when recalling together, these social sessions were filled with anecdotes and tangents that weren’t generated in the solo sessions. This inspired them to depart from testing memory for lists of words and events, and to explore the amount of rich, in-depth information remembered by couples about experienced events. They found these social exchanges led to clear collaborative memory benefits, which could take three forms:
1. “New information” such as finally snatching an elusive name of a musical thanks to a chain of prompts between the two parties.
2. Richer, more vivid descriptions of events including sensory information.
3. Information from one partner painting things in a new light for the other.
The focus of the article is on romantic couples, but I wonder if the same dynamics might apply to family systems or co-workers who have been together for a number of years and have high regard for each other.
Thinking of the churches of the 30’s and 40’s in terms of an “interconnected memory system” may be a path worth exploring.