Why two people see the same thing but have different memories

Why two people see the same thing but have different memories


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Julian Matthews, Monash University

Does it ever strike you as odd that you and a friend can experience the same event at the same time, but come away with different memories of what happened? So why is it that people can recall the same thing so differently?

We all know memory isn’t perfect, and most memory differences are relatively trivial. But sometimes they can have serious consequences.

Imagine if you both witnessed a crime. What factors lead to memory differences and whom should we trust?

Read more:
You can’t ‘erase’ bad memories, but you can learn ways to cope with them

There are three important aspects to memory: encoding, storage, and retrieval.

  • encoding is how we get information into the brain
  • storage is how we retain information over time
  • retrieval is how we get information out of the brain.

Differences in each or a combination of these aspects might help explain why memories differ from one person to another.

How different people encode memories

Memory encoding starts with perception — the organisation and interpretation of sensory information from the environment.

The salience of sensory information (for example, how bright a light is or loud a sound) is important – but perception does not rely on salience alone.

Rather, perception is strongly affected by what we have experienced in the past and our expectations of what we might experience in the future. These effects are called top-down processes, and have a big impact on whether we successfully encode a memory.

One of the most important top-down processes is attention — our ability to focus selectively on parts of the world, to the exclusion of other parts.

While certain visual items can be perceived or encoded into memory with little or possibly no attention, attending to items is hugely beneficial for perception and memory.

How different people focus their attention on an event will affect what they remember.

For example, your preference for a particular sporting team can bias your attention and memory. A study of American football found that sports fans tended to remember rough play instigated by their opponent, rather than their own side.

Age also contributes to differences in memory, because our ability to encode the context of memories diminishes as we get older.

Context is an important feature of memory. Studies show that if we attend to both an item and its context, we remember the item better than if we attend to the item alone.

For example, we are more inclined to encode the location of our car keys if we focus on both the keys and how we have placed them in a room, rather than just focusing on the keys alone.

How different people store memories

Memories are first encoded into a temporary memory store called short-term memory. Short-term memories decay quickly and only have a capacity of three or four bits at a time.

But we can group larger bits of information into manageable chunks to fit into memory. For instance, consider the challenging letter sequence:

C, I, A, A, B, C, F, B, I

This can be chunked into the easily memorised:


Information in short-term memory is held in a highly accessible state so we can bind features together. Techniques such as verbal rehearsal (repeating words aloud or in our head) allow us to consolidate our short-term memories into long-term memories.

Long-term memory has an enormous capacity. We can remember at least 10,000 pictures, according to a study from the 1970s.

Memories can differ between people on the basis of how we consolidate them. Many studies have investigated how memory consolidation can be improved. Sleep is a well-known example.

A study found that long-term memory can also be enhanced by taking caffeine immediately after learning. The study used caffeine tablets to carefully control dosage, but this builds on growing evidence for the benefits of moderate coffee consumption.

How different people retrieve memories

Retrieving episodic memories, our memory of events, is a complex process because we must combine objects, places and people into a single meaningful event.

The complexity of memory retrieval is exemplified by tip-of-the-tongue states — the common and frustrating experience that we hold something in long-term memory but we cannot retrieve it right now.

The emergence of brain imaging has meant we have identified many brain areas that are important for memory retrieval, but the full picture of how retrieval works remains mysterious.

There are many reasons that memory retrieval can differ from one person to another. Our ability to retrieve memories can be affected by our health.

For example, memory retrieval is impaired if we have a headache or are stressed.

Retrieval is also affected by the outside world; even the wording of questions can change how we recall an event. A study instructed people to view films of car accidents and then asked them to judge the speed the cars were moving. If people were asked how fast the cars were moving when they “crashed” or “smashed” into each other they judged the cars as moving faster than if the words “contacted” or “hit” were used.

Memory retrieval can also be affected by the presence of other people. When groups of people work together they often experience collaborative inhibition — a deficit in overall memory performance when compared to the same group if they work separately and their memories are pooled after each individual has recounted their version.

Read more:
It’s not so easy to gain the true measure of things

Effects such as collaborative inhibition highlight why memory differences occur but also why eyewitness testimony is so problematic.

Thankfully, the proliferation of smartphones has lead to the development of innovative apps, such as iWitnessed, that are designed to help witnesses and victims preserve and protect their memories.

Technology such as this and knowledge of memory encoding, storage, and retrieval can help us determine whom to trust when differences in memory occur.The Conversation

Julian Matthews, Postdoctoral Research Officer – Cognitive Neurology Laboratory, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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“Absolutely powerless”: Business owners are having their ideas stolen, but what can they do about it?

“Absolutely powerless”: Business owners are having their ideas stolen, but what can they do about it?

Dominic Powell / Friday, October 19, 2018

stolen ideas Great Ideas in Nutrition founder Amanda Clark. Source: Supplied.

After seeing her product stolen and sold by a multinational healthcare company, Amanda Clark says she felt “absolutely powerless”.

“I remember going to an IP lawyer, who took one look at the size of the company and said: ‘Do you really want to pursue this?’,” she says.

“I knew if they launched any sort of legal defence, I couldn’t match it.”

Clark is the founder of nutrition and weight-loss consultancy Great Ideas in Nutrition, and in 2006 had released a product called Portion Perfection, a book and plate combo which helped dieters better portion their meals.

The founder was showing off the product at a trade show when a representative from the multinational approached her and asked if they could collaborate on creating a version of the product for the larger company.

“They said they absolutely loved it, but afterwards no one got in touch. Eventually, they told me while they were thinking about doing something, they decided against it. So at the time I just moved on,” she says.

However, a few years later, the company released an almost carbon-copy of Clark’s portion plate, complete with an accompanying book, similar logo, and even a similar colour scheme.

Clark quickly went to the company with her concerns and did end up penning a legal letter to the multinational, who dismissed her complaints and said the product was an independent idea. Years later, despite switching up the design of the initial copy of Clark’s product, she says the business is still selling her product.

“I hope one day they’ll stop,” she says.

A very common line

Clark’s feeling of being powerless to stop such cases of IP theft is one which runs commonly through the small business and startup community. Founders regularly see large corporates ‘take inspiration’ from their designs and products, and outside of long, expensive legal battles, there’s not much which can be done about it.

And while some business owners brush it off as validation or a form of flattery, the ongoing success of a business can be gravely affected by the actions of an ‘inspired’ big business.

It’s a situation chief executive of startup accelerator BlueChilli Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin says he’s seen time and time again, which has led the startup guru to question the intention of many large firms who seek to partner with Australian startups.

“Intentions are not always pure with some of these companies. Often they’re just collecting data on new ideas to present to their clients as their own,” he says.


Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin and Luther Poier. Source: Supplied.

Eckersley-Maslin says he’s seen “horror stories” of situations where large corporates have offered to partner or invest in local startups, and have proceeded to suck out the startup’s IP to use on their own products.

“I saw an ASX-listed company who was looking to invest in the capabilities of one of our startups, and like any startup, they were running low on money so they were keen.

“The conversation got to the pointy end, and then the management team of the larger company saw the startup was running low on money so they decided to wait until the startup was more desperate.

“They then did a completely different deal, which ended up killing the startup,” he says.

Don’t confuse customers with investors

For Clark, she’s kept soldiering on, taking solace in the fact the company who wronged her has no idea what she’s doing next. She says the experience has taught her the bleak reality of copyright and IP protection strategies, which she calls “fairly weak”.

“They’re much weaker than I thought they were, and pretty much unless you have a patent and you’re willing and able to fight it there’s not much you can do about someone breaching your trademark,” she says.

And when it comes to registering trademarks and patents, IP lawyers have told SmartCompany it’s often far too expensive to consider, with director at Hitch Advisory Nicholas Hitchens saying design trademarks can cost thousands of dollars.

“Even if you’ve got it registered, if you think someone’s stolen your design, you’ve still got to book a date with them in Federal Court,” Hitchens said

“You just have to move away and take solace in the fact that you were innovative once, and hopefully you’ll be innovative again,” he added.

In light of these situations, businesses should never “confuse customers with investors” says Eckersley-Maslin, with startups needing to be vigilant about the true intentions of large companies who come knocking.

“Know where they are in terms of strategy, and always have a plan B or C, because anything can happen and intentions are not obvious,” he says.

“The best way for companies to defend against unscrupulous partners is to grow fast.”

Ideas should be shared

Another Australian startup founder who’s found himself handed the short end of the idea-stealing stick is Vaibhav Namburi, who found himself discussing ideas for a new startup with an acquaintance of his at the time.

Though Namburi’s idea had just a “loose relation” to the business his acquaintance was running, a few weeks later that business owner injected a similar service to what Namburi was intending to provide into his already-existing business.

Vaibhav Namburi

Vaibhav Namburi. Source: Supplied.

But instead of getting irritated, Namburi says he took a different view, with the other founder ending up saving him time and effort by validating the product he was looking to build.

“When someone steals your idea, the only difference between you and them is that they executed on it, and in the end whoever executes best is who wins,” he says.

When I wrote about it, people were throwing sympathy at me, but honestly I think an idea doesn’t mean jack shit unless you execute on it.”

At the time, Namburi could see the other founder’s product and how it was working, which enabled him to improve the product he intended to launch. In the end, he thinks companies should focus more on selling the story rather than strictly selling their products, and founders should never be afraid to share their ideas.

“Every idea should be shared because they need mass validation. Do you think that people would have gotten into strangers cars to be dropped home years ago without being exposed to it first?

“In the end, share and keep your execution plan to yourself, but let other people know about what you’re doing. Discussion about ideas should always be free-flowing,” he says.

Article found HERE at SmartCompany.com.au

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Over half of Australia’s growers non-compliant as Ombudsman recovers more than $1 million for underpaid workers

Over half of Australia’s growers non-compliant as Ombudsman recovers more than $1 million for underpaid workers

Dominic Powell / Friday, November 23, 2018

Australia’s workplace watchdog has revealed the results of its crackdown on Australia’s fruit and vegetable growers, finding more than 50% of businesses audited were non-compliant with the country’s Fair Work Act.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s (FWO) Harvest Trail Inquiry investigated nearly 650 businesses involved with the harvesting of various crops, including labour hire companies, and recovered more than $1 million in wages for over 2,500 affected workers.

Labelling the non-compliance “widespread” and at times deliberate, the FWO said in a statement many of the businesses were found to be significantly underpaying workers, falsifying records, deliberately withholding payslips, and making unauthorised deductions.

Over 130 infringement notices were issued throughout the inquiry, along with 13 compliance notices. The FWO also entered into seven enforceable undertakings with companies who were found to be non-compliant.

The FWO also took court action against eight of the companies, recovering more than $500,000 in penalties.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman visited hundreds of horticulture businesses and found over half did not comply with workplace laws. Our inquiry highlighted unacceptable practices of underpaying workers in one of Australia’s largest rural industries,” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said in a statement.

“Growers rely heavily on migrant workers to pick, pack and process crops, and these workers can be particularly vulnerable. Migrant workers may not seek help because of language and cultural barriers, concerns about visa status, or because they are unaware of their workplace rights.”

“All workers in Australia have the same rights and protections at work, regardless of citizenship or visa status. During this inquiry, we assisted hundreds of migrant workers to recover their pay, and any workers with concerns should contact us.”

In the wake of the inquiry, the FWO says it intends to establish a stakeholder reference group to further develop and promote a “culture of compliance” in Australia’s horticulture industry. The watchdog also surveyed consumers and discovered over 80 percent said they would avoid buying produce if they knew workers had been underpaid.

Article found HERE at SmartCompany.com.au

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What to do if a confidentiality agreement is breached

What to do if a confidentiality agreement is breached

StartupSmart / Monday, November 26, 2018

When dealing with a breach of a confidentiality agreement it’s important to note a confidentiality agreement is one of the more common legal documents. Many businesses insist associates, contractors and employees enter into a confidentiality agreement before working together.

In most situations, ensuring your counterparty has signed a confidentiality agreement will ensure that your confidential information is kept exactly that: confidential. Unfortunately, however, because of the relatively common nature of such agreements, a breach of a confidentiality agreement is not uncommon.

In the event of a breach of the agreement, there are a number of steps which it is prudent to take. This article will set out an overview of those steps.

1. Review the confidentiality agreement

The first, and perhaps most obvious, step to take is to review the confidentiality agreement. In certain circumstances, the remedies for a breach of confidentiality agreement will be set out in the actual contract itself. In any case, it is important to make sure that the breach you have discovered is actually a breach under the terms of the confidentiality agreement.

Partner link: Visit Collab Zone for sought-after business advice

2. Investigate the breach

Investigating the breach is the next step in the process. It’s not enough that you merely suspect your counterparty of having breached the confidentiality agreement, you need to have concrete proof that this has occurred. There are two key issues to look for.

  • How confidential information was released. Was it an employee of your counterparty, was it intentional?
  • The effect the release of the information had on your business, both from an economic point of view and a more general perspective.

3. Approach a lawyer to discuss options

If the breach of the confidentiality agreement has had a significantly detrimental effect on your business, it’s time to discuss your options with a lawyer. In the majority of cases you will be in a position to take legal action for breach of contract, however, you will need to work out whether it’s worth your time and effort to do so. Other potential legal recourses may include copyright infringement, patent infringement or breach of fiduciary duty.

The exact legal strategy you should use will depend on your individual circumstances, which is why you will need to work with a lawyer. However, the good news is if you have signed a confidentiality agreement, it’s very likely you will have some recourse.

To conclude

Using a confidentiality agreement is the most effective way to ensure confidential information stays protected, but no legal document can fully protect you from a dishonest or incompetent partner. If a counterparty breaches a confidentiality agreement, go through the above points and work with a lawyer to check out your options.

Article found HERE at SmartCompany.com.au

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Why you need a mentor, and how to get one

Why you need a mentor, and how to get one

RedZed / Monday, October 1, 2018

For SME owners, a business mentor can bring perspective, experience and connections that would otherwise be out of reach – all things that are invaluable in propelling your small business forward.

However, research conducted by SmartCompany found that more than 50 per cent of small business owners believed having a mentor would be beneficial to their career, yet less than 20 per cent received some form of mentorship.

For those unsure of how a mentor-mentee relationship could be beneficial to your business and your career, SmartCompany spoke with two small business owners to find out how their experiences with their mentors helped them succeed in business.

Stoking up business dreams

In 2017, Stoke n Smoke BBQ owner Chad Griffin had the opportunity to meet his barbeque business idol after winning RedZed Lending Solutions’ Meet the Master competition.

Having just started up his barbeque catering business, Griffin was flown to Richmond, Virginia in the United States to meet barbeque legend, Tuffy Stone – and grill him with some in-depth questions.

Stone, also known as “The Professor” on the American barbeque circuit, quickly became a master of barbeque after taking out a number of barbeque championships on his quest to learn everything he could about the topic.

“He’s a bit of an idol and he’s done a few videos and interviews but nothing really in depth,” says Griffin, who was hoping to get to pick Stone’s brain

“I thought, ‘Jeez, I could learn a thing or two from this guy.’ I wanted to get a little bit more out of him.”

The number one thing Griffin learnt from his mentor was to be prepared. “Whether it’s a competition or your business, you need to have back-ups, you need lists, you need to be over-prepared.”

After watching friends’ businesses fail and realising it’s “not easy to kick off a business,” Griffin says he’s extremely glad he had the opportunity to be mentored by a barbeque and business legend.

“We did need to step back from business and prepare more, and get some good credit behind us.”

Brewing up business with the right combination of mentors

Founder of specialty online tea store Allegra & Grace, Julia Torkos says two business mentors were critical in helping her launch her business in June 2018.

The first helped her establish a clear business model and get clear on her target market. “I spent eight months being coached by her and she was truly amazing in helping me see my strengths and working with them,” says Torkos.

The second helped Torkos form the action plan that got her to the point of launching Allegra & Grace.

After this positive experience with mentoring, Torkos says she’s now ready for a third mentor. She’d love to meet Catherine Langman, a business coach for e-commerce productpreneuers.

“As valuable as my mentors were, I’m missing someone that is an expert in the e-commerce world. Catherine has an abundance of real-life experience and success and some valuable tools that I feel I need to learn.”

Torkos says the opportunity to be mentored by someone who truly gets the challenges she faces in growing her business would be game-changing.

“It would help me create a community in which Australians can connect over a shared cup of tea – the ritual of brewing a cuppa, the amazing health benefits and the calm it evokes.”

How can you get the most out of your mentor?

  • Don’t be scared to ask questions.
  • Be honest and clear about the kind of relationship you’re looking for.
  • Ask for honest feedback.
  • Be clear on what you want to achieve in your business from the mentoring relationship and communicate these things to your mentor.

So, once you realise what mentoring could do for your business, it’s time to start thinking about the next question: Who is the ultimate mentor for you and your business?

Original article found HERE at SmartCompany.com.au 

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