Cognitive science is a relatively new interdisciplinary field with contributions from various fields in both the natural sciences and the humanities including psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy, computer science, anthropology, sociology, and biology. Cognitive neuropsychology is one branch that aims to understand how mental processes are responsible for our cognitive abilities to store and produce new memories. Its evolution has led researchers to distinguish several distinct memory systems and to adopt a dynamic and flexible model of human memory.
An important shift has been to conceptualize memory within a social framework. Because much of the activity of remembering takes place as a social activity, when people collaborate to recall events, a group memory emerges that takes on the properties of an aggregate of different individuals' recollections expressed within a social context.
Across different situations, the social setting (a) prescribes the style and contents of recall that are appropriate in the setting, (b) is characterized by social dynamics that govern who speaks when and whose recollections receive the most weight, and (c) varies in the purpose of the recollective activity.
For example, people often reminisce to establish social relations or common ground. In these situations, the speed and accuracy of retrieval might be less important than developing positive social relationships, and thus accuracy may be sacrificed for camaraderie; or to maintain status in a group, accuracy may be sacrificed for persuasiveness. In storytelling, accuracy may be sacrificed for dramatic effect, and in work groups that are assembled to accomplish tasks such as decision making, product design, problem-solving, and so forth, memory may operate to support the tasks and guide decisions, but may not serve as the goal of the group activity per se. Therefore, as a social process, remembering exhibits many interesting properties that are less relevant when it is studied as an individual cognitive activity.
Our brains are wired to gather information from our senses, make choices and remember associations between them. Our choices are driven largely by our memories, which are really just experiences we store in our brains. Because much of our thinking can be boiled down to perceiving the world around us, remembering experiences, predicting outcomes of available choices and choosing one, our memories become the link between our experience and our future. WHAT YOU THINK AFFECTS HOW YOU ACT
At home, at school, at work and play, we live socially. Groups lie at the very core of human experience, pre-dating civilization when belonging was a matter of survival. Today, groups like families, companies, teams and clubs provide us enjoyment, relevance and feedback; they tell us who we are, how to act and what to feel. Groups like baseball teams, scouts, marching bands, graduation, sororities, family reunions, marathon training teams, corporate brand launches lie at the heart of our communal existence and span virtually our entire lives. It is in these perpetual groups, that we generate our richest, most valuable memories. WHO YOU’RE WITH AFFECTS WHAT YOU REMEMBER
Three important recognitions from the fields of affective neuroscience and cognitive neuropsychology help tie together the disparate concepts of groups, memories and wellness:
First is the understanding of how groups affect memories and remembering. Because so much remembering takes place inside a social framework, and group dynamics affect what’s remembered and shared, group recall produces a stronger, richer, more emotional, more valuable collection of memories compared to remembering alone. Often, it will produce new information for some, as they are exposed to what other group members recall from the same experience. HOW YOU REMEMBER AFFECTS WHAT YOU REMEMBER
Second is the knowledge that long-term memories are more dynamic than once thought. Memory retrieval is not a passive phenomenon; it involves an emergent cognitive process that can reinforce or alter stored information via memory reconsolidation. Reconsolidation acts to stabilize the expression of the original memory and “update” it with new information to reflect the most current state of knowledge. During reminiscence, when memories are purposefully recalled then reconsolidated, incorporating new information can result in a permently changed memory. MEMORIES ARE MALLEABLE
Third is a deeper understanding of how our desire to connect, love and belong--to establish positive, durable personal relationships—dramatically effects our emotions, behaviors and health. As we think and act, our bodies respond, physically and emotionally, in very concrete, measurable ways. Research has shown that higher levels of perceived social connectedness are associated with lower blood pressure, better immune response, and lower levels of stress hormones, all of which contribute to the prevention of chronic disease. Studies have also shown that higher levels of trust between people is associated with lower mortality rates. These findings support a protective effect of regulating social attachment and promoting positive social interactions that can induce physical, emotional and cognitive benefits. There is strong and growing evidence to suggest that enhancing the perception of positive social support may increase stress resilience through optimizing the neurochemical stress response, which later influences a cascade of positive cognitive, physical and emotional changes. WHAT YOU REMEMBER AFFECTS HOW YOU FEEL
For all of those reasons, we developed and patented Digital Collaborative Reminiscence, a psychosocial intervention of dynamical, symbiotic, neurocognitive recall, based on fundamental principles of neurobiology, social cognition and emotional behavior. The method facilitates recall with a group of people to curate a collection of the richest, most personalized memories, stories, images, and sentiments from friends and family. By wrapping a digital content crowdsourcing platform around this method, we remove the capacity constraints of access, geography, time, and distribution, then produce a hyper-customized, digital or printed, Applaud GroupStoryTM for each group member.
Sharing experiences and later recalling them can increase empathy, respect, trust, and love; improve connectedness and reduce loneliness; reaffirm identity and self-esteem; and strengthen a sense of belonging. These are all important outcomes because positive relationships increase a sense of personal worth, decrease the effects of stress and disease, and enhance resilience and coping. Remembering with Applaud is an emotionally engaging experience that’s safe, easy and affordable, and leads to amazing social outcomes that will enhance the health and well-being of millions of people all over the world.