The Italian Almanac

scientist at work

Italian Science - June 9

If you have ever had trouble putting a name to a face or blanked out during a job interview, you've been a momentary victim of memory lapse from lack of context, according to recent research conducted in Italy.

Research conducted in Rome discovered that people take 'memory snapshots,' storing information, say a face and a name, along with emotional state and physical environment at the time. Spatial and physiological conditions heavily condition the process of transferring the information from short-term to long-term memory.

Different conditions make the information harder to retrieve. That's why if you run into your ex's sister at the hardware store or your French teacher at a garage sale, you may be at a loss to place the face and wonder, wrongly, whether memory is seriously failing you. Another classic memory loss is blanking out on information during stressful situations, like a job interview or an exam. In front of a potential employer or during tests, stress causes a short circuit in memory retrieval because of changes in setting and the emotions at play.