Written by Art Markman, PhD
Television is inspiring because it brings you into contact with the extraordinary. You get to watch stories and dramas that tell us about heroes and villains. You get travel the world without leaving your own home. You get to come in contact with experts like Dr. Oz, who bring their knowledge and skills into your living room.
As fascinating as these stories can be, it is hard not to compare your own life to what you see on screen. But, the people you see on TV are selected because they are extreme. As a result, it can be hard to figure out what is normal.
If you have ever wondered whether you are normal, we are here to help. I am Art Markman, PhD, a member of The Dr. Oz Show medical advisory board. My colleague Bob Duke and I have a radio show and podcast called Two Guys on Your Head that focuses on everyday psychology. How do you think? How does your memory change as you get older? Are kitten videos on the Internet bad for you?
Today, we are launching a new book called Brain Briefs: Answers to the Most (and Least) Pressing Questions About Your Mind. This book explores 40 questions that you have probably had about the way you think, act, and interact with other people. It is focused on helping to answer that nagging question, “Am I normal?” We answer that question with a combination of humor and science.
For example, lots of people worry about their memory as they get older. Each time they forget the name of an actor or perhaps forget why they walked into a room, they assume this is a sign that their mind is finally falling apart.
What most people don’t realize, though, is that they have been forgetting things their entire lives. As teenagers, they forgot to turn in homework assignments, missed appointments, and failed to do chores. At that stage of life, they never said, “I just had a senior in high school moment.” Yet, after turning 50, those same people treat each forgotten fact as bad news.
Studies show that the worst thing you can do for your memory is to worry about your memory. Most people’s memories get a bit worse as they age, but are not that much worse at 70 than they were at 25. But, stress and worry does impair memory.
So, relax. The next time someone says they are having a “senior moment” tell them that when they focus on what they can’t do, they are only making their memory worse.
If you find yourself thinking about whether you or the people around you are normal, then check out Brain Briefs. We give short answers to important questions. Our hope is that we can help you to have interesting conversations with the people in your life about your mind.