Wired For Safety–The Memory Effect

Wired For Safety–The Memory Effect

Molecular Thoughts

Mark Taylor has started an other brilliant discussion on the LinkedIn Group Work Health Safety (OHS) Leadership for All (Australia): Wired for Safety. You will love the little memory exercise at the end. Great Read Mark!!!!

“When we go shopping we carefully form a list and use it to remind us of what to buy when we walk down the aisles and usually this prevents us from forget anything. Why then do we carefully prepare a JSA (task analysis), with a defined sequence of steps and only read it out during a morning briefing and don’t bother utilizing it for the remainder of the day? Surely this is counter productive, as people can’t be held responsible for remembering all the steps in order and the subsequent control measures.


New studies in neuroscience have found that our brains don’t think in logical sequences, so why do we adopt these systems anyway. When trying to remember things it is usually the first and last words in a sequence that we remember, so why not place the high risk factors at the start and finish.

Novel things also trigger a memory so I suggest adding a colour or something out of the ordinary in the middle of a sentence. Finally repetition is the key so instead of only reading out the whole document at the start of the day, try doing it incrementally at critically parts of the job (as you would do for hold points in a quality procedure). Or, use one of the new cell phone apps so it is readily available and can be easily read even in wet conditions. Instead of getting everyone to remember everything, try getting certain individuals to concentrate on certain steps in the procedure and number them, or colour code them, so its easy for them to remember.

If you don’t believe me try this exercise and it will prove my point:


Tell the participants that you will administer a memory test that involves listening and recalling a series of words. Tell them to listen carefully to the words that will be read out and not to repeat them verbally or write them down. Read out the list of words in order and pause briefly between words: • Dream • Sleep • Night • Mattress • Snooze • Sheet • Nod • Tired • Night • Artichoke • Insomnia • Blanket • Night • Alarm • Nap • Snore • Pillow

Pause for 10 seconds and ask the delegates to write down as many of the words they can recall. Give the delegates about 40 seconds to complete this task. Explain that you are not interested in finding out how each person performed on the test, but explore the four basic principles of memory.

Debriefing Primary and recent effects: Ask participants to raise their hands if they recalled the words “dream and pillow. Most participants will likely have written “dream” and “pillow” because these were the first and last words in the list

Surprise effect: Ask participants to raise their hands if they wrote down the word “artichoke”. Explain that people have a tendency to remember anything that is novel or different.

Repetition: Ask the participants to raise their hands if they recalled the word night. Explain that repetition is a key factor in recall. Since the word night was repeated three times, most participants will have this word in their memory.

False-memory effect: Ask the participants to raise their hands if they recalled the word bed. A few people will likely raise their hands in response to this question. Explain that the word bed wasn’t on the list! Explain that the human brain has a tendency to close logical gaps in what they hear, see or read and frequently this effect provides us with memories of things or events that never took place.

Learning • If you apply the four principles of memory, you increase your ability to recall things easier. • You can use these principles to help employees remember crucial aspects of safety in their work.

Mark Taylor http://www.safetymatters.co.nz

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below