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Mind games

Shaking hands with John Lennon

i spent several weeks of my undergraduate psychology course-many decades ago-doing my best to talk nonsense. Our tutor explained that if we wished to study memory in a properly experimental manner, then we could only do so by finding neutral materials for memorising. There was no point in giving each member of the class a short story to read and then testing their capacity to remember its contents in a variety of experimental conditions, because people’s capacity to remember what they’d read was affected by their previous knowledge of similar stories.

The only answer, he said, was nonsense syllables: long…

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