Are you tired of hearing the same story told by the same person over and over again? Chances are you also repeat yourself and may not even know it. Dr. Nigel Gopie and Dr. Colin MacLeod of the University of Waterloo, in Ontario study destination memory - remembering who we have told things to. It turns out that our destination memory is weaker than our source memory—remembering the person from whom we have received information. That's why we repeat our stories to the same audience.
The researchers explain that our poor destination memory may be due to the fact that we focus more attention on ourselves and the delivery of the message than our audience.
The New York Times article "Story? Unforgettable. The Audience? Often Not" by Benedict Carey discusses the findings of their experiments:
In one experiment, they had 60 University of Waterloo students associate 50 random facts (a shrimp’s heart is in its head; 8 percent of men are color blind) with the faces of 50 famous people, like Madonna, Wayne Gretzky and Oprah Winfrey. Half of the students "told" each fact to one of the faces, reading it aloud when the celebrity’s picture appeared on a computer screen. The other half read each fact silently and saw a different celebrity moments afterward.
The students then took a memory test. They chose from face-fact pairs: those which they remembered from learning a fact, and those they remembered from reading facts out loud in the first phase of the study. The students who simulated telling the facts did 16 percent worse on the test than the students who were fed the facts while seeing celebrity faces.
Understandably, our destination memory becomes even worse when we tell intricate and detailed stories that require more focus. However, if we want to improve the accuracy of our destination memory, we can remind ourselves whom we are addressing by saying the recipient's name.