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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Don't Forget vs. Do Remember

Emotions and attitude make a huge difference in how well you learn and remember things. I present the evidence for and explain this in my book.

Here is a simple example you can apply again and again. How often do you say to yourself or others, "Don't forget to ___________ (you fill in the blank)?" But ths way of saying things creates a negative emotion. The simple preventive is to state the instructions in a positive way: "Remember to ___________."


  1. Tony - New Zealand5:24 PM

    I am very interested in this concept (speak in the positive) as a number of people I meet cite it as an important communication technique (I'm a presentation trainer).

    However the concept seems to go against the findings of Kahneman & Tversky - that people are more likely to take action to prevent a loss, than take action to achieve a gain - see

    They have a variety of empirical evidence supporting their theory that to get action, highlight the potential loss - I was wondering if you could steer me towards the evidence that supports yours?

  2. I haven't read that particular Kahneman paper, but usually he writes in the context of money (in this case it would be advice on how to achieve a financial gain).

    I may not have used a good example of my point. The bad effect of negative emotions on memory is well documented (I don't plan to give away my book via this blog). At issue is whether in my example, the negative way of looking at it creates enough of a negative emotion to interfere with memory. I can't say for sure.

    Bill Klemm

  3. When you say "The bad effect of negative emotions on memory is well documented" I guess you mean that if an event is really frightening then a person may 'block' that memory - however the tragic cases of post-traumatic stress disorder suggest that 'negative' emotions actually enhance memory - that is, these negative things are very difficult to forget - even if we want to.


Please contribute your ideas. This blog is all about making learning easier for everyone.