Why we can't remember good jokes

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Ivan Delgado
Ivan Delgado's picture
Why we can't remember good jokes

I was reading the New York Times earlier today and I came across this article which got me thinking: 
In One Ear and Out the Other
It was an attempt at explaining why we are able to remember things and completely forget others, like a really good joke.
Here are some of the highlights:
"We have a version of a buffer, he said, a short-term working memory of limited scope and fast turnover rate. We have our equivalent of a save button: the hippocampus, deep in the forebrain is essential for translating short-term memories into a more permanent form" - Scott A. Small, neurologist and memory researcher at Columbia University, making an analogy between our memory and computer memory. 
"Jokes work because they deal with the unexpected, starting in one direction and then veering off into another. What makes a joke successful are the same properties that can make it difficult to remember" - Robert Provine, professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
"We humans are pretty good at gist recall but have difficulty with being exact. Emotionally arousing material [a good joke] calls your attention to a central object, but it can make it difficult to remember peripheral details" - Daniel Schacter, professor of psychology at Harvard.
In the end, you could argue that we simply forget because of the way our hardware is setup. We simply do not have enough "buffer memory", the cache memory that by its nature is very limited in order for us to be able to perform fast analysis of what we are exposed to. Maybe some day (other than practice) we will be able to expand that memory, the way we introduce a new memory chip into an old computer to make it capable of handling more data.