I posted the other day about luck and serendipity. Last night, after staying out a little too long and having a little too much fun with some friends, I thought of the perfect blog post topic for today. Sadly, I didn't write it down, and this morning, I have no idea what that topic was. I had a notebook and pen with me. I had my phone where I could leave a note for myself. I had options, I just didn't use them because as usual, I thought I would remember.
After I finished searching my brain for some semblance of the topic and coming up with nothing, I remembered a psychological concept known as state-dependent memory or state-dependent learning. I laughed as I realized that this had happened to me... then decided I'd stumbled upon the perfect blog topic.
State-dependent memories or learning are memories or information that can be recalled when people are in the same internal state as they were when they learned it. This concept has frequently been studied when people are in states of consciousness brought on by alcohol. However, it could also apply to other kinds of internal states, like moods.
I remember learning this concept in college, and my classmates and I joked about getting drunk to study, then getting drunk to take the test. Of course, I should point out that state-dependent learning isn't magic that's going to dramatically improve your ability to retain information. It may make it a little easier to recall that information on command, but you're going to be limited by how good your memory is usually. Motivation also comes into play - you have to be motivated to learn or commit the information to memory.
But the way you can apply this information to your life - if you discover you're having difficulty recalling something you learned, you can enhance your recall of that information by recreating the conditions under which you learned that information. So this is more a tool at your disposal - as opposed to a strategy going in.
What this means is, I could probably get that blog topic idea back if I recreated the condition from last night. No thanks. I'll just stick with coffee and serendipity.