Memory and Sporcle Live Trivia
Memory is a tricky beast. Why is it that I can remember, say, every single play of the 2012 SEC Championship game, but I have never once come back with the items my wife sent me to the store to get. A few years ago, I started thinking about this more seriously after reading Into the Silent Land by Paul Broks for a class I was taking on neuroscience and culture. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend it because Broks is a fantastic writer and the case studies are fascinating. Recently, I’ve been even more interested in the subject of memory as it relates to what we do here at Sporcle Live.
In the mid-twentieth century, neuroscientists discovered that there are two key structures in the brain linked to memory. One, the hippocampus (Greek for seahorse, due to its shape) assists in converting short-term memories to long-term. The other, the amygdala (Greek for almond, again due to its shape) helps in processing memories, along with emotional processing. I’m no neuroscientist, so I’ll direct the interested reader here for a really great primer on the structures of the brain and their relationship to how our memories are formed and used. But what does this have to do with trivia?
Obviously, having a good memory is a key component of being a good trivia player. Every week at my regular shows, there are two or three questions that ask teams to recall information that they probably first learned in high school. I’ve also written here before about the intellectual benefits of trivia; it turns out there’s a good reason trivia is such a good way to learn things. For instance, I once lost a high-stakes team trivia match on the last question, and that’s why I’ll remember until I die that Newfoundland is the largest breed of dog ever to win the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. But this goes beyond learning individual facts, and has changed the way I look at trivia events holistically.
What Makes an Event Memorable?
According to Don Enright, a consultant who helps museums and parks plan and execute memorable experiences for their guests, a memorable experience has four qualities: agenda fulfillment, novelty, affect, and rehearsal.What does this mean? Well, a memorable event gives us something we want (agenda fulfillment), does so in a way that’s new and interesting (novelty), generates positive emotion (affect), and is something we want to review and relive in our minds (rehearsal). Reading this article, I was struck because that’s exactly what we try to do every time we put on a private event. We work with you to figure out what your needs are for the event and build a customized experience for your guests.
I’ve talked about using trivia for team building before, and how team building oftentimes has a dubious reputation amongst many employees. If you’re giving up time out of your workday to do a special event, you absolutely want to make sure that it’s something valuable for your employees. You don’t want people to feel as if their time was wasted on something hokey or distracting. You want any team building or social exercise to be an undeniably positive experience in your team’s mind. Some people suggest that we’re currently undergoing a cultural sea change in which people value experiences over things.
I don’t think of myself as being in the trivia business, unless I’m playing. I think of myself as being in the experience business. My job is to work with clients to put together an event that’s going to be memorable. Trivia is the vehicle that we use to do that here at Sporcle Live, but we’re always thinking about what makes things fun and enjoyable. There’s a science to it, after all.
Editor’s Note: This post was written by Seth Wilson, a Private Events Manager for Sporcle Live and a Pub Trivia host. He also happens to be a 12-time Jeopardy! champion, so he knows a thing or two about trivia.