Johns Hopkins memory game shows how motion affects memory and cognition

Take the Johns Hopkins Memory Test

Take the Johns Hopkins Memory Test

Slate in motion.
May 12 2017 6:52 AM

Take the Johns Hopkins Memory Test

How does motion affect memory?


Johns Hopkins University

When is the last time you put your mind to the ultimate test: a game of memory match cards with a toddler? Your results may range from triumphant to humbling depending on the child and if you’ve had coffee yet, but in the end it's a child’s game. It’s static and slow. What would happen if we sped it up a bit and added a little motion into the mix?

There’s no need to keep things hypothetical: This video from Johns Hopkins University allows you to test your visual memory in a game created by researchers. Go ahead and give it a try. We’ll wait …


How did you do? If your results mirrored those of Johns Hopkins cognitive psychologists, your recall should have been better for objects that popped out twice from the same side of the screen, and worse for those that popped out once from each side. The hypothesis here is that human memory is built upon “core knowledge” of the physics of how objects move through space. An image popping out from the same side twice appears to be a single object, while the image popping out from both sides behaves as multiple objects might. Our brains seem to remember single moving objects better. In fact, in a recent paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, scientists found people had nearly 20 percent better recall of objects that moved through space the way we would predict a single object would.

Alas, no word on whether setting memory match cards on moving Matchbox cars will help you secure victory in memory match over your niece or nephew. But there is a way to find out.

Jon Kelvey is a writer and journalist based in central Maryland. Follow him on Twitter.