May 12th, 2015

Unleash the Neanderthal within by using this tip for shopping.

Does anyone else under-achieve when trying to remember to buy even a small list of items at the supermarket? And does the thought of the mocking and ridicule you will  receive when arriving home lacking items do little to motivate your poor brain to dig deep and achieve?

How to spot the Neanderthal.  He is still learning to use that new muscle he got for that opposing thumb.

I find it difficult shopping with a standard written list too - if it is not related to the order I am shopping in. I waste time checking and rechecking that list over and over again.

My brain fails to remember 4 items, but give it 500 items and it can put them all in the right place. Amazing, this same brain that fails this small child-like task can pinpoint pretty accurately on a floor plan of  the supermarket the EXACT PLACE  on the shelf and isles that hundreds of items are to be found. Go figure.

One of these brain tasks is closer towards associative recognition, the other is more towards pure recollection. See this overwhelming explanation  if you have a spare hour or two.

Hello Darwin

The evolutionary physiology (Darwinian) explanation probably goes something like this:

The skill of recognising something that you experienced before (whether its an edible fruit, the route to the water hole, or the sound a charging wild beast makes -called 'rapid threat appraisals' ) has been pretty useful over the millennia and was likely to extend your life and those around you. Our ancestors naturally got quite good at this stuff. We can remember patterns, places and spaces very well. We associate a space, an object or sound with an experience quite easily.

Perhaps the 'to do' list (recollection) came much later in hominid society and perhaps that's why my genes aren't as good at it?

Maybe the humble list didn't get invented till the Neolithic/agricultural revolution around 12,000 years ago. Basically thats when we had enough stuff to have a choice of objects. "Hey Thor, go get the grain thumper, the pot and a dead goat - wana a list? "
The trick I suppose is, to try and make recollection seem more like recognition. To make it more fun.

Roll forward 100,000 years to a Hiking New Zealand guide shopping for a hiking holiday. Here is one way to make the two tasks more similar.

 The "mud map" a spatial shopping list


Our guides do lots of fast and furious shops on trips and some of them use the following trick. Use a sheet of A4 paper and turn it so it could be an approximate outline of the supermarket (birds eye view). Now start writing in the items roughly where you will find them on this plan. Don't be too fussy, just approximately. Now cruise the isles only eyeballing your 'list' in the areas you are moving through on your plan. Now you rarely need to hold more than 3-5 items in your short term memory as you whirl efficiently through the isles. Grunt with happiness.


Caveats, add ons and ranting Neanderthals


This works well in New Zealand at supermarkets run by the same company where stuff is all in the same place. I assume the same applies overseas? For this to work you need to be familiar with a shop's layout. Once you use this method you might also find when you start writing items your mind gets jogged to recall other nearby items that you also need (recognising/associating). Now you can get out of that supermarket faster  and into the outdoors where you belong. Yeah  go Neanderthal.

It will now be very obvious when the supermarkets have changed the location of goods on the shelves as the supermarket will be full of ranting Neanderthals waving A4 sheets of paper and pushing empty trolleys.

One of these hominoids is not like the others.

Go on, give it a try.

Happy hunting and gathering everyone.

Of course this is just opinion...................

Mo footer new

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