Not “Just” a Book by Shirley Glass

A friend of mine asked me to expand on my tweets about mnemonics regarding Not “Just Friends”, a book by Shirley P. Glass:

Hence this post.

Not “Just Friends”, by Shirley Glass, per its subtitle, is about “Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity”.

In her practice, Glass found that often infidelity arises gradually as one embarks upon a slippery slope. Not that the behavior is involuntary. But one thing leads to another. Often times an affair becomes possible because one gradually puts oneself into potentially compromising situations. As we all know, one false move can blow-up families, careers, and friendships.

One of Glass’s big tips to avoid infidelity, then, is to put up certain “walls” between oneself and other people of one’s preferred sex. The idea is to detect and avoid situations that would promote infidelity. Examples: not to over-disclose, and don’t invite him or her into your hotel room for drinks at a conference (seems so obvious in retrospect…).

And then one should throw open “windows” between oneself and one’s current partner: a free flow of information about all things pertinent to the relationship, including information about other people one is attracted to.


What does that have to do with mnemonics?

Well, most people intuitively know that they tend to forget most of what they read. Yet vanishingly few non-students engage in regular practice of key information — including memorization (e.g., with flash cards) of knowledge gems they read in books and papers, that they “learn” in presentations, and so forth. If you have read Cognitive Productivity books, you know that I believe that lots of information is worth mastering through productive practice, which often involves some memorization. And memorization also calls for mnemonic systems.

After reading that book, I decided to put a few of the gems into my practice system. I also decided to memorize the author’s name. A name is often a good handle for an author’s content.

That material came up in my system the other day, which led to my tweet.

You most likely also noticed that the author’s surname is that of which most windows are made of, i.e., “Glass”.

That still tickles my brain. And we know that mirth, and other emotions, can help us remember stuff. Moreover, making connections in itself facilitates memory. (Our upcoming app plays on that and other facts about the mind.)

We are prone to illusions of fluency, thinking that we will remember that which we won’t. Even a great mnemonic is almost never enough (for most minds, anyway). So, without a bit of practice, I probably very well have forgotten the author’s name, and the key idea itself wouldn’t come as easily to my mind.

But What’s the End Game?

Well, most of us read books like Not Just Friends not just to accumulate trivia, or pass an exam, but for personal and professional development. Regularly practicing factual aspects of information (for example, answering: “what are the key ideas of a certain book?”, or “who is the author of a certain book or theory?”) doesn’t only instill semantic memories.

It also primes information in one’s brain. And we know from cognitive psychology that even mere visual presentation of information can lead to priming effects that can last for weeks and months. But recalling information is much more potent than mere exposure.

The practiced information can then be used for reflection on one’s life. (Opportunities to spice and screw up one’s life this way abound, “alas”). It can also be used for parenting, mentoring and being a good friend.

Learning from fiction anyone?

Given my Learning from Stories project and Discontinuities: Love, Art, Mind, I ask: what stories are pertinent to this post? Well, fidelity is one of the most common topics in stories. That is partly because commitment is so important to human welfare. (Right, Mr. Trump?) One of the best, and least well-known, theories of emotions is based on the idea that emotions are the human motivational system that deals with commitments. (A theory by my friend, Michel Aubé, retired Québecois prof.)

Here are a few stories that come to my mind:

  • The film, Fatal Attraction.
  • L’ignorance, by Milan Kundera is a very powerful blend of fiction and non-fiction, including a huge dose of psychology.
  • You’ve Got Mail (sometimes the situation calls for an exit).
  • The film, Same Time, Next Year
  • Another film, Lost in Translation.

Published by

Luc P. Beaudoin

Head of CogZest. Author of Cognitive Productivity books. Co-founder of CogSci Apps Corp. Adjunct Professor of Education, Simon Fraser University. Why, Where, and What I Write. See About Me for more information.

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