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Jamie's Blog

About the blog

This blog is for anyone who wants to improve their general knowledge in record time.

Seeing Red

March 2011 Posted on Fri, March 18, 2011 14:20:55

According to recent research carried out by The Journal of Social Psychology, seeing things in red helps you remember them. So bear that in mind when it comes to compiling your quiz revision notes.

Whether you should write in red – or just underscore the relevant facts in red – is something worth trying out and seeing what works best for you.

Priming before a pub quiz!

March 2011 Posted on Thu, March 10, 2011 12:39:53

In my book, I talk about the importance of creating a quiz persona for yourself – allowing yourself to get into the right mode for quizzing.

In Kluge (the book I am currently reading), the author discusses experiments where people who were called ‘intellectual’ and ‘smart’ before taking part in an IQ test seriously outperformed people who were insulted with words such as ‘dumb’ and ‘stupid’ before taking their tests.

This technique is called ‘priming’!

How effective it is for quizzing purposes is something I’m certaily curious about.

And for all the pub quiz players out-there, it might be worth priming your team-mates right before a quiz (yes, that means complimenting one another and praising all your team-mates on the incredible breadth of their general knowledge!) smiley

Why our brains are ill-suited for quizzing!

March 2011 Posted on Tue, March 08, 2011 19:00:28

So, one of my interests (in case you haven’t guessed!) is working out how the human brain (with all its faults and peculiarities) can be manipulated to memorise huge amounts of trivia! smiley

Because one thing that has always been quite apparent to me is that the human brain is not designed well to retain trivia and general knowledge facts.

I mean our memory does peculiar things! For example, once I remember sitting down at a different desk in my old office and being unable to enter my Windows log-in password. This was the same password I had entered day-in, day-out for over a year… and yet the moment my surroundings had been altered slightly, my brain failed to recall the password!

I also notice how my brain fails to concentrate some times – wandering off on daydreams and tangents!

So when I saw a book on the evolutionary ‘kinks’ in the development of the human brain, I knew I had to give it a read.

I honestly think that understanding the peculiarities of the human brain (from an evolutionary standpoint and a personal standpoint) is very helpful in developing a successful method of quiz revision.

So the book I’m reading right now is called Kluge: The Haphazard Constuction on the Human Mind by Gary Marcus – and it really got me excited about how the findings of this book might apply to quizzing!

The book confirms the contextual-nature of our memory. Unlike a computer memory which is organised like a giant map, with each item assigned a specific location, our memories are less systematic – and driven by contextual cues instead.

This is why even the most robotic-like quiz-players are still prone to the occassional slip-up: the cues that stimulate the relevant facts in the quiz-players’ brain stimulate other facts at the same time, causing confusion.

In relating this to learning trivia facts, there are a few things that might be worth considering (and these just my own thoughts!):

1. If you’re always quizzing in the same room in your house, you may not be doing yourself any favours! The facts you’re trying to remember may be anchoring themselves to specific visual cues in the room, rendering you a less-able quizzer in a different setting. You should get used to recalling trivia facts in a range of settings so that the cues which stimulate the relevant facts are quality cues (i.e. not visual cues, which are of no help if you’re outside of your usual quiz setting).

2. If you think of the facts you learn as little octopuses with little arms growing off of them, you have to work on improving the quality of the arms – the cue-grabbers – which bring that particular fact to the forefront of your mind. For example, I cannot remember what I had for breakfast two days ago because the relevant cues – i.e. the word ‘breakfast’, etc. – stimulate every memory I have of eating breakfast, which all merges into one big usless blur!

(I’m pretty sure octopuses have arms not legs – but other trivia addicts, feel free to correct me!)

Anyway, these were just some of my thoughts when reading the book. Let me know what you think!

Without sounding like a shameless plug, some of the exercises in my own book should help improve the quality and efficiency by which your brain classifies a trivia fact.

Oh and BTW, Marcus’ book also explains some of that daydreaming too, citing the “slopping integrations between our ancestral, reflexive set of goal-setting mecahnisms and our evolutionary more deliberative system.” So there you have it!

Reader’s Question

March 2011 Posted on Sun, March 06, 2011 13:24:25

Ok, so I’m going to try this new thing each week where I answer a reader’s question (with permission) here on my blog. Let me know what you guys think!

So, to start things off, here’s a good question I received last week from someone who had read an article I wrote on learning how to guess the answer to questions:

“I enjoyed reading what you had to say about getting into the pyschology of the question setter. Do you have any other tips for doing this?”

I promised to answer this on my blog – so here goes! Let me use an example. Take a look at this quiz question:

“In a novel by Jane Austen, who is quoted as saying “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other?”

(Great quote by the way!)

Now look carefully at the question: “In a novel by Jane Austen”

Why has the question setter CHOSEN to omit the name of the novel?

There are two hypothesis. smiley

– 1. The answer is one of Jane Austen’s most famous characters and by giving the name of the novel, the answer will be the most commonly-guessed answer. For example, if the novel is ‘Pride and Prejudice’, most people would guess ‘Mr Darcy’ – so the question-setter has chosen to remove the name of the novel to prevent this kind of guessing!


– 2. The answer is also the name of the novel. Now anyone who knows all of Jane Austen’s main novels (and quite frankly, all you budding quizzers should!) will know that the Austen novel which has a person’s name in the title is ‘Emma’!

So with these two hypotheses, you have a choice of guessing either Mr Darcy or Emma!

Those of you that choose to guess Emma would be CORRECT!

* Just as an aside, I was recently at a quiz where someone was asked what the full name of the Darcy character was in Pride and Prejudice. I liked her answer a lot: ‘Mister’! smiley

So, that’s my post for today. If you’re in the quizzing mood, don’t forget to check out the very latest quiz on my website: just go to Free Quiz Questions and Answers and get quizzing!

– Jamie

CJ de Mooi Interview

March 2011 Posted on Sun, March 06, 2011 12:40:59

Just wanted to give you the heads up about my latest interview. Lots of you guys requested this one! It’s with none other than CJ de Mooi from BBC’s Eggheads! Hope you guys like it! smiley

Quiz-Genius Interview With CJ de Mooi

If there is anyone in the quizzing world you would like me to interview, let me know! And feel free to suggest questions!

Oh, and check out my Squidoo page on a few cool ways to improve your quizzing abilities: Ways To Become A Quizzing Genius!