A telling fact about memory

We don’t remember isolated facts; we remember things in context.

Grand masters can react to a complex chess board within seconds, novices can’t. But arrange the pieces randomly (not by the rules of the game) and they perform just as novices do on remembering which pieces were where.

A board of randomly arranged chess pieces has no context—there are no similar boards to compare it to, no past games that it resembles, no ways to meaningfully way of remembering them. Even to the world’s best chess player it is, in essence, noise.

From Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein

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