Several Items about Memory

Special Link: John Hawthorne recently wrote an article about things that we misunderstand about memory and I think you will it very interesting and informative . . . Roger Wimmer


Click here to see his article titled, "4 Crazy Things We Misunderstand About Human Memory"


Several Questions

Hey Doc, I have several questions.  I hope that’s OK - Anonymous

  1. How long does a dollar bill stay in circulation?

  2. How long does a patent last?

  3. If the human brain were a computer, how many bytes would it have?

  4. How many people are there on earth?

  5. Is there a way to avoid melanoma (skin cancer)?

  6. How can ticks be removed?

  7. How many miles is it from Earth to Pluto?

  8. Who first discovered that the planets revolve around the sun?

Anon:  No problem with so many questions.  You seem to have an inquisitive mind.  Here ya go…

  1. How long does a dollar bill stay in circulation?  The life expectancy is about 18 months.

  2. How long does a patent last?  In the United States, a patent is granted for 20 years from the date of application (14 years for design patents), although there are different rules for patents covered by applications filed before June 8, 1995.  Patents can be extended by a special act of Congress (except for certain pharmaceutical patents).  After a patent expires, the person holding the patent loses the right to exclude others from using the invention.

  3. If the human brain were a computer, how many bytes would it have?  A lot.  For an explanation, click here: Human Brain.

  4. How many people are there on earth?  For a current count, click here: World Population.

  5. Is there a way to avoid melanoma (skin cancer)?  Stay out of the sun, but for more information, check here: Melanoma.

  6. How can ticks be removed? Play hip-hop music.  OK, so that’s not it.  Click here for a good explanation: Goodbye Tick.

  7. How many miles is it from Earth to Pluto? About 3 billion.

  8. Who first discovered that the planets revolve around the sun?  The first “modern” person is Nick Copernicus.  For more information, click here: We’re not in the Center.


You might not answer this, but what is the line in one of Shakespeare's plays that is something about a glove on a chin or face or something? Do you know what I mean? - Michelle

Michelle: I believe the lines you are referring to are from Romeo & Juliet. In Act II, Scene 2, Romeo visits the Capulet's house and sees Juliet on the balcony. (Romeo is hiding behind the bushes doing who knows what!) Anyway, the last three lines of one of Romeo's long dialog is:

See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!

O, that I were a glove upon that hand,

That I might touch that cheek!

I believe that the word "cheek" sounds a bit more romantic than "chin" or "face." What do you think?

Shark Attack

I was watching "The Discovery Channel" and saw a promo for their new programs on sharks.  The promo includes a comment that says something like, “You have a 1 in 80 million chance of being attacked by a shark.”


I’m planning a vacation to Florida and I’m worrying about swimming in the ocean.  Since you’re a research expert, is there a way to statistically lower these odds even further?  I mean, even a 1 in 80 million chance seems high to me. - Anonymous


Anon:  Please don’t be offended, but I don’t know if you’re pulling my leg or what.  However, I don’t believe that I need to be a research expert to figure out how you can lower the odds of getting mauled by a shark.  But let me think about it for a moment.


OK, I’m back.  I wanted to make sure that I had some good “research” answers for you, so I called my friend, E. Karl (retired radio programming consultant), and we came up with a few options:

  1. Always swim with a friend and let him or her swim in front of you.

  2. Better yet, swim a group and let them swim in a circle around you.

  3. Go to a local fish store and buy a bunch of fish.  Go back to your hotel and grind them up in a blender.  If you don’t have a blender in your room, ask the bartender in the hotel to grind them for you.  Put the ground up fish (known as chum) into a bucket and bring that with you to the beach.  Before you go into the water, throw the chum about 100 yards away from the area where you plan to swim.

  4. Buy a surfboard that looks like a seal.  Push it in front of you making sure that you make many splashing noises.  When sharks come near, push the surfboard away from you.

  5. Swim in an inner tube that looks like a squid.  Sharks probably don’t like to eat squid.

  6. Change your vacation plans and go to Lake Michigan or Lake Erie.

Now, one or more of those ideas may help, but there is no guarantee that they will lower your odds of becoming shark chum.  But there is one guaranteed “research” way to cut your odds to 0 in 80 million: Don’t swim in the ocean!

Shopping Center Intercept

Our station is thinking about doing a research study in a shopping center. Is this type of research any good? - Walt

Walt: The type of research you're referring to is called "shopping center intercept." Are they good? That depends on whether you understand the (1) limitations of the sample; and that the (2) data are only indications.

Sample limitations. The definition of "random sample" is that every element in the population has an equal chance of being selected. This is fine in theory, but rarely happens in behavioral research, such as media studies. In reality, most behavioral research is conducted with volunteers—respondents agree to participate. We can't force respondents to participate even though they are randomly selected.

Now, in shopping center intercepts, only those people who are at the mall while the study is being conducted have a chance of being selected. Do you see the problem? Everyone in your town or city isn't at the mall while the study is being conducted. This means that you are selecting a sample from a sample—only one slice of the population "pie" is available to be selected. But this doesn't mean that a shopping center intercept is totally worthless. Your project may be designed to interview only people who attend the mall, or you can use the data as indications of what may exist.

Data indications. One major philosophy in research suggests that if something exists (such as an idea, belief, or behavior), this "something" should exist in any type of sample—regardless of how it is selected. With this in mind, you can use shopping center intercept data as an indication of people's ideas, beliefs, or behaviors.

For example, let's say that you're interested in testing a new logo for your radio station and you have 15 prototypes. This is probably too many to test with the general population. You could use a shopping center intercept to shorten your list by eliminating those that have large percentages of "dislike" ratings in a shopping center intercept.

Short-form Talk vs. Long-form Talk

Dear Dr. Wimmer:  What are the decision parameters (statistical proof vs. empirical proof vs. anecdotal proof) for determining when to use short-form talk or long-form talk in a talk show? - Anonymous


Anon:  Let me clarify one thing before I get to your question.  In most situations, the words “statistical” and “empirical” are interchangeable.  In your question, it’s enough to say statistical vs. anecdotal or empirical vs. anecdotal.


You didn’t define what “long-form” and “short-form” mean.  Do the terms refer to the length of the entire program, or do they refer to the amount of time given to individual topics?  However, even though you didn’t define the terms, the answer is the same.


The answer is: The “decision parameters” lie with your listeners.  There are no universal guidelines for me to give you about whether long-form or short-form talk (program or topic length) is best for your radio station.  You need to explain the situation to your listeners and allow them to determine which approach is best.


If you can’t ask your listeners (e.g. no research budget), then you need to carefully evaluate the program purpose and goals, along with the talent of the host(s), to determine which approach is best.  I’m not one of your listeners and my opinion is worthless.

Short Form Talk vs. Long Form Talk - Comment

Dr. Wimmer: I read and enjoy your stuff regularly.  In a recent posted question, “short form talk” vs. “long form talk” came up.  Are those industry terms?  I've been doing this awhile and never had heard those terms. In my mind, a comparison might be “short form song” vs. Long form song.”  “Stairway to Heaven” is a “long form” song that continues to test well, while “Mulberry” by Yoko Ono is long form, but scores horribly. They're both the same form-length but vastly different in appeal. - Anonymous


Anon:  I’m glad you enjoy the column.  Thanks.  Yes, “short form” and “long form” talk are industry terms.  They refer to the length of a talk show, and are interchangeable with the term “block programming.”  For example, in middays (10a-3p), you may have five separate one-hour programs (short form) or one five-hour program (long form).


I setup a search for you for more information: Short & Long Form

Show Prep Ideas

Hey Doc: Great column!  Do you know of a place that can provide ideas, tips, tidbits, etc. for show ideas?  I just got a new position with a Hot AC station that has a younger, hipper audience than my previous show and I’m looking for ideas on how to improve the lackluster numbers I inherited. - Anonymous


Anon:  I’m glad you enjoy the column.  Thanks.  You can find a lot of information on by going to the “Industry Links” page at the bottom left of your screen.  When you get there, click on “Show Prep & Entertainment”


If that’s not enough, I set up a Google search for you…click here: Show Prep/Ideas

Show Prep Material

I’m looking for trivia, odd news stories, and other interesting things to use in my morning show—information that will be fun stuff for the listeners.  Any ideas? - Anonymous


Anon:  Several people have asked for show prep material, so I combine a few questions.  Here are a few links for things you may want to use:


Interesting Facts


There are many websites with unique news stories.  Here are four Internet searches, although you may find some repeats:

Funny Stories

Weird Stories

Odd Stories

Off-the-Wall Stories


And here is an interesting site about Age and History

Sic - "Tiger Woods was being treated "unfair" (sic)"

Doc:  In an article about comments pro football player, Clinton Portis, made about Tiger Woods, the author wrote, "In fact, Clinton Portis was not only supportive of Tiger Woods.  He claimed Tiger Woods was being treated "unfair" (sic)."  Why was "sic" used at the end of the sentence?  Thanks. - Anonymous

Anon:  The Latin word sic means, "as such" or "in such manner."  In today's terms, the word means, "as was said, " or "as was written."  In writing, sic is placed after a word or phrase in a quote to indicate that the word or phrase is/was used incorrectly in some way, including, but not limited to, such things as incorrect spelling, incorrect use of a word or phrase, or a grammatical error.


In the quote you provide, the author reported exactly what Clinton Portis said, as indicated by the quote marks.  The author's use of sic after the word "unfair" indicates that the word was used by Clinton Portis, not the author.  Portis should have used the adverb, "unfairly," so the author used sic to indicate that the error was made by Portis, not the author.


Sic is frequently used in writing when the author is reporting verbatim comments (quotes) made by someone, and you can see many examples in news stories (and other materials) on the Internet—click here.

(Siegel-Schwall Band) Another Question about Song Lyrics

Doc:  One of my favorite groups is The Siegel-Schwall Band, and I noticed that the band is receiving a lifetime achievement award at the upcoming Chicago Music Awards.


When I read the story about the award, it reminded me of the lyrics in one of the band's songs that I can't figure out.  You seem to be able to find the lyrics to just about any song so I thought I'd ask you about a few words I can't figure out in one of my favorite songs.


The question is about the lyrics in the song, "You Don't Love Me Like That."  In the middle of the song, the lyrics are (the question marks identify the words I don't understand):


You know your brother ain't no damn good

All he does is rob and steal

? ? kid oughta be workin' in a mill


Would you please tell me what the words are where the question marks are located?  It's one of my favorite songs and I'd like to know the words.  Thanks in advance.  - Anonymous


Anon: Another lyrics question, eh?  Your question is interesting to me because I feel as though I could have written it.  I have been listening to The Siegel-Schwall Band for many years and I have seen them in concert many times.  When I first read your question, I thought, "This should be easy to answer since I have heard You Don't Love Me Like That a few hundred times."


I was wrong and I couldn't believe it.  I listened to the song many, many times and could not understand the two words Jim Schwall sings.  I played the song for several people and none of them could understand what he sings.  More listening.  More confusion.


The only way to get the answer was to go to the source, and that's what I did.  I wrote to Corky Siegel and asked him your question.  He decided to forward your note to Jim Schwall, probably because Jim sings the song, and this is what Jim wrote to me:


I haven't heard the record in a long time and lyrics sometimes drift with passing time, but these days I sing something like this, although it sometimes changes a bit from night to night:


Your brother ain't no good, all he does is rob and steal,

Big healthy kid, he should be working in the mill.


—Jim Schwall


OK, although Jim Schwall currently sings a few words differently now from the version of the song you have, the two words you (and many other people) don't understand are Big healthy.  There ya go—your question is answered.


By the way, for readers who don't know the song, you can listen to it on Rhapsody—click here and then click on the song about half way down the page (You Don't Love Me Like That).  The words in question ("Big healthy") come at about 2:03 of the song.


But wait!  If you have problems with Rhapsody, I edited the song so you can here the lyrics in question—click here.  The words in question come at about :22 of the edited portion of the song.


To learn more about Corky Siegel and Jim Schwall, click on these links: Corky Siegel and Jim Schwall.


(I want to thank Corky Siegel and Jim Schwall for their help.  They're both nice guys and deserve the Lifetime Achievement Award.)


When a research study is reported as "significant at <.05," what does that mean? - Derek


Derek:  In simple terms, it means that there is a 5% or less chance that the results of the study are due to chance, error, or a combination of both.  Looking at it the other way, it says that there is a 95% chance that the results are scientifically significant.


Each statistic (t-test, chi-square, etc.) has its own distribution against which results of studies are compared.  In most cases, if the results of a study exceed expectations (expected values for the statistic), the results are considered statistically significant.


Here's a basic question. On September 11, a Boston radio station, WCRB-FM (102.5), stopped broadcasting its usual classical music fare and started broadcasting the audio from a local TV station. Physically, how is that done? - Anonymous


Anon: Here's a basic answer . . .


The radio station could have done one of several things to physically simulcast the audio portion of the TV station. Some include:

I'm not an engineer, so I'm sure there are many other ways to do this. But those are the few I know about.

Simulcasting Problem

Roger:  First, I love your articles.  Second, I am PD of two class A radio stations (95.7 and 106.7) that simulcast the same format targeted to Adults 35-64 (Oldies).  My challenge is getting diary credit.  One of my problems is that my sister station is on 97.5 and there is always confusion on 95.7 and 97.5.  Any thoughts on what I should do with a limited marketing budget?  Should I consider changing the name Oldies?  Any help or thoughts would be great!  Thanks.  - Anonymous


Anon:  I’m glad you enjoy the column.  Thanks.


You have a limited marketing budget, but my opinion from what you have explained is that this is not a problem that can be solved only with money.  An external marketing plan might help, but I think the most important thing is that you clearly and frequently state your radio station’s call letters (or moniker) and frequency.


How often?  Here’s an example.  I did a few research projects for a radio station a few years ago, and the studies showed that listeners had difficulty remembering which radio station they were listening to (there was a lot of phantom cume and misidentification)—virtually the same problem you describe.


The GM and PD formed a plan to mention the call letters and frequency at least 100 times during each hour of the Morning Show, and about 50-75 mentions during the remaining dayparts.  While some people at the radio station thought this was overkill, several follow-up studies during the next few months did not indicate any criticism by the listeners.  Not one listener complained about the frequency of call letter/frequency mentions.  In addition, the follow-up studies also showed that phantom cume and misidentification of the radio station were reduced by about 80%.

Single Rights

What exactly are “single rights” and how long have they been around?  I just recently heard of labels using this term.  Telling a station that they can’t play track 12 off an artist’s CD because they don’t have “single rights” to release it.  That seems backwards, though most stations won’t start playing an album track at random, why couldn’t they?  They would still be promoting the artist right?  Thanks! - Anonymous


Anon:  I’m not sure, but I think you are misinterpreting the word “single.”  In reference to copyright, “single rights” means that one person owns the copyright to the material.  In your example, you say that a label doesn’t have the single rights to a specific track from a CD.  This means that the artist owns the copyright for that track and the label can’t give permission to radio stations to play it—you would have to get permission from the artist, or whoever owns the copyright for the specific track.

Sitcom from the 1970s

Doctor:  There was a sitcom during the early 70s that I'm having the hardest time recalling. It involved a father telling a story that he would draw on paper.  The drawing would then take life and become the show.  It would revert to the actors at the end.  Any idea?  Thanks.


P.S. I'm the guy that posed the Hendrix couch question years ago. - Tom


Tom: The Hendrix couch!  So, you're the guy!  Yes, I remember your question well and I am reminded of it often.  Why?  Well, lemme tell ya . . .


As you may know, I post many of the questions I receive on my The Research Doctor Archive website.  Although I don't keep a detailed log, I have received email from people in more than 50 countries outside the United States who have comments and/or questions about the items in the Archive.  Your Jimi Hendrix "couch color" question is probably one of the most frequently mentioned in the emails I have received—I'm talking several hundred emails, not just one or two.  Students have asked to use it for class projects, a few radio people have asked to use it in their newsletters, and a few have asked permission to use it in publications.


As I said in my original answer, your question seemed very simple, but the answer took me several days and I had fun trying to track things down.  For those readers who haven't seen Tom's question, click here and scroll down to the question titled, "Jimi Hendrix Couch."  By the way, Tom, I haven't heard if the couch was located.


OK, so on to your new question about the sitcom. . .


Since I had no clue about the answer to your question, I sent it to a few of my friends who know a lot about TV in the 60s and 70s.  The only person who knew the answer was Joe Dominick, retired Professor at the University of Georgia, and my co-author for our research book.


Joe said he thinks you are referring to a show called, My World and Welcome to It.  You can find everything you need to know about the show by clicking here.


Note: There is one more thing I need to mention about your new question.  I guess this comes from my teaching background.  I'm pointing this out because I have seen it before in other readers' questions.  In your question, you said, "It would revert back to the actors . . ."  Revert means "to go back" or "to return," so it's only necessary to use revert.  Oh, and did you mean that it would revert to the drawing, not the actors?

Skin Cancer

Doc:  I know this isn't a pleasant topic, but since your wife is a dermatologist, I thought I'd try to get some free information.  My question is: Is it possible for an "average" person like me to be able to know if a mark or spot on my skin is some type of skin cancer?  Thanks in advance. - Anonymous


Anon:  My wife's answer is, "No, the average person can't identify any type of skin cancer."  I know this is true from my own experience.  About two years ago, I asked my wife to look at a small area (about the size of a dime) of what I called, "dry skin," on my shoulder.  (It's great for me since I don't have to make an appointment and go to her office.)  She immediately said, "This may be cancer," and the biopsy she did a few days later proved that she was correct.  It was basal cell carcinoma.  She cut out the affected area (most basal cell surgery isn't too bad of an experience to go through), and she frequently checks the area to make sure that nothing reappears, which, by the way, is an important step in the process.


In addition to "average" people not being able to identify skin cancers, my wife also said that many Primary Care Physicians (PCP) have the same problem.  She said she sees many patients who were misdiagnosed by their PCP.  The problem is that most PCPs don't have a lot of training in the area, while dermatologists see all forms of skin cancer on a daily basis.


If you think you have a problem, see a dermatologist.

Skin Vitamins

If you are lacking in vitamins within your body, is your skin more susceptible to cuts, bruises, and/or stretch marks?  Also, what kind of vitamins would be good to take in order to keep your body healthy? - Anonymous


Anon:  I’m not a medical doctor, but my wife is (she’s a dermatologist), so I asked her to answer your questions.  She said:


Vitamin deficiencies do not usually lead to signs and symptoms on the skin unless they are very severe.  Most people in the United States that run into this type of problem have either a history of alcoholism and are getting the majority of their calories from ETOH (alcohol) or are engaged in highly restrictive diets, perhaps exclusively eating only one or two types of vegetables.


An increased tendency to bruising and “fragile skin” can be caused by a vitamin K deficiency.  However, stretch marks don’t seem to be related to a vitamin deficiency.


Dermatologists don’t usually recommend taking vitamins for healthy skin, since with very few exceptions, most people get all the vitamins necessary for their skin in the foods they eat.  I always tell my patients that it doesn’t hurt to take a multivitamin every day if they want to do so for their peace of mind.


There are some vitamins available that are marketed as beneficial for healthy skin, but there is no indication that these vitamins are worthwhile.


No, in reference to the best slogan…In my market, two slogans are used by other radio stations—"The Home of 50 Minute Hit Music Hours," and "10 Songs in a Row." What can we use? - Anonymous


Anon: OK, now I understand your question. From my experience (you need to check this in your market) most radio listeners don't give a rat's tail about the number of songs in a row or the number of minutes of songs. What they DO care about is how many good songs a radio station plays in a row or during any specific time period.


For example, a radio station that plays 3 songs in a row…three good songs will always beat a radio station that plays 10-in-a-row or 30 minutes in a row, or any other combination of songs or minutes. The key is to play good songs—don't worry about how many in a row.


So…which slogans are left for you? First, the number of songs and the number of minutes are already taken, so you need to look elsewhere.


I have heard several good music quantity slogans over the years, but I don't remember where they came from. I apologize to the person who may have developed these lines. In addition, you must be careful because these slogans may be service marked, copyrighted, or trademarked.

As you see, none of these promises minutes or numbers of songs. Each is specific (more music), but ambiguous in the number of songs or minutes. In these cases, ambiguity is a strong persuasive message. You probably can develop others using this same theme…more music, but don't give a number of songs or a number of minutes.


As I mentioned, the number of songs or the number of minutes of music mean nothing if the radio station plays a bunch of bad songs. A radio station can use "20 songs in a row" or "50 minute music hours," but they mean nothing to the listeners if the songs are bad.

Slogan - 2

My boss and I are having a quip about our slogan. Back in September of '99, I requested a change from "The Best mix of the 70s, 80s and today" to something more Y2K-friendly. He said to hold off while he thought it over. I did. Today is February 25th...and guess what? Yes, same slogan. I suggested "The best mix of yesterday and today" as a substitute. He totally rejected it. What do you think is the best one? – Steele

Steele: (I edited your question just a bit.) When you have a major change like this, it's always best to ask the listeners. You should let them decide since it's their station, not yours or the owner's. However, I'll assume you can't conduct a small research project.

In testing a countless number of slogan is the past, I have found that listeners tend to go for simplicity—something easy to say and something that clearly identifies the station. All of the evidence that I have seen suggests that you are correct, not your boss. In addition, your slogan follows Occam's Razor, which says "the simplest approach is usually the best."

(By the way, if you can't conduct a research study, you could do your own informal interview to get an indication—ask 50 friends which one they like the best.)

Slogan - 3

I am the APD for a Modern AC. In our most recent perceptual, management found that our listeners expected us to play pop alternative artists such as 3rd Eye Blind, Sheryl Crow, and Matchbox 20 as well as pop artists such as Shania Twain, Savage Garden, and Madonna. In response, they changed our slogan from ‘Today's Music Alternative' to ‘Today's HIT Music Alternative.' We've also started playing more pop artists. We asked the listeners what they wanted, we're giving it to them and I guess the logic is that with our new slogan we're telling them we're giving them what they want. My marketing sense however tells me that we're out of focus with our slogan. Without testing actual slogans, is there enough evidence here to justify this slogan? Please don't use my name. - Anonymous

Anon: If I were in your position, I wouldn't worry as much about the slogan change as I would about playing more pop artists. You said that you asked the listeners what they want and they mentioned, "More pop artists such as Shania Twain, Savage Garden, and Madonna."  The decision was to play more pop artists.

Which artists? Which songs by these artists? I give the management credit for asking the listeners, but they made a quantum leap here by adding artists without testing them. The listeners gave you the indication that they wanted more pop artists, but you can't take that literally. You need to conduct a music test to further define what "more pop artists" actually means. A perceptual study is not a music test and shouldn't be used that way.

In reference to your slogan . . . My experience shows that you shouldn't change a radio station's slogan without testing it with the listeners. I have seen too many examples of slogans designed by radio people that go over the heads of listeners. However, in all fairness, the new slogan only adds the word "Hit." My guess from testing thousands of slogans is that the listeners probably wouldn't have a problem with it. Listeners don't attribute as much significance to slogan as radio people do. They almost never refer to the radio stations they listen to by the slogan—their reference is by call letters or moniker.

Don't lose sleep because of the new slogan. I don't agree with the idea of changing things without asking the listeners, but it some cases there is no alternative. In addition, with the information in your note, the new slogan doesn't appear to be a 180 degree change from what you used before.

If you're going to lose sleep over something, do it because of the decision to add music without conducting a music test. From what you explain, that decision was made without adequate information.


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