19 September 2010

Strategies of Buenos Aires waiters to enhance memory capacity in a real-life setting

This study published in Behavioural Neurology (2008) investigates the cognitive strategies that the waiters of the Café Tortoni in downtown Buenos Aires employ to enhance their memory capacity for matching orders, clients and locations. This paper presents an interesting example to better understand how experts enhance memory in real-world activities.


Human learning and memory evaluation in real-life situations remains difficult due to uncontrolled variables. Buenos Aires waiters, who memorize all the orders without written support, were evaluated in situ. Waiters received either eight different orders and customers remained seated in their original locations (OL), or changed locations (CL). Match between orders, subjects and location was decreased only in CL. Waiters' feature/location strategy links client with position at the table and beverage later. The hypothesis we raise is that memory-schemas link working memory to long-term memory networks through rapid encoding, making the information resistant to interference and enabling its fast retrieval if necessary cues are present.

Bekinschtein, TA., Cardozo, J. & Manes FF. (2008). Strategies of Buenos waiters to enhance memory capacity in real-life setting. Behavioural Neurology, 20 (3), 65-70

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