Confusing one day for another is a common mistake, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS One that has assessed perception of days
Do you have trouble remembering what day it is? Turns out you’re not alone. A recent study has found that mistaking one day for another is actually quite common, and these mistakes have a lot to do with our mental representations of each particular day.
Researchers from the UK conducted a set of clinical studies assessing perception of days and their specific cognitive associations. They found a high rate of mismatches in participants’ reports on what day it ‘felt like’. Over 35% of participants reported feeling like it was a different day than it actually was. Interestingly, there were specific times during the week where this was more likely to occur, being more frequent on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. When participants were asked the same questions during a Bank Holiday week, the rate of mismatches were even higher, at over 52%.
The researchers then went on to assess what day participants actually thought it was, rather than what day it felt like. To do this, response times were measured when participants were asked which day of the week it currently was. They found a quicker response time when the participants were asked on a Monday or Friday, while longest response times were found on Wednesday, followed by Tuesday and Thursday. The results demonstrated that participants could more easily remember the day on Mondays and Fridays, with greatest difficulty remembering the day during the middle of the week. The researchers suggest that this may be due to each day having specific characteristics, leading to cognitive associations that make some days easier to remember than others.
They went on to further analyze this using a word association task. They found that participants had more word associations for weekends, Monday, and Friday, compared to less associations for Tuesday through Thursday. The researchers suggest that fewer associations with these midweek days makes them less memorable, and therefore participants were more likely to confuse them with another day.
Ellis, DA, Wiseman, R, Jenkins, R. “Mental Representations of Weekdays” PLOS One, Published: August 19, 2015. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134555
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD