World Cup 2014: What Football Fans' Ridiculous Knowledge Can Teach Us About Human Memory

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From a player's biography to match results, a memorable goal to career-ending injury, football fans can remember a hell of a lot of information.

And, if you've been within twenty feet of even a mild football fan over the past few weeks, the World Cup is the perfect opportunity to showcase such knowledge.

But, as disgruntled World Cup widows non-football fans here at HuffPost UK Lifestyle, we've got a burning question: how on earth do they manage to store so much information? It's crazy.

football fan england

"There isn't a specific place for storing this kind of information in the memory bits of the brain," explains consultant psychiatrist and HuffPost UK blogger, Dr Raj Persaud. "Football fans recall a mixture of stats, specific events and names, which means theoretically using completely different parts of the memory areas of the brain."

The ability fans have to recall such a large volume of information teaches us a lot about the human capacity for memory, he says. And, in turn, this information could hold the key in helping us learn better and retain more information.

"The first thing that football fans have in common is passion for the subject," says Dr Persaud.

As a result, the brain almost acts like a sponge, soaking up information. And, what's more, you don't even realise you're learning.

Football fans are able to recall dates, events and places effortlessly, ask them to do the same with the contents of their GCSE history class and chances are they'll struggle.

Another aspect that helps memory, says Dr Persaud, is having a strong emotion.

Remember screaming in the pub when Michael Owen scored a hat-trick against Germany in 2001? It's down to episodic memory. This is the memory of autobiographical events, and recalling such specific events in relation to how you felt or where you were or at a particular time.

Thirdly, football fans cement their knowledge through immersion in football culture. Whether getting into debates with mates or reminiscing about 'the glory days', going over information is essential for making sure things remain lodged in memory.

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"A football fan doesn’t watch one football game and develop all of this knowledge," says Dr Persaud. "Instead they watch, think or talk about football every day."

"When learning a language, it's best to go to the country to immerse yourself in the culture - with football it's the same thing," he adds."In order to really master a subject, no matter how boring, you’ve got to immerse yourself in it."

It might sounds trivial to a non football fan. But besides being the most knowledgeable of your mates or winning the pub quiz, there are hugely beneficial ways to utilise this insight to football fans' memory.

Football Memories is an organisation that uses dementia patients interest in football to stimulate their memory.

The project, which currently has 85 groups in Scotland, trains volunteers to talk about matches and teams from yesteryear using images and memorabilia.

The project is a partnership between Alzheimer Scotland and the Scottish Football Museum, and is supported by the players of the People's Postcode Lottery and BUPA Care Homes.

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Michael White, from Alzheimer's Scotland, told HuffPost UK Lifestyle that the initiative has many proven successes: "Some people speak in our football groups, who simply don't communicate otherwise. The groups improve communication, self-confidence and help to rekindle lost skills such as sketching."

"We work with people at all stages of the illness from early stages to quite severe. Often the staff in a Care Home or Hospital can see changes in expression and awareness in people even when their speech has gone."

"The original programme was targeted at men as they are notoriously difficult to deal with in Day Care settings," he added. "Football was a huge influence for men in the 1950s and 1960s. It defined their weekly activities and their knowledge was, and still is, spectacular."

The project is hoping to expand to include rugby, golf, cricket, shinty (a Scottish sport) and cinema. Find out more about the project here.

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