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Researchers explain why trouble keeping track of days

A team of researchers from the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln in the UK has succeeded in identifying the psychological mechanisms that lead to confusion regarding what day of the week it is. The results were published in PLOS ONE.

We've all been confused at some point as to what day it is. A team of researchers from the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln in the UK set out to understand why.
The weekly cycle is repeated for humans from birth, noted researchers, who theorized that as it is "used worldwide to organize events and activities," it results in "each day of the week acquiring its own character."
To arrive at their conclusions, the researchers conducted three separate studies. For the first, they began by tracking the prevalence of weekday confusability over the seven-day cycle.
To trace the resulting pattern to mental representations of weekdays, they then compared retrieval speed for the current day on different days of the week for the second study.
Finally, to identify determinants of weekday confusability at the level of mental representation, they analyzed semantic associations for each weekday, specifically the number associated with each and how positive or negative they were in the third study.
The first study was conducted online using Survey Monkey, and a total of 1,115 respondents contributed data in two weeks of May 2009.
For the second study, 65 University of Glasgow undergraduates (47 female, 18 male; mean age 20 years), who were unaware of the aims of the study, completed the task asked of them in exchange for a small payment.
The third study used 60 undergraduate volunteers from the University of Glasgow (46 female, 14 male; mean age 19 years) who completed a word association task in exchange for course credit. None had taken part in either of the first two studies.
Monday and Friday are easiest to remember
When researchers asked participants which words they most strongly associated with specific days of the week, Mondays and Fridays had the most mental representations attached to them, with Mondays linked to negative words such as "boring" and "tired" while Fridays were associated with positive words like "freedom" and "party."
The researchers noted that when people got the current day confused with another, it usually occurred during the middle of the week.
"Indeed, more than a third of participants reported that the current day felt like a different day, and most of those feelings were on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, reflecting the midweek dip in associations attached to different days," says lead researcher Dr. David Ellis.
Cultural factors may well explain these findings, suggests co-author Dr. Rob Jenkins, from the Department of Psychology at the University of York in the UK: "One reason behind midweek days evoking fewer associations than other days could be down to how infrequently they occur in natural language, thus providing fewer opportunities for associations to form – for example, we have an abundance of pop songs which make use of Mondays and Fridays, while the midweek days are rarely used."
The results also indicate that confusion can also be affected by various elements, such as Monday holidays, vacations or symbolic days. When a week began with a public holiday, the number of mistakes increased significantly.
"Previous studies have shown that natural temporal cycles (days, months, years) have psychological consequences," the authors conclude.
"The present findings demonstrate that socially constructed temporal cycles can also shape our thinking."

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