‘What day is it?’ Study reveals why people struggle to remember days of the week

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A Buddhist rosary hangs over a calendar and a piece of paper on which South Korean former "comfort woman" Park Ok-sun's current Korean nominal age "92" is written, in her room at the "House of Sharing," a special shelter for former "comfort women", in Gwangju, South Korea July 24, 2015. The shelter is run by an NGO. "Comfort women" is the Japanese euphemism for women who were forced into prostitution and sexually abused at Japanese military brothels before and during World War Two. According to her testimony to South Korean researchers, Park was born in 1924 in Milyang, South Korea. In 1941, she was taken to a Japanese military brothel in China and suffered four years as a "comfort woman". Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoo

Scientists have provided a better understanding on the phenomenon of forgetting the exact day of the week which is now recognised as a scientific phenomenon. A new study discovered that people commonly forget the days Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Researchers say people are able to declare that it’s Monday or Friday correctly twice as better than they could on Wednesday. Mondays and Fridays have stronger identities than the midweek days because of a higher number of attached mental representations to it.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, explains that Mondays and Fridays are associated with the positive and negative feelings of the beginning and the end of the week, which people tend to stick in their minds more readily. While, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are often considered to carry less meaning, which makes the midweek more confusing to identify the exact current day.

In the midweek monotony, people tend to balance the levels of stress and excitement, which it turns to be the least memorable and most forgettable days of the week, the researchers said. The findings came from the analysis of the data from almost 1,200 people.

Psychologists from the universities of Lincoln, York and Hertfordshire conducted a survey to analyse how the representations of days of the week are constructed and how could it affect a person’s perceptions of time.

The researchers, led by psychologist David Ellis from the University of Lincoln in the UK, asked the participants to submit a form of which words they would most strongly associate to different days of the whole week.

In total, 40 percent of respondents confused the current day with the preceding or following day, and most of those mistakes occurred during the middle of the week. Ellis and his team suggest a reason why Mondays and Fridays have stronger links to particular feelings and associations is that these days are more frequently used in the natural language, particularly from stories to pop songs.

"Midweek days are confusable because their mental representations are sparse and similar," the researchers said. "Mondays and Fridays are less confusable because their mental representations are rich and distinctive, forming two extremes along a continuum of change."

In another part of the study, the respondents suggested several words to describe what they “felt” with certain days. Mondays were associated with negative words like “boring,” “hectic” and “tired,” and positive words were associated with Fridays like "party," "freedom" and "release."

More than half of the respondents have committed more mistakes when they were asked during a public holiday. Researchers said the day turns more confusing as the people felt like they were a day behind.

"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,” Ellis said.

The researchers said that the study implies that time cycles can shape cognition even when it is socially constructed. They then aim to use the findings to explore patterns in health and economics that fluctuate as the week progresses, and added that the research might also be useful in psychological studies.

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