The forgotten year syndrome strikes again

Saturday January 5, 2013

He may be the clinical director for both the Memory Clinic in Bennington, Vt., and the Boston Center for Memory, but on Friday, even Paul Solomon forgot that it was time to start putting 2013 on his paperwork

"I have to sign a lot of things every day," said Solomon, who also teaches psychology at Williams College. "I caught myself writing ‘2012' quite a bit, and perhaps I didn't catch myself a few times and someone else will find it."

Starting a new year means having to train our minds to break what's "nothing more than a habit," Solomon said, and force ourselves into writing 2013 on paperwork -- right after people have habitually jotted down ‘2012' for a year.

"When people write the date, they don't think about the year -- they let that part go on autopilot," said Nate Kornell, another Psychology professor at Williams College who researches how learning and memory relate to education.

In order to get out of the 2012 habit, Solomon said you have to focus your full attention when you put the dates on anything.

"For some period of time, it's not going to be automatic," he said.

And, Kornell said, write it a lot.

"It's really not a function of time, it's a function of doing it," he said. "If you haven't written a date yet, it's still in your mind that it's 2012. If you wrote it five times on the first day, then you're already used to writing 2013."

There's a Facebook "support group" called

"I Write the Wrong Date on My Papers Every New Year" that has almost 5,500 likes.

Rose Maher, a legal secretary at Martin, Oliveira and Hamel in Pittsfield, said she easily wrote the correct date 40 times within the first four days of the new year.

"I remembered it correctly the first time, but it still sounds weird," she said. "I'm still in 2012, I guess."

Perhaps 2013 is the lucky year, because Kim Clancy, the teller supervisor at the Berkshire Bank on West Street, said she hasn't come across any checks or paperwork with the wrong date on it.

Neither has Kathy Lein, the branch officer.

"It's not as common as it used to be," Lein said.

Marilyn Sheehan, the tax collector in Pittsfield, said people who go to the City Hall to make payments with checks at the beginning of the year usually catch themselves if they put the wrong date.

But she added, "If I got it in the mail and it was dated January [of 2012], unfortunately I'd have to send it back. It would be a stale check."

However, once people get in the habit of writing 2013, they'll be set -- at least for a while.

"Eventually, 2013 is going to be automatic to people," Solomon said. "Then we're going to have the same problem in 2014."

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