Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Mystery of Memory

I am struck again (I say again because I know I posted something along this line once before) at the oddity of memory or of my memory at any rate. When I was at the jam the other night, I recognized many faces and could just about place where I seen every one. Don, on my left, I have seen at several jams, two workshops, and talked to briefly in the downstairs washroom about two years ago. I even recall what we said. To him though, I looked only vaguely familiar. On the other hand, he seems to remember every tune he's ever played.

There was the guitar player two down of my right; I have only seen himonce but I can tell you where I saw him, in what chair he was sitting, and what tune I requested when he asked. The guy to his right, I sat next to but one at a workshop in Almonte last June, and the lady to his right, I saw once at the same jam as the guitar player. I know it was on or near Robbie Burns Day because I remember her referring to it and leading in some Scottish pieces in homage. And so on. To all of these people, however, I looked only vaguely familiar. On the other hand, you may have noted that I didn't refer to any save one by name even though we went around the circle to introduce ourselves. However, while I don't do names very well, I'd be almost willing to wager that many of them will be able to call me by name if we meet again soon.

I don't know what it is with me and names, but I simply don't retain them very well. Just the other day, for example, Cuppa mentioned the name of the street just one over from us, and I immediately thought she was referring to the the one up from us. I feel kind of dumb when I do that ... and maybe I am. You'd think one should know the neighbouring streets after all because I do turn onto that one daily as it connects to mine.

My odd memory patterns also turn up a lot when watching television. We've watched countless mysteries, and while they do tend to blur and run together, I'll frequently begin to remember incidents and sometimes be able to predict them. This is while Cuppa is almost willing to swear that she's never seen it before. On the other hand she has a great memory for anecdotes or tidbits of information such as you should RICE a sprain, whatever the heck that means. Meanwhile, I sometimes do well with numbers. For example, I might be able to pick up a cookbook and go directly to the correct page (at least if I've looked at it somewhat recently).

I suppose it's down to learning styles. Some are visual learners while other brains respond to different stimuli. I still find it all remarkable, however.

Whatever the whys and wherefores, I still feel extraordinarily dumb when the name of the neighbouring street eludes me.


KGMom said...

There's an explanation for some of it. The neurologist Oliver Sacks writes about this in some of his books. It seems where our brains store visual images, i.e. face recognition, is not the same place we store names. So when we see someone we have to correlate the information. Makes sense in a way, doesn't it. That's part of why pnemonic devices work to help you recall names.
Can't help you on tunes, though.

womaninawindow said...

I think it's training of the brain. Between you and I it was my husband that convinced me of this. He need never know he was right.

I CAN NOT remember numbers, I yell at him, about years or phone numbers or anything at all useful. He said, You can too, you're just lazy. Look at that sign! We were speeding down the highway. Remember that number! 674-6000 That was 3 months ago! (Bastard!)

PBS said...

Memory is a tricky thing. There are some tiny little events of which I remember every detail and yet some so-called bigger events are fuzzy!

Donna said...

I carry around a memory book...except on the days I forget it....hahaa...happy night!hughugs

Dogman said...

Hahahaha, Ron, I've been living on Brock Street for nigh unto 30 years, and I still don't remember the names of the streets in my neighbourhood! It is Ron, isn't it?


mreddie said...

I think my memory is great but something is definitely wrong with my retrieval system - I can't remember stuff when I need to, just later when the need is past. ec

Lorna said...

Phone numbers, I'm great at phone numbers and bank account numbers but only the ones from places I used to live. I made the mistake of putting the kids on speed dial, and have to look them up on 411 when I'm at work. Of course, I never call them from work---that wouldn't be ethical.

Coll said...

Memory is truly a strange phenomena. I too tend to forget names.. yet event dates stay registered. I wonder if we subconsciously tend to take mental notes of those things that are somehow more important to us. Perhaps memory is the result of a little more behind the scenes work than we are aware of.