Wednesday, March 07, 2007


I don’t have the best memory. The thing I have the hardest time remembering is conversations. I tend to tell the same stories, forgetting that people already know. I forget that I have promised I will do things and then I don’t do them. I also have a hard time remembering facts. I think this may have something to do with my INFP characteristics. I don’t focus on facts at all. I am much more of an intuition person. Even when facts disprove my gut feelings I have a hard time letting go of what I think MUST be the right answer. I guess I don’t remember facts because I don’t think they matter. I think this is why I am incredibly bad at some things.

I recently shocked Tony by telling him that I didn’t know which ocean was the Atlantic and which was the Pacific. I did remember after I thought about it for a little while but it was not easy. You are all probably now thinking that I am an idiot. While I could be an idiot, this is not why. It simply never mattered to me what the oceans were called. They were oceans; they were salty, blue, pretty, and full of life. It seems to me that all major oceans come together somewhere so how can you define what body of water is which? Aren’t they really all the same? Maybe they aren’t, but you couldn’t convince me of that. Therefore, what does it matter what they are called? My intuition tells me they are both the same ocean. I had to remember in grade school when they gave me tests on it. And I remembered. And I did fine on my geography tests. Now it simply doesn’t matter, or really make sense, so I don’t remember it anymore.

The things I really remember well have to do with emotions, thought processes, and theory. I remember my dreams better than many people I talk to, or at least with a higher frequency. I remember dreams better than I remember much of waking life, because I think my subconscious is more rational (sometimes) than my conscious. I feel that, in dreams, I am more connected to myself. I also remember smells and tastes very well. I remember the taste of the quesadillas that our upstairs neighbor made for me in the duplex we lived in until I was three. I remember the smell of particular books, “Happiness is a Warm Puppy” in particular. I remember feelings of excitement which, in turn, lead me to remembering occurrences in my childhood or daily life. I don’t start with the event, I start with the feeling.

I have been focusing on this because I recently started rereading “Searching for Memory” by Daniel Schacter. I read this book (or at least I read parts of it, I really can’t remember) for a class I took Jr. Year of college on the Nature of Memory. It was a fascinating class. We talked about how memory works biologically, examined PET scan research and neural connections. We also looked at psychological studies on the subject. The reading list for the class was phenomenal. It had been too long since I had read something like this and I remember thinking this book was great. I don’t remember what was in the book. I have to read something at least three times to become completely familiar with its contents. This has always confused me. While I am reading a book I remember everything about it. All the characters/theories, everything that has happened, even subtle nuances. However, when I close the book much of that disappears (unless I am writing something about the book). Sometimes I even lose the main storyline. It doesn’t only happen with books I don’t like as one would expect. It happens with some of my absolute favorites. People will read the books and then we will try to talk about them and I find I have lost vital characters completely. It is somewhat frustrating, but it enables me to constantly relive the wonders of some magical stories.

I always attributed this reading phenomenon to the fact that I read very quickly. I supposed that quickly reading doesn’t give me time to properly encode the information into my brain for retrieval. Also, when I read, I often don’t have the intention of fully analyzing and digesting the information. I am only looking for entertainment. The only time this process is different is if the book is “deep” or particularly emotional. Then, I have to process the information differently and the story tends to stay with me.

In “Searching for Memory,” Schacter discusses the difference between field and observer memories. In a field memory, you remember things from your point of view as if you were reliving the experience. In an observer memory, you see yourself in the memory as well and watch yourself experience things. It seems that people tend to have observer memories about things that happened longer ago. Picture yourself on your first day of kindergarten or at a childhood birthday party. Chances are that you will see yourself moving around in that space. If you recall something more recent, the last concert you went to or even making dinner the other night you will more likely see the memory from your point of view. I don’t know why this is. Maybe because we see photos of ourselves in old situations we are trained to remember those times as a series of moving photographs? Maybe we remember the physical sensation of the newer memories and recalling them puts us right back where we were? Either way it sure is interesting.

As I read more of this book I may need to have more musings on memory. Maybe it will help me retain the information better this time.

1. Just as volcanoes erupt/Sometime human beings explode in your face

2. Slip slide/ dip and take a dive/ planets looking high when we traveling on a vibe

3. Take a look at me/ Tell me do you like what you see/ Do you think you can/ Do you think you can do me

4. Early in the morning/ early in the morning/ I’m calling you to/ I’m calling you to/ please come home/ Yes I could make it without you if I/ Just didn’t feel so all alone

5. Where have al the flowers gone/ Long time passing/ Where have all the flowers gone/ Long time ago. Where Have all The Flowers Gone, (this version was) by the Mamas and the Papas. Identified by Mom.


Oh, The Joys said...

(I am ENTJ - scary, scary human, that's me.)

thethinker said...

I'm bad with details too. It's so hard for me to remember past events unless I have family photos or home videos to help me along.

terry said...

#2 is familiar... but I CAN'T FIND IT IN MY MEMORY!

interesting stuff, natalie.

Mom said...

Natalie, what is this thing with "first lines of the lyrics" and song titles?

#5, of course, is "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" which has been sung by various artists but was written by Pete Seeger.

Just wondering -- do you think people processed long-ago memories differently before the advent of photography? I mean, then they didn't get to see photographs of themselves in old situations. I often wonder if/how the technology we use nowadays (which has been developing at a pretty fast pace, especially over the past 50 years, and is very visual) is changing how we process information and how we are changing in response.

notfearingchange said...

This is how i remember: PA
(like papa)
Pacific Atlantic
West - East

Michael C said...

I read mostly history or humor books and sadly can recall very little. It's especially annoying after investing all the time in a 1000 page biography of a president and can then recall very little...

Natalie said...

Joys- ENTJ huh I would have for sure thought E for you but the J is a little bit of a surprise.

Thinker- Photos and videos certainly do help. I wish I didn't need them so often.

Terry- You just need to figure out the proper retrieval clue, it will come eventually.

Mom- I would assume that since we have access to photos and video we don't feel the need to remember as much so we don't spend as much time encoding events. Interesting question though.

Notfearing- Ah a mnemonic device, that's the way to do it.

Michael- I completely agree with you. I have read some huge bios and much of it is simply gone. Sometimes I don't even remember that I read the info to begin with. It got worse in school when we had to read three books a week. You don't have time to encode all that.

Jaclyn said...

I suffer from the same malady with books that you do, but like you it doesn't bother me so much because I can re-read things again and again and enjoy them more and more. I'm gearing up for a re-read of Anna Karenina as we speak. :)

And, I re-read Tolkien and the Harry Potters all the time, and still enjoy it immensely each time.

Which brings me to my last point - you haven't read the LOTR series yet???

get thee to a bookstore woman!