Tabula Somethin’-or-‘nother

March 14th, 2004  |  Published in Uncategorized

Ben wants Phil to know there is no spoon.

One thing I skipped over in last night’s entry is probably the most interesting part of having a baby in the house, which is the realization that there’s a new consciousness dawning in there. The baby books are, at least, good for keeping you busy thumbing for answers while you get through the fourth trimester, waiting for some indication that the little dude’s going to wake up to the world around him.

It’s made me wish I knew people in cognitive psychology so I could get a few questions answered that I know there probably aren’t definitive answers for, like how tied our ability to remember is to our ability to hang symbols on our memories, whether sense memory is eventually overwritten by symbol memory, or whether it’s just pushed aside. It seems like “pushed aside” is about right, considering the powerful effect a sense-memory smell can have even when we can’t quite hang words on it.

Or there’s the time mom put together an album for me that had a half-remembered picture from my childhood of my grandmother and I on the beach (either Corpus Christi or Galveston). Before I saw the picture again, I knew it involved me, my grandmother in a dress, the beach, and her maroon car.

I remembered the car being completely in frame and I remembered all the pertinent elements and color tones correctly. What I didn’t remember correctly was the depth of the frame and how much of the car was in the picture. Since it’s impossible for to remember the shot as it was framed (I was in it, not framing it), it seems pretty clear that I remembered the picture as part visual sense-memory and part a collection of symbols loosely held together with rough details. The nose of the car, which is all you can really see in the frame, became the complete car, which seems to mean that my symbolic memories had an awful lot to do with my composite memory of the photograph since I had to extrapolate a complete car from just the nose.

So consider this an open call to whoever reads this that might also have some cog-sci chops or can at least recommend a good book on the topic of memory. I’ve seen one called “What’s Going On in There?” that looks promising. Other recommendations (or simple “Michael, you ignorant slut! Everyone knows the freenabular nexus drives the parietal leeloofrinkles, which has the sum effect of coagulating sense-symbol proximalations in the first three years!” commentary) welcome.

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