Tag Archives: Memory

What Kevin Drum and I share

My lamb Pinky. Back when.

Liberal fans of the blogsphere probably know Kevin Drum. He launched his independant blog Calpundit around ’02. He later moved to Washington Monthly, where he wrote Political Animal, and a few years ago took up residence at Mother Jones.

The most important thing to know about Kevin Drum is that he invented Friday catblogging (now an actual verb). Before Atrios’ normal and handsome cats began making regular appearances, or the  intoduction of John Cole’s appalingly fat cat Tunch (who now has his own product line) – even before TBogg and his bassett hound  – Kevin was showing us the kitters every Friday.

Turns out we have something surprising in common. He posted this yesterday:

My memory has always been terrible. My mother is nearly 80 and still remembers classmates from her kindergarten days. I barely even remember going to kindergarten. Actually, that’s too charitable: I don’t remember going to kindergarten. Or first grade. Or fifth grade. Or high school. Or college. Or, for that matter, stuff I did two years ago.

Is this an exaggeration? Only barely. I remember occasional shreds from years past, but that’s about it. On the bright side, this means that if I had a nasty fight with you a few years ago, there’s a good chance I have no memory of it. On the not-so-bright side, it means that if we were close friends in high school, I might or might not even remember knowing you, let alone remember anything substantive about what we did together.

Most people don’t believe that an otherwise intact person can have such a profound disability – and I do consider it that, though not the kind that gets one special treatment. In fact, I’ve never met another person whose memory is as lacking as mine.

I sometimes slight people or insult them or even astonish them. It didn’t go down well the time I forgot I’d been an attendant at the wedding of a woman I saw at our 30th HS reunion. I still don’t remember that. I’ve since learned to fudge and be non-committal – I let the other person do the remembering. I figure they’ve probably got it right, so I nod my head. It covers the awkward moments anyway.

Adding to what Kevin said . . . before my father died at 98, I used him as my resource in matters of memory – I turned to him for dates and names and chronologies. He never forgot anything. Like Kevin’s mother, to the day he died he was able to recall all of his schooling, teachers, classmates. I’m kind of jealous of that.

Memory, myth and marketing

Just came across this fascinating marketing study of how memory works. It points to an explanation for something that’s always puzzled me – why adult siblings often remember events differently.

My older brother,  for instance, insists that about the time he was eight and I was five, our family rented a riverfront cabin for the summer. I don’t remember that at all – my memory is of a house on the ocean. Neither of us will budge. I’ve occasionally had this same experience with friends over things that happened in our twenties.

Ads Implant False Memories
By Johah Lehrer

 It turns out that vivid commercials are incredibly good at tricking the hippocampus (a center of long-term memory in the brain) into believing that the scene we just watched on television actually happened. And it happened to us . . . [called] memory reconsolidation. In essence, reconsolidation is rooted in the fact that every time we recall a memory we also remake it, subtly tweaking the neuronal details. Although we like to think of our memories as being immutable impressions, somehow separate from the act of remembering them, they aren’t. A memory is only as real as the last time you remembered it. What’s disturbing, of course, is that we can’t help but borrow many of our memories from elsewhere, so that the ad we watched on television becomes our own, part of that personal narrative we repeat and retell.

. . .  It reveals memory as a ceaseless process, not a repository of inert information. The recall is altered in the absence of the original stimulus, becoming less about what we actually remember and more about what we’d like to remember. It’s the difference between a “Save” and the “Save As” function. Our memories are a “Save As”: They are files that get rewritten every time we remember them, which is why the more we remember something, the less accurate the memory becomes. And so that pretty picture of popcorn becomes a taste we definitely remember, and that alluring soda commercial becomes a scene from my own life. We steal our stories from everywhere. Marketers, it turns out, are just really good at giving us stories we want to steal.