Oh Yeah I Forgot

A friend of mine and I have been discussing or debating  memory. At the very onset, it started with my not remembering a conversation because I spent 2 weeks heavily sedated because of surgery, then the debate turned to age related memory loss. At this point, however,our discussion has basically landed on the old genetics vs. environment or nature vs. nurture theories..

Here’s a  sampling of our e-mail discussions about memory that started this whole issue: I have lumped several different e-mails into one big comment by each of us without paragraph breaks. Sorry about the varying fonts. I still haven’t figured out how to homogenize everything.

Donnie: I had fairly detailed conversation a few days ago with a girl at church that she asked me a question about later that I remember nothing about and about 1% remember having it. 2 straight weeks 24-7 doing narcotics seems to do that…..

Friend: Old age will do that to you, too.  Not that there’s anything wrong with old age.  So far, that is. Jane was shaking her head at me two days ago over how very bad my memory is.

Donnie: Don’t you think memory is mainly a function of concentration and focus? For instance, really paying attention to what is said, or what is happening at any given time, in order to recall it? I could tell you in incredible detail about hundreds of ballgames I played in over the years. I think that memory is  primarily a  product of interest,awareness, concentration, and focus.There’s a guy at work that can always repeat verbatim what was said in every conversation but it has to about certain things. He’s very, very competitive cocky, and always thinks he can one-up you. So if it’s anything to do with him winning a bet or looking good…. I’ve always been amazed at his recall of every little thing.

So, what’s my point? A person remembers better what really interests them. The big joke with a certain circle of women in my life centers around my total (and all other men) oblivion to some things.For instance, I’ll say ” Hey Gaye, I love that picture on the wall “, how long have you had it, is it new? Then she’ll say “Oh, I’ve just had that there for 3 years. Of course they  horse laugh me about it. Now how, if I’ve genetically got such a great memory that can remember hundreds of ballgames years ago with great clarity and accuracy, not notice a beautiful painting in a house where I’ve been in the room with it numerous, numerous times?

My friend: Well, there you are; you recall all those details of all those games.  Nope, I’ve never had that kind of memory.  Nor has Sue, Joan or Jim.  James and maybe RJ do have vivid recall.  Our mother had a great memory.  I think Dad did not.  So you see, memory, like most everything else, is in the genes.With that said, however, one can train the mind to remember by concentrating and focusing.  Yes, concentration, focus, keen powers of observation, keen perception would all enhance memory.  Also, intense personal involvement/interest enhance memory.  But all those enhancements do not a good memory make.
I read jokes that I so want to remember so I can retell them, and by the next day I’ve forgotten the punch line.  I do recall perceptions (ie the feel of a conversation) much more readily than facts (ie, the actual content of a conversations). 
So, yes, I can pretty much isolate memory from observation.  There are people who don’t miss a trick, in regard to observation, but who CRS.  And at the same time, and without contradicting my assertion, yes, if you have a good memory, then keen powers of observation would certainly contribute mightily to that awesome attribute

Me:  You know, the more we discuss this, the more I see that there are so many complex factors involved with human memory.Of course, anything involving the human mind and personality is a very deep well, maybe with no bottom           END

Now, don’t get me wrong. Just like my friend admits that concentration and focus greatly affects memory, I, in turn admit that genetics play a huge part. Memory can be genetic. There are ‘freaks” out there that have “photographic memory: Akira Haraguchi managed to recite pi‘s first 83,431 decimal places from memory and more recently to 100,000 decimal places in 16 hours (October 4, 2006). The 2004 World Memory Champion Ben Pridmore memorized the order of cards in a randomly shuffled 52-card deck in 24.68 seconds. I’ve heard of people that could read the phone book, and without even trying to memorize it, recite pages of names, addresses, and phone numbers. Obviously, these people are extremely rare and this does prove that genetics alone can cause great memory. My discussion though, focuses on normal, everyday, ordinary people with ordinary memory capabilities.  


 I’m not sure how to rate memory. I’m sure there are tons of tests for it. There are also plenty of memory games. Here’s one: http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/java/simon.html I made it to level 7 on the first try, then got worse on the next two.Probably a good test would be to do it 10 times a day for 5 straight days to test genetics vs learning.

This is where our discussion is right now. I realize that there are so many more factors that I haven’t brought up, thought about, and am not even aware of.

Please add your theories and experiences about memory!! 

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5 Responses to “Oh Yeah I Forgot”

  1. what was ur discussion about?? LOL

  2. James Hayes Says:

    The only thoughts I have on the subject concern Alzheimer’s. Notice the spelling. Always capitalized (it’s a man’s name). It’s not Old-Timers. It’s not All-Timers. It’s Alzheimer’s. And it’s a brain disease. And not every old person has it. One of my grandmothers had it for the last ten years of her life, not counting the dementia that preceded it. My other grandmother died at 93 with exceptional brain function. She had great short- and long-term memory till the day she died.

    One more thing…People who have exceptional recall have an innate skill, just as an athlete has the talent to play his or her sport. But “normal” people can also train their brains in order to have better memories. Look up some stuff on Jerry Lucas, the great Ohio State basketball player from the 1960s who went on to do incredible things concerning memory and brain function.

  3. I find that if I write something down, I do a better job of remembering it. But…if I was really good at remembering….I shouldn’t have to write it down, right?

  4. James,
    I was thinking it was Jerry West but it’s Jerry Lucas. It’s hard to remember all those old Lakers.

    Sandra,
    Maybe you’re like me, a visual learner. When I see something I almost always understand it quicker.
    Then there’s the studies that say that people retain way more by hearing AND seeing.
    I really need to get some kind of electronic, pocket device that I can write “notes” on because at any given time I have at least 3 little note cards floating around; in my pockets, on the island at home, on my chest of drawers. All to remember things, and to-do lists.

  5. I have often thought it would be interesting to have some kind of device that I good attach to my head and just record what I am thinking. Then I wouldn’t forget good ideas that I come up with but forget because I didn’t write them down.

    I keep thinking the good ideas will come back to me, but I don’t remember if they did or didn’t.

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