This is a blog all just for me. It has no purpose whatsoever except for me to share some of the random nonsense I happen to be thinking about in my day-to-day life. Sometimes it sure is nice not to have a purpose.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Memory is Bad, How is Yours?

I know for a fact that I cannot trust my memory. For about the last 5 years, I have been keeping a journal thanks to my husband who inspired me to do so. My husband has been an avid journal keeper on and off since he was a small child. He is so diligent that he writes in his journal every single night before he goes to sleep. I'm not so good and so I will write about every 5 days or so, but I still think that this is pretty good.

The style of journal that I have is pretty neat. It's a 10-year journal with a page for every day of the year. Each page is divided into ten rows so that every year you write in the next row down for any particular day. It works out well, because you can glance back and see how you spent each day in previous years. As I'm 5 years into the journal now, it is enlightening to look back and see what we were doing a year ago or 5 years ago. While it seems that time flies, it is also amazing how much changes in just one or a few years. This may be especially the case since we have kids in our life. A year ago, for example, my son was just one year old and not even walking. Two years ago, he was a helpless little newborn. Three years ago, he wasn't even conceived.

Returning now to my comment about memory... I am mentioning my journal, because it is one of the best measuring sticks I can use to measure my memory against, and it proves time and time again that my memory is horrible. It never fails that I will look back in my journal only to realize that there are so many details that I would have easily "lost" had I not written them down. It is for this reason that I am so quick to question the absolute validity of witness testimonies in court cases. Perhaps events that require a court case are significant enough to become more imprinted than other memories. I think, however, that most people do not remember things as accurately as they might want to believe.

One of the best examples that I've come across lately is with my toddler. Last week, my son hit me when he was tired and upset, and he did it in front of my mother. My mom was appalled and said that my brother and I never did anything like that when we were children. Red flag! We really never did anything like that at all? What about the stories I've heard my parents' friends tell about how my brother used to ram head first into them? What about the fact that I was a stubborn little girl who never wanted anyone to force me to do things their way? I'm sure she's right that we didn't hit and kick once we were old enough to understand better. But, does she really remember exactly how we behaved when we were toddlers? She was only in her late 20s and early 30s then and that was over 30 years ago now. My guess is that her memory is simply not as accurate as she thinks.

Again, I am the first to admit that my memory is faulty. Heck, I have a hard time remembering what life was like with my son when he was an infant and that was just a little over a year ago. I certainly wouldn't expect my mom to remember what I was like as a toddler. But, I do wish that people would at least be cognizant of the fact that their memories may not be perfect...and so maybe they shouldn't be so quick to be appalled by something like a toddler that hits!

Closing on a side note, I do recognize that memory ability varies from person to person, and even with the same person, memory differs based on the type of information. An extreme example of this is presented in the book The Woman Who Can't Forget: The Extraordinary Life of Living with the Most Remarkable Memory Known to Science by Jill Price. In this memoir, Price explains how she can remember every day of her life. If you tell her a specific date, she can remember exactly what she did and what happened in the world. Meanwhile, there are others like Daniel Tammet, an autistic savant who is able to remember Pi up to 22514 digits! In comparison to either of these individuals, my memory is pathetic! But, my guess is that my memory is probably pretty average, which means that chances are...your memory is as bad as mine.

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