Thursday, November 15, 2007

Joshua Foer on memory

Joshua Foer has a piece in National Geographic on people with unusual memory deficits and surpluses:

AJ remembers when she first realized that her memory was not the same as everyone else's. She was in the seventh grade, studying for finals. "I was not happy because I hated school," she says. Her mother was helping her with her homework, but her mind had wandered elsewhere. "I started thinking about the year before, when I was in sixth grade and how I loved sixth grade. But then I started realizing that I was remembering the exact date, exactly what I was doing a year ago that day." At first she didn't think much of it. But a few weeks later, playing with a friend, she remembered that they had also spent the day together exactly one year earlier.

"Each year has a certain feeling, and then each time of year has a certain feeling. The spring of 1981 feels completely different from the winter of 1981," she says. Dates for AJ are like the petite madeleine cake that sent Marcel Proust's mind hurtling back in time in Remembrance of Things Past. Their mere mention starts her reminiscing involuntarily. "You know when you smell something, it brings you back? I'm like ten levels deeper and more intense than that."
When I first glanced at this piece, I thought, Oh, Proust Was a Neuroscientist. But that book, on my to-read list, is by Jonah Lehrer.
Remember This (National Geographic, via Boing Boing)

Related reading
Proust: involuntary memory, foolish things

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