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Author Topic: The nature of memory (and the Wunderblocken)  (Read 252 times)

Sefiru

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The nature of memory (and the Wunderblocken)
« on: February 07, 2019, 07:10:53 pm »
This is going to be a bit rambly. I've been thinking recently about the weird ways human memory works, and how it's not nearly as straightforward as a biological video tape. This was inspired by a conversation I had with my brother a couple of months ago; we were discussing what he should get me for Christmas.

Brother: makes comment about buying me woodworking supplies.
Me: You could get me a Wunderblocken.
Brother: Oh, yeah! What show was that?

As it happens, I did remember the name of the show (Murphy Brown), and even though we only saw the episode in question once, over 20 years ago, we both remembered the name Wunderblocken and the gag that went with it. (Murphy orders an expensive 'educational toy' that's just a cube of wood.) But here's the strange thing: we each remember the Wunderblocken itself differently. I remember it as plain and six inches square, and my brother remembers it as about a foot square with rubix-cube-like panels.

The clip is memorable enough that it must be on Youtube, but I haven't looked it up. To me, which one of us is 'right' is less interesting than why the difference arose in the first place. Obviously our brains don't just record memories like DVDs, but what are they doing? Are there any benefits to having fluid memory? Does anyone have any thoughts on memory and/or odd-memory anecdotes?

Ashmire

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Re: The nature of memory (and the Wunderblocken)
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2019, 11:52:55 pm »
Are there any benefits to having fluid memory? Does anyone have any thoughts on memory and/or odd-memory anecdotes?

Well, as someone who has a very long and usually verifiably accurate memory, I would suggest one benefit of a crappy memory being less PTSD.  The amount of times I've been sent off into a massive anxiety attack because some chance word or image recalls a distressing memory ( not of all of which would be inherently traumatic if I weren't fully re-experiencing the emotions of a distraught small child)...

There was one time my parents talked a lot about when I was little, when I was about five and they were telling someone a story about a miniature golfing trip with friends, and I immediately piped up with my own memories of the event, which included who had what color ball and what each person scored.  Only thing was I remembered it as being "just the other day", when in reality it was over 4  years later and I had been a 1-year old baby at the time.  It did seem to be a real and accurate memory, though---I loved mini-golf as a kid and still do (if I were able, a good portion of my home and yard would at least be decorated in that style), so it was just something immediately fascinating that had stuck in my mind.

I also was able to accurately describe (as an adult) the mobile hung over my crib (which wasn't preserved or photographed), which I remember trying to grab to find out more about it.

As for inaccurate memories---well, I to this day don't know if it's merely inaccurate or an actual OOBE, but I do know that once when I wound up hanging halfway off a runaway horse (due to a loose girth and the horse getting spooked by me suddenly sliding around to a right angle from the normal position) for a short gallop that felt a lot longer---my only memory of the entire incident is from outside my body about three or four feet behind me the whole way.

ehbowen

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Re: The nature of memory (and the Wunderblocken)
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2019, 06:58:51 am »

Does anyone have any thoughts on memory and/or odd-memory anecdotes?

Tl;Dr: Yes.

Longer version: This has happened to me so many times under so many different circumstances that I have ceased to consider the possibility that my memory is faulty and have instead looked for alternative hypotheses.

One of the earlier ones is the movie, Star Wars. I first saw it in a theater in Shreveport, Louisiana shortly after it was released. I was a huge Star Trek fan at the time, so I watched the movie assiduously. I clearly remember watching the scenes where Luke and Biggs are talking on Tatooine as Biggs is getting ready to leave and join the rebellion. But, when I saw the movie again in Houston a few weeks later, that scene was missing. I remember thinking, "Hey...did they cut that scene out?" Twenty years or so later, I was in a Fidonet conversation with a well-known film critic (Bill Warren) and I mentioned that. He insisted that the scene in question was never part of the released movie. I didn't argue the point at the time, but it did set me thinking.

In April 1999 I had the dream in which I met Jessica again. That whole summer I was expecting that she would make an appearance in person Real Soon Now. On July 11th, 1999, I was in the morning worship service at Park Place Baptist Church. I was in the choir and our anthem that morning was, "We've Come to Bless Your Name." The choir sounded better than I ever remembered. Then, during the sermon, the pastor's message seemed to change and it appeared that everyone else in the building was seeing something which I couldn't. We reprised "We've Come to Bless Your Name" and it sounded even better than before. It was the only time we ever performed that piece while I was in the choir. I have an excellent memory and a fair amount of musical (well, at least vocal) talent; there is no possibility that I am misremembering. A few months later I requested a tape copy of that service. There was no change in the pastor's sermon and the anthem the choir performed was "We Can't Have Church (Until the Holy Ghost Shows Up)."

A few years (about 10) later, a different church service, a different pastor, a different church. Nothing really remarkable about this service, but I was paying attention and I remembered the pastor's benediction and closing prayer. A friend had performed a trumpet solo and mentioned that he had videoed it and would be posting it on YouTube. Later that same day I was at work and checked YouTube; his video was up. The end of the service was still fresh in my mind...but what was on the video was substantially different from my memory. This time we're talking about a lapse of less than six hours. Not even the slightest possibility that my memory was faulty. Something changed.

What? Well, in my own "theory of everything", our personalities are following a myriad of timelines. Many times, in fact most of the time, those timelines coincide and our common experience is valid. But at some points our personal...and very real...experience separates from "the norm" and we see things others don't. It could be as a result of altered consciousness from alcohol, entheogens, or similar; it could be rightly or wrongly called "mental illness," or it could be from Somebody Out There messing with you. And not necessarily in a malicious way; suppose my Girlfriend is currently "blocked out" of our world and these little discrepancies are one way she is calling for help?

So perhaps in the timeline Don Denkinger was following Jorge Orta really was safe in that sixth game of the 1985 World Series. Perhaps your brother really saw a different Wunderblocken prop than you did. Maybe we all need to be a little more careful about coming to snap judgements.

Sent from my STV100-1 using Tapatalk
--------Eric H. Bowen
Where's the KABOOM? There was supposed to have been an Earth-shattering KABOOM!

Noctua

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Re: The nature of memory (and the Wunderblocken)
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2019, 07:26:23 am »
Does anyone have any thoughts on memory and/or odd-memory anecdotes?

So one of the things I stumbled across a few years ago was discussion on the internet of the Mandela effect- named for Nelson Mandela, who apparently large swaths of the population "remember" having died in prison in the 80's even though he . . . didn't? There's a good article that describes it (and some of the theories why it happens) here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/capitalone/2017/10/31/the-mandela-effect-bad-memories-or-an-alternate-universe/#6528f41f2e5d

PerditaPickle

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Re: The nature of memory (and the Wunderblocken)
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2019, 03:17:35 pm »
Does anyone have any thoughts on memory and/or odd-memory anecdotes?

I think the first odd memory anecdote which comes to mind is the family stories I've heard so many times that I now can't decide whether I can actually recall the occasion, or if the retellings have reconstructed a version of he occasion in my memory.  For instance a great uncle sitting down in a deck chair and the fabric giving way & him falling through - I was just two (and I don't have other memories of any age before about four or five).
"If I get on, Susan thought, it'll all start again.  I'll be out of the light and into the world beyond this one.  I'll fall off the tightrope.
But a voice inside her said, You want to, though...don't you...?
Ten seconds later, there was only the snow."
(Terry Pratchett's Hogfather)

PerditaPickle

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Re: The nature of memory (and the Wunderblocken)
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2019, 03:35:31 pm »
So one of the things I stumbled across a few years ago was discussion on the internet of the Mandela effect- named for Nelson Mandela, who apparently large swaths of the population "remember" having died in prison in the 80's even though he . . . didn't? There's a good article that describes it (and some of the theories why it happens) here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/capitalone/2017/10/31/the-mandela-effect-bad-memories-or-an-alternate-universe/#6528f41f2e5d

It reminds me of the way in which witnesses to an incident will remember and report what they saw, or rather what they recall.  It's why the police, when they release a description of a suspect, will very often tend to say things like "wearing a dark shirt" as opposed to stating that the shirt was either black, or navy blue, or dark grey/brown.  Because they could have had witnesses stating that they firmly believed the shirt was, variously, definitely black, or definitely navy, or charcoal grey, or chocolate brown.  The consensus that it was a dark colour becomes the most reliable bit of information from that collection of witness reports, in those circumstances.

I recall an exercise in which we were shown a two or three minute video and had been told that we'd be quizzed, afterwards, on what we'd seen.  The video was of a corridor in a shopping mall, and possibly as many as dozens of people came and went during the clip - at the same time, for almost the duration of the whole video (so quite a long time), an elderly homeless man made his way slowly through the section of corridor.  When the participants were all asked to recall the man, we could all recall he'd been a homeless man and mostly that he'd been pushing something, but we couldn't reach a consensus agreement on whether the thing he'd been pushing had been a shopping cart, pram, or what.  It was kind of fascinating.

[Edit: correcting typos]
« Last Edit: February 09, 2019, 03:39:20 pm by Pickle »
"If I get on, Susan thought, it'll all start again.  I'll be out of the light and into the world beyond this one.  I'll fall off the tightrope.
But a voice inside her said, You want to, though...don't you...?
Ten seconds later, there was only the snow."
(Terry Pratchett's Hogfather)

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