Memories are something amazing. For some you think about them in your mind and they play for you like a movie. If the event had a significant impact on you, you can remember almost everything regarding it: the weather, the conversations during it, any music that may have been playing. You might even remember yourself…in third person. Which of course is inaccurate. How can you imagine yourself in third person? It seems unlikely that memories that seem more vivid and accurate aren’t so, but more often than not, this is the case.
I have a few memories like that, an example of one is first time I got to see my little brother. I remember it like it was yesterday:
My auntie came to pick me up from school, which was unusual. Usually my mom came to get me. I remember that it was a warm day, and that I had my sweater tied around my waist as we walked down the street. I noticed that we weren’t taking the usual way route home so I questioned we where we going. My auntie told me that it was a surprise. She dropped me off with my stepfather who was waiting with my 3 older step-siblings. We all went to the hospital to see my new brother. When we got to my mother’s room I gave her kisses and a hug and promptly flipped back the curtain to see if my brother was on the other side. I asked her “mommy, where’s your baby at?” and my entire family looked at me in collective confusion (they also laughed). “TJ, your brother’s right there” “Where?”, now my mom looked at me with concern “TJ, don’t you see your brother laying there?”. She gestured towards the baby in the basinet towards her feet. And I had seen the baby, I looked down at him momentarily before checking behind the curtain. I looked at my mother in her eyes and told her “Na-uh, that’s not my brother because that baby is white!” (my family and I are all black).
That story has been told time and time again from various perspectives, at various family functions, and at varying levels of soberness. Which just causes me to question, “how accurate is my memory?”. I was only 6 when my little brother was born, and I’m sure I’ve heard the story hundreds of times. Is my memory the memory of what actually happened? Or a smorgasbord of all the retellings I’ve heard over the years. Human memories are known to be imperfect. Yet, we still count on our memories to help the law catch criminals and to help us save lives. I think that the narrative rehearsal hypothesis (Goldstein, 2011) can be used to explain why my memory seems so accurate to me. Because of my family’s retelling of the event, sometimes with the added photos taken in the hospital room, I have most likely concocted my own version of what really happened that that. I find it so interesting the faith we have in our memories knowing that they can be faulty.
Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Memory for “Exceptional” Events . In E. B. Goldstein, Cognitive Psychology (pp. 208-213). Belmont: Wadsworth.
“Hello? Are you even listening to me?” The usual answer is “yeah I heard everything you said” or a “no sorry, can you say that again?”. We’ve all been on both sides of the conversation before. We’ve either asked the question to someone focused on a book or the television, or zoned out on while someone else was talking to us and let our attention fall on one of our various social media accounts. While most people would agree that they’ve zoned out on someone while they were talking I think they would also agree with this statement “I am very good at multitasking”. How can you be a good multi-tasker and unable to focus on someone speaking to you while completing another activity? And if we’re all so great at multitasking why did a study done in 2006 find that in 80% of crashes and 67% of near crashes were due to inattentiveness (Goldstein, p. 94)?
When I was younger I tried to master the art of multitasking. I was confident in my ability to accurately complete my homework assignments and watch television at the same time. My mother wasn’t as confident in my abilities as I was. As I got older, completing tasks such as that did not grow easier for me. I was never able to equally divide my attention between my auditory and visual perceptions. Another struggle I had when it comes to dividing my attention was when I’d write the word I just heard or said and interrupted whatever it was that I was originally writing. I’ve found that with practice at my job, that’s become an automatic process for me. I no longer have any issues with that.
For most people driving is an automatic process, the problem starts when they attempt to divide their attention between driving and doing something else. Eating while driving, using hands-free devices, reading, typing, and applying makeup, are all things that can take your attention off the road for just a few seconds but still have grave consequences (Goldstein, p. 94). Texting while driving is huge “no, no” for me and I even have my phone set to driving mode, and it automatically sends responses to people when I’m driving letting them know I’ll respond to them later. I wish that more people realized the danger of texting while driving and understood that no matter how good they think they are at multitasking they’re still putting their lives, and other’s at risk every time they do it.
Goldstein, E. Bruce. (2011). Distractions While Driving. In E. B. Goldstein, Cognitive Psychology (pp. 80-116). Belmont,CA: Wadsworth.
A baby playing with her reflection
If you’ve ever seen the Disney movie Mulan, you most likely remember the iconic scene where she ran home after publicly embarrassing herself and her family because of her ordeal with the Matchmaker. During the scene Mulan gazes at her reflection in her family’s lake and questions “Who is the girl I see staring straight back at me? Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?” (Wilder & Zippel, 1998). We know that Mulan was only speaking metaphorically but there are many people in world who are unable to recognize their own reflections. Some of these people may be suffering from severe prosopagnosia. People with prosopagnosia have suffered damage to the non-auditory part of their temporal lobe (Goldstein, 2011) but due to the localization of function, damage to other parts of the brain will have various effects on us. I find it so interesting that something so small (compared to the rest of your body) has almost complete control over the way your body functions.
People with prosopagnosia know what faces are, can tell you the characteristics of a face, can recognize voices, but they cannot recognize who the face belongs to. Imagine having a relative who looked at you and couldn’t recognize who you were. When I first heard of prosopagnosia I instantly thought of dementia. In fact, I wondered if it was considered a form of dementia. Unfortunately for me, I found no evidence or articles that supported that idea. A very popular form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. People with the disease also may have difficulty recognizing faces. However, this is usually due to the deterioration of their memory. This basically means that a person with prosopagnosia may not recognize a person’s face but they will remember other things about the person. A person with Alzheimer’s may recognize a face and then forget who the person is, and then remember again a later time (or not if their memory reaches a certain degenerative point). However, even with those differences apparently there is a rare possibility that someone can have Alzheimer’s and prosopagnosia at the same time (Procopio, 2015).
There are many different things that can happen to you if damage your brain. Depending on the part of your brain that you injure you may impact your sight, hearing, memory, or a number of other things. Prosopagnosia is one of the many conditions that you may suffer from if you injure your brain. And although it is a really rough condition to live with, people can train themselves to remember key things about their friends and family, such as height and hair color, in order to make their lives a little easier.