Do you find yourself repeatedly remembering some things via a circuitous path?
I, for instance, consider myself to have size 10 1/2 feet. If you ask me, that’s the answer that comes immediately to mind. The *reality* is that they are size 11 1/2. But in order for me to recall this I start with the immediate 10 1/2 thought which then triggers a memory of mail-ordering some running shoes of the wrong size, which then triggers a memory of getting my feet sized at a local running shop where I get the final result of being shown that my shoe size is 11 1/2. But the answer is not automatic.
Similarly, if someone asks me how tall I am, my initially triggered memory is of the doctor who measured me for my pre-university physical. He said I was 5′ 10″. If you know me, you know this isn’t at all true. I have no idea what he put on my report but that figure sticks with me to this day. But to come up with my height when asked, I start with that 5′ 10″ which triggers a memory about an acquaintance scoffing about that figure, which triggers a memory of showing an absolutely useless doctor once how she is supposed to use the height measure tool on a medical scale where I saw my 5′ 8″ height clearly represented and that is the figure I give.
In thinking about this, assuming I’m not hopelessly abnormal, it makes me wonder to what extent childhood stories and allegories muddle or slow down the thinking of folks in later life. If you’re told something is true from an early age, by an authority figure, what does that do for your recall ability when you later find that the truth is otherwise?
For example, Santa Clause. You spend the first 8 years (give or take) of your life being told there is a Santa Clause, with a lot of exciting pomp and ceremony surrounding it only to discover later that he’s just a cultural icon rather than the beneficent gift-giving elf that you formerly believed.
Admittedly, Santa’s not a huge deal and serious questions about his existence don’t come up very often. But what about other things to which we have been confidently given an answer which is now incorrect?
This applies to many areas of our life: Foods that we may have believed are good for us turn out not to be so because of new findings. Practices in diet, exercise or other skill areas become outmoded as we either learn more about how things work or as different cultural fads come in and out of vogue.
Of course, there is religion with pat and incorrect answers for just about everything, but if you’ve read my blog you already know about my opinion of that so I won’t go into it in detail here.
I suppose the thrust of my thought for this posting, is how much change can a person accept and still function effectively? Is the “anchoredness” of the original memory or thought as I express it above a normal way of recalling things? Or do we routinely discard/dissolve/destroy incorrect information and replace it with new information as it is presented to us (and we choose to accept it)? Does this explain why some older people seem to have a stake in the ground and refuse to learn anything new after that point? What does that say about the ability of people to function as our average lifespan continues to increase year after year?
I must say that the circuitous memory path above is the exception and not the rule for me. But I cannot say if it’s just that the path followed happens to be noticeable in those instances and not in others, or if I truly just pull up the information directly when I need to recall other things.