Tag Archives: Memories

Do You Remember This?

Memory is a fickle thing.

You might remember the phone number of your girlfriend from high school, but not be able to remember the phone number you just looked up on the computer and have forgotten it by the time you get your cellphone out of your pocket.

You might remember that horrifying time you accidentally ordered sheep’s brains in a French restaurant three decades ago, but not remember what you had for breakfast this morning.

Students, of course, have the most contact with the fickle side of memory. I’m sure every single kid has studied their butts off the night before a test and gone to sleep confident they know everything there is to know about the subject. However, when they sit down in class to actually take the test, the answers remain frustratingly out of reach.

I wish I’d remembered to take that sort of thing into account when my young dudes were, in fact, young. I would have saved a lot of money I spent at Walt Disney World, I’ll tell you that.

Latest research talks about childhood amnesia or infantile amnesia, which means we remember nothing before we’re about 2 years old. The more sporadic holdover takes us up until about age 10 and, from those years, we retain fewer memories than we should, based merely on the passage of time.

And, yet, still we took the young dudes to Walt Disney World because we wanted them to have great memories of the place from when they were younger. We knew about childhood amnesia, but thought we’d be different.

Which explains why I was in Walt Disney World last December, accompanied by Hyper Lad and his mom, my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Hankering For More Mickey. See, we talked with Hyper Lad and he said he had never been to Disney World before. We begged to differ. He stood firm and we realized he just didn’t remember it.

Which led to me asking his older brothers and I found they didn’t really remember any of their trips with a great deal of clarity, only bits and bursts. Hyper Lad, though? Nothing.

At least, that’s what we thought until we got there.

We were walking through one of Disney’s resorts on our way to a dinner when Hyper Lad had a flash of memory. He stopped still and pointed to the window sill on a room we were walking by.

“That,” he said. “I remember that. We stayed here.”

No, actually, we hadn’t. We had, however, stayed at a hotel where our room was right next to the pool and there had been a windowsill like that outside of our room. He remembered something, but it required some visual and tactile reminders to trigger it.

You might want to keep that in mind the next time you’re considering an expensive vacation with a young dude or dudette. Or even a massively expensive birthday party for one of your spawn.

Which reminds me. . .  Let’s talk more about this on Wednesday, yeah?

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Photo Finish To Happiness

A picture is worth a thousand Prozac.

Or something.

Sure, the original saying is about a thousand words, and involves the picture’s ability to create a very specific image of a place, or evoke an astonishingly real emotion, but bear with me here. I do have a point.

Pictures are more than simply images on a page, or pixels on a screen, data on a computer drive. Pictures, no matter the medium, can be a gateway to happiness at any time of the day, any season of the year.

At Casa de Dude, we have an Apple TV. It’s a set-top box that streams content from the web onto our television set. Well, that’s what it’s supposed to be, but we use it for something a bit more prosaic.

The Apple TV has a number of different screen saver modes, but the one we use is the one that throws images from our photo stream of recent pictures onto the television so we can sit and watch it. And that’s what we’ll do. Someone will mention what was going on in one photo and then we’ll all look and start to see other pictures of similar events.

Sooner than we realize, it’s two hours later and all we’ve been doing is watching pictures flash by on the screen.

I imagine it’s rather like forcing someone to watch your vacation snaps, only in this case people actually want to see the pictures.

We’re not the only people who enjoy pictures and see them as a value, an aid in achieving happiness. Take, for instance, the Happiness Project. In a blog post from earlier this year, Gretchen Rubin, a (believe it or not) important writer on happiness, talked about seven different ways that photographs can boost your happiness.

The first two reasons should come as no surprise as, basically, it’s exactly what we’ve been talking about here at Casa de Dude:

1. Photos remind us of the people, places, and activities we love.

2. Photos help us remember the past.

One thing I’ve been doing a lot of lately is using my futurephone to take pictures of things that interest me, or as notes that I’ll want to go back to at a later date. I also have been using pictures from there as a sort of filing cabinet. Again, not alone.

3. Photos can save space while preserving memories.  Rubin talks about a service that offers to take pictures of kids’ artwork and then let you keep the photos to look at while storing the artwork. Not a bad idea.

4. A photo of something can sometimes replace the thing itself. This was something I ran into just yesterday. I was working through some pictures and trying to sort them by person when I ran across a series of pictures of my mom, who died in 2011. I smiled through tears to see her so many times so unexpectedly.

5. Photographs allow you to curate things you love. This one was something about Pinterest and, really, even though I’m there, I don’t quite understand it so I’m just passing.

6. Taking photos fosters creativity. Seems pretty self explanatory.

7. Taking photographs can act as a diary. Here’s something I’ve been working on lately. My futurephone has a new app called Memoir. It’s a great little app that goes through my photos and then throws up the pictures I took on that day a year ago, or two, or three or whatever year it can. Another app called Momento is a great daily diary that integrates with my social media feeds and my photos.

With the rise of the futurephone camera, taking pictures has never been easier. Not only that, but it’s easier than ever to actually look at them beyond the day you brought them home from the photo development store. No more shoeboxes.

Hit the digital photo file where you have your photographs stored and haul them out. You’ll be astonished by how much your young dudes and dudettes have grown even in such a short time.

And then laugh.

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Memories Not So Reliable After All

Paper trails and electronic logs are all well and good, but it’s eyewitness testimony that really seals the deal.

But it probably shouldn’t be the case.

New research is showing that the human memory is a lot less like a reliable camera recording everything that happens and then transcribing it back unchanged and a lot more like a game of telephone with a bunch of drunks passing the information along down the line. Although that might be a bit insulting to the drunks.

Elizabeth  Loftus is a cognitive psychologist and expert on the malleability of human memory. You might remember her from the hullaballoo her work has caused in the past. Or maybe not.

Her first big foray into the public consciousness was when she began researching car wrecks in the early 1970s. She would show video of car collisions and then ask questions of the viewers. Even though they saw the same thing, the subjects certainly didn’t see the same thing.

Their answers depended greatly on how she phrased the question. For instance, if she asked how fast the cars were going when they “smashed” into each other, people estimated, on average, that the cars were going 7 mph faster than when she substituted the word “hit” for “smashed.” And a week after seeing the video, those who were asked using the word “smashed” remembered seeing broken glass, even though there was none in the film.

When she asked the subjects about “a broken headlight,” only a few remembered seeing one, even though there were no broken headlights before the collision. When she asked about “the broken headlight,” people were much more likely to misremember it as being present.

In the mid 1990s, Loftus again bloomed in the public eye when her research showed the hazards and pitfalls of believing in the truth of repressed memories. Those are memories that are so traumatic that the person pushes them down and completely forgets about them. Until a skillful therapist begins working with them and bringing the truth out.

It was Loftus’ contention, backed by research, that these memories were, rather than being repressed by the patient, actually being created by the therapist.

“I don’t think there’s any credible, scientific support for this notion of massive repression,” Loftus says. “It’s been my position that, you know, we may one day find (the evidence), but until we do, we shouldn’t be locking people up.”

There’s even some current talk about how dudes can learn to lose weight by using false memories. In the past, Loftus has caused people to create false memories of getting sick from eating strawberry ice cream as a child. This has caused the folks to swear off the sweet stuff. Could we use that to help our adult selves, or even growing selves, rethink how we approach food?

It’s some really fascinating stuff. The CNN article where I found most of this stuff has some more great information in it, including a fascinating discussion on whether or not people would choose to take a drug that would demolish a highly traumatic memory. Go read it. Definitely worth your time.


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