Forget me not

Episodic memory is some­times called auto­bi­o­graph­ic­al memory (though cer­tain neur­os­cient­ists con­sider them to be dif­fer­ent phe­nom­ena). This refers to the exper­i­en­tial remem­brance of one’s own life: what one had for break­fast, one’s first day at school, and so on.

Forgetfulness is fun­da­ment­al to the human cog­nit­ive sys­tem. Without it, all man­ner of inform­a­tion pro­cessing tasks would grind to a halt. What would hap­pen if your brain mal­func­tioned and lost its abil­ity to for­get auto­bi­o­graph­ic­al memory? You’d nev­er for­get where you left your keys. A good thing or a bad thing?

Jill Price (known as AJ in the lit­er­at­ure) has hyper­thy­mest­ic syn­drome, and she was recently inter­viewed for a loc­al NPR sta­tion in the United States.

[She] has a memory like few oth­ers in the world. She’s 42 years old, and she remem­bers everything.

Quite an extraordin­ary con­di­tion. If you’re inter­ested in these things, I’d recom­mend Alexander Luria’s won­der­ful mono­graph on a Russian man called Solomon Shereshevskii, who appeared to have an unlim­ited memory thanks, in part, to his syn­aes­thesia.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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