Woman with Perfect Memory (Analysis)
Today there is much discussion in the news about a 40-year-old woman who has the ability to recall virtually every experience of every day of her adult life, or at least every experience she was interested in. Sadly, she is not a scholar, because she found school boring. (Given our propensity to have students merely memorize facts instead synthesize and create ideas, I can see why she wasn't excited during her impressionable years.)
She writes that her earliest memory is "of me, in the crib, about 18 months old, and being woken up by my uncle's dog." This is very unusual in itself, since the corpus collosum does not form in humans until about age 4. (This is why people typically have no memories before this age.)
Also, in a Q/A intervew with "AJ", the subject's psuedonym:
- Question: Are there some things you would like to forget, but can't?
Answer: THERE SURE ARE!!!!!!!!!!
Certainly we can relate to this with even our admittedly limited memory capabilities. AJ's fortunate advantage is that she can seperate what is accessible to memory from what is perennially present to consciousness.
Typically, memory has three components: encoding (processing and combining of received information) storage (creation of a permanent record of the encoded information), and retrieval/recall (calling back the stored information in response to some cue for use in some process or activity).
In AJ's case she has control of the components, and this allows her to live a normal life, which is singularly unusual, since up to now only savants have approached her abilities. Imagine, however, if she were a holocaust survivor, or the victim of some other heinous crime. In such case, she might have a much more malign view of her ability.