[Added October 2003]
I am a steady moviegoer and,as such, I like to speak with friends and relatives
about movies. In these talks it is of course important to remember
movie titles,actors and director names.
As the number of films seen increases , remembering all these names becomes more and more difficult.Of course this is understandable, you can’t remember thousands of names.
But what is really amazing is the following phenomenon: there are names that switch
on and off almost endlessly in your memory. You can remember them easily for a few
days , then they go away to come back after ,etc,etc. Also amazing is that some
names instead, you never forget.This is sometime understandable:for example, if you
have seen some actor or actress in person, you won’t forget the name so easily.
But perhaps this is not so difficult to understand.The problem is that we think about memories recall as a computer that retrieves information from storage.
If the information is there we must find it. Is it really like this?
Let’s think about it from the point of view of our mammal cousin: for example
a cat.There is no doubt that a cat has a memory. But what about recall: can a
cat like a computer recall anything anytime? No, he recalls something only if
there is some stimulus connected in some way with the object to be remembered.
This means that our ability to “remember at will” like a computer is
unique for us humans and has probably been acquired with language.
But as such it is not perfect and difficult to maintain.On the other
hand , “remembering like a cat” is more low level and is less damaged by aging.