60 Minutes: Endless Memory Segment
I love 60 Minutes and now that I am in my thirties I’m surprised I ever started watching the television series because growing up I used to despise it. The show came on Sunday nights and I still to this day remember my parents watching it every week. Seeing that ticking stopwatch gave me that sinking feeling we’ve all had at one point or another of having to go to school. For me that sinking feeling seemed to happen daily but especially on Sunday nights when that darn 60 Minutes stopwatch would come on. Ironically I’m a huge advocate of the show now and even on my last trip up to see my parents last week the conversation of something I saw on 60 Minutes came up and I continue to encourage them to watch it. I think I keep saying something like “it is one of the best shows on TV, how can you not watch it?”.
I am at home sick today because I’ve been fighting a cold and I’ve found being able to rest up for a day does miracles for my body so I don’t have to fight a cold longer than I have to. So as I am cooped up inside the house today I have been clearing off my DVR and I had three 60 Minutes shows saved. The show I’m about to blog about is titled “Endless Memories” and it is about people who have superior autobiographical memories which essentially means they can remember their lives like they are played back on a DVR. They can recall an event and tell you what day it happened or you can give them a date and they can tell you what happened on that day. It is pretty remarkable and it was a fascinating segment.
I remember going to college at night after I got off work from my first desk job in Maryland to finish my Associates Degree for Computer Science (after changing from Small Business Management). I was taking a speech class at my old high school and I remember the professor of the class being young and engaging. I loved the way he taught the class. You can all remember some of your favorite teachers and professors and this particular speech professor still to this day is one of my favorite. I remember doing one of my speeches on the power of the mind and I mention this because the mind has always intrigued me. There are around 7 billion people living on this planet and it has always fascinated me to think how different yet similar we all are and how we think.
I liked the part where they started to analyze how people with superior autobiographical memory’s brains worked because it allowes us to start to see how we may have the same ability buried within our own minds. I’ve always (here is an example) said you know you’ve had a good day when you will be able to remember it on your death bed. What is interesting is they talked about traumatic events like 9/11 where I (like you) can remember exactly where I was the moment I heard about the attacks. I can remember everything very vividly . I can remember what car I was in, where I was, who I talked to about it, I can remember a lot, and it was years ago. Same thing with painful and fond memories, I can very vividly remember things that happened for those days.
The other interesting thing is part of the reason I love blogging so much is I use my blog as a “second brain”. If I want to recall something I’ve found interesting, or if I simply want to record an event, I know I can go to my blog to document or retrieve it. An example of just that is the link I provided in the third paragraph where I gave the definition of a what I think constitutes a “good day”. What is fascinating to me is how the 5 people in the interview are able to not only recall events, but tell us what day of the week, month, and year it occurred. As detailed as my memory is about the morning of 9/11, I can’t even begin to tell you what day of the week it was yet those with autobiographical memory can rattle it off like it is common knowledge.
Then what I like about the segment is it asks “is it a bad thing to not be able to forget”? We’ve all been through things that we likely want to forget but if you have a superior autobiographical memory you can’t forget things as easily as the rest of us are able to. I know my mind forgets things very easily which you may find funny but I don’t mean it to be. If someone isn’t kind to me for whatever reason it doesn’t take long for me to just brush off the event and overlook it. I can’t say I completely forget what is said or done but I’d almost describe what my brain does as “it just forgives” very easily. It isn’t something I consiouscly have trained myself to do, I would just say it is how I am. It is a struggle for me to remember what I did the previous day, the previous week, and especially the previous year. I just live life and I can’t easily remember the past as easily as just living the present which is what I tend to do if you know me well.
Einstein was one of the greatest geniuses to have ever lived and it is well known as a child he wasn’t thought of “as an Einstein” as he was slow to verbalize his thoughts and he was quite rebellious. Einstein’s brain was so envied, upon his death an autopsy removed his brain for further study. It was interesting to learn that it appears his brain was removed without permission from his family for study. If you want a really interesting tidbit, I learned they even removed his eyes. I like learning about Einstein because I’m interested to see if people’s brains evolve over the course of their life. We all change who we are and how we think throughout our lives, but what would be interesting to find out is how the brain changes physically over time and how those changes may impact our ability to think and process information differently.
I have never been exceptional at puzzles, word games, or games in general, and I definitely enjoy some games more than others. For instance I am absolutely terrible at Scrabble but if you play me at Connect Four or checkers, chance are I can do really well. Christina started to teach me chess and I also like that game, but it is a game I can tell you need to grow into over time and I really like playing that with her because she can easily beat me but it is the type of game I enjoy playing (even if I have to lose while doing it).
One thing my brain has always been good at is “thinking big” and I know that isn’t a good description, but it is just how I would describe it. I have never liked getting into the details of things if I don’t have to. I just want to have my mind up the clouds to solve really big problems and for some reason I don’t think of big problems as unresolvable, they are just problems I haven’t been able to figure out yet. That isn’t me saying “oh I’m so smart”, it is just me saying it is just what comes naturally to me. I’m also terrible, and I mean terrible at memorization. In middle school my sister and I went to Awana which is essentially a youth church group if you haven’t heard of it. In my particular church they hounded us to memorize and recite verses and to me it was really important to be able to because after reciting the verse they would let us go outside and play organized games. The games were usually physical (relay races, foursquare, whatever) and I always dominated and thus had fun playing those games but it was only after I struggled to recite the verses. Now looking back what that church did wasn’t malicious but they just didn’t understand some kids aren’t dumb, they just can’t remember things like others can. Similarly, some kids are just naturally more athletic, good looking, whatever than others yet we all hold each other to certain standards don’t we? However there were other instances like in High School Biology class where the teacher called on me to answer a question and I remember literally reciting the definition of something straight from the Biology book I read the previous night (to the amazement of everyone…including myself) so I know I can memorize some things but then really struggle to memorize others.
I wouldn’t say my sister has a superior autobiographical memory but my family used to lovingly tease her because when we would come home from school my mom would ask us how our days were. I would typically say something like “it was good” and then go about doing something else but my sister would stay downstairs and literally recite every conversation she had from the time she left the house to the time she got home over the course of the next hour. At my first desk job in Maryland I had a boss who wasn’t the most gracious and forgiving person. She used to say (in front of the other co-workers) that I had a “two second memory”. What she meant by that was when she would tell me to do something I would forget two seconds after hearing it. Now how she went about giving me that feedback wasn’t ideal and that is on her, but what I can tell you is because she did give me that feedback, it provided me the initiative to learn to overcome how I think and remember to do things. I’ve become a “list person” and I literally have a list for everything substantial I do in life which seems to help keep me organized.
I also liked the part where they talked about how having a superior autobiographical memory affects a person’s ability to love because only one of the 5 people interviewed had been married and has two children (although she is on her third marriage). Christina called me this morning and said she had watched Doctor Oz and they were talking about ADHD. Now of all the people I’ve ever known, and certainly loved, let me say Christina seems to understand me the best. I think she and I would both agree we are the most unlikely of pair but we just seem to work, we just seem to understand one another, and it has been that way almost from the start. She lovingly calls me the Absent Minded Professor (which you should know I don’t mind and actually kinda like) so almost everyone I’ve ever known has noticed something different about who I am and how I think, but she is one of the first to not only accept it, but find it endearing. So I got somewhat off topic there for a moment. So she calls me and says Dr. Oz had a quiz to see if a person’s mate has ADHD. She mentioned ADHD is typically more common in men than women so when they had the quiz she took it for me and she thought I had ADHD symptoms. Even if I have “ADHD” I would say I like the brain I have and I wouldn’t say I would necessarily change it. There are lots of people who take medication to change who they are and in my instance I may have ADHD tendencies but it is who I have come to be and I have learned to leverage it and learned ways to circumvent most shortcomings of it. Oh and I would also say my thinking never really slows down, it is always processing and thinking of things, it is just always on and it is always full throttle. I love my Christina, she understands my crazy thinking!
So as much as I said in this post, I guess I’d like to summarize this discussion by saying everyone is different. All 7 billion of us human beings are different. We all think different and I sincerely think that is what makes life so beautiful. I hear a lot of people saying one person or the other is “smart” or a “genius”. I think what they are saying is the people who are smart simply think differently than most which may be true but how does one really define someone being “smart” or “dumb”. I know people who are “mentally disabled” who have more love in their heart and minds than the most brilliant person, so is the person who is brilliant smart, or is the person who loves more smart? I don’t think we can really define smart because we are all just different and as frustrating as it can be to understand how different we all are, some day I hope we all can find a way to understand and accept one another for who we all are. Not that I’m trying to get the world to come together and sing kumbaya, but we even famously labeled a verse in the Bible as “the golden rule”. That golden rule teaches us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and I think part of that is understanding and accepting we are all different and it is beautiful.
Have you found your brain perceives the world differently than others? Do you find your brain works differently? Share…
Posted in In the News on December 30th, 2010 by Jeremy at 3:24 pm with (283 views)