Sunday, June 17, 2007

Remembering Words for where They Were Printed on the Page

Have you ever remembered something you read by recalling and then fanning back in your book to where it was located on the printed page (left page, right page, how far down)? My father and I both do this.

Knowledge of the space around us is central to our behavior, and so we learn to focus our attention in order to remember things and learn our way around. The Greeks had a technique described by Cicero in 55 B.C. of remembering words by picturing the rooms of a house, associating words with each room, and then mentally walking through the rooms in the right order.

Spatial memory is the scientific term concerned with finding one's way around in space. In our hippocampus is something called a spatial map: a cognitive map which internally represents the external environment.

Our brains do not have a sensory organ dedicated to space. So they must combine inputs from several different sensory inputs to generate a complete internal representation. it does this in many areas and many ways, different for men and women.  Brain imaging shows the brains of men and women light up in different areas as they think about space! (In Search Of Memory, pp. 307-316)

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