The Mind of a Mnemonist

Date: Thu Nov 16 1995 - 17:44:00 GMT

                  THE MIND OF A MNEMONIST.

Luria explains in the introduction how 'S'was sent to him because of
his amazing ability to recall things from the past.
'S' himself wasn't aware of any peculiarities in himself and couldn't
conceive of the idea that his memory differed in some way from other
peoples.Luria gave him words,letters and numbers to remember,sometimes
as many as 70,this was no problem for 'S' to recall.He could even
recall the lists in reverse order.When asked to recall the lists 16
years later there was still no hesitation from'S'

We could simply explain this by saying that 'S' had an outstanding
memory,but this is not so.Luria did some more experiments with 'S' and
found that noise and touch also effected his recall ability.

When presented with noise at certain levels 'S' was able to see in his
mind strips of colour ,it was the same case with touch and taste.There
where no distinct lines seperating vision from hearing,or hearing from
a sense of touch or taste:

"Usually i experiance a word's taste and weight,and i don't have to
make an effort to remember it-the word seems to recall itself..."

When 'S' heard a word he was familiar with he would see an image
representing this "When i hear the word green,a green
flowerpot appears"

It became a problem for 'S' when he tried to read a long series of
words.He would put a street in his mind and distribute the images the
words portrayed in a mental row or sequence-distributing his images at
houses,gates and store windows.This is what Luria called a 'MENTAL
WALK'This type of recalection proved to be a problem for 'S' because if
an image was read to him quickly ,one image would overlap with another
in his mind.Images would begin to crowd in upon one another and would
become contorted.

Any omissions 'S' left out of a list therefore tended to be as a result
of this.Another area Luria looked at was not how good 'S's memory
was,but whether it was possible for him to forget.As it turned out the
results of this test were the same as the above:a defect,not in
memory,but in perception:

"I put the image of a pencil near a fence...the one down the street you
know.But what happened was that the image fused with that of the fence
and i walked right passed without noticing it" In order to get rid of
these defects of perception 'S' decided to devise a new method that
would enrich his memory and make it less vulnerable to change;a method
that would guarantee rapid, precise recall of any type of
material,regardless of circumstances.He simply decided to make his
images larger-the pencil he didn't notice before has now become larger
and he therefore doesn't omit it from his recalection.

He could also reproduce mathematical formulas(you'll have to see the
book for an example because it's too long and complicated) However in a
simplified version this is the basic idea: He remembered N. by having
an image in his mind of : "Neiman(N) came out and jabbed at the ground
with his cane(.)"

Luria went on from discribing the experiments and what he found to
discussing the world of 'S'.'S' could remember right back to the time
that he was a young child: "I was very young then...not even a year
old perhaps..what comes to mind most clearly is the furnature in the
room..." 'S' also describes how his senses are all mixed and how this
causes confusion.

"If i read when i eat,i have a hard time understanding
what i am reading-the taste of the food drowns out the sense"

'S' had problems understanding science because he could only understand
what he could visualise,this of course led to problems in everyday
life.Imagine not seeing every thing,not being able to understand a
thing unless an impression of it leaks through,feeling a phone number
on the tip of your tongue before rembering it!strange and difficult for
us to imagine,but this was normal for 'S',perhaps this is the reason
why after one visit to Luria,there followed 20 years of interviews and
experiments into 'The mind of a Mnemonist'

I hope this summary is understandable,there where many interesting
points made by Luria which i haven't commented on. I recomend you all
to get your hands on a copy and have a read,it doesn't take

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Feb 13 2001 - 16:24:14 GMT