Monday, June 25, 2012

Spatial Memory

When one has a reliable memory, it is always surprising to find that others remember things that you have not only forgotten, but seemed to have never stored in the first place. That I cannot always recall some of the odder state capitals I once knew doesn’t seem alarming. People visualising areas I have also been but cannot picture – that furrows my brow and causes me to wonder what I have done wrong.

In my recent post on hiking, my nephew Doug automatically recalled the trail he had hiked on the other side when he had summitted. He’s done this before, including hikes that we went on together, recalling much more about the space than I do. I sometimes recall what is written about trails in the guide. I don’t recall trails much at all. Only those few trails which I have hiked repeatedly do I recall more than fragments of. I recall views and summits only a bit better. Landmarks I recall in some detail. My list says I climbed Whiteface and Wildcat with Doug, among other peaks. I can picture the parking area of the former and the summit – the ski-lifts, actually – of the other. Nothing more.

This may simply be a result of looking at my foot-placemnt the whole time, but I think it is more than that. My oldest son also stores spatial memories far better than I. In fact, it is almost inaccurate to say that he stores them “better,” as I seem to store them “not at all.” I don’t know what the other sons’ abilities are in the matter. It hasn’t really come up for me until the past year, most especially when I posted the series on Wayfinding.

1 comment:

Gringo said...

Here is my story on spatial memory. Several years ago I visited an old friend in my hometown. He lives at the end of a paved back road which extends for about a mile off a state highway.

I drove, and couldn't find it. I called his house, and found out I hadn't gone far enough.

What had thrown me off was that about a quarter mile before his house was a cross road paved with loose cobblestones. That had thrown me off because all my life that had been a plain old dirt road.

The cobblestones didn't fit my memory of what the road should look like, so I decided I had made a wrong turn- which I hadn't.

In my childhood I had no trouble navigating in the dark in the woods around my home, because I knew them well by daylight.

I was so familiar with the curves and hills on the roads around my home, I sometimes thought I could drive them with my eyes shut. I was never foolhardy enough to test this out. Some things are better left unknown.