I left out one of the better examples. Gladwell reports on a psychobiography of Elvis that explores why he consistently forgot the the words to the bridge of “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” First of all, “psychobiography?” Never heard of it in 40 years working at a psychiatric hospital. Sounds like some Freudian thing. I couldn’t look it up, being face down and all, but it was confirmed a few sentences later when he spoke of going to the office of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. I am of the belief that Freud set the field of psychiatry back a century, and it is has still not quite recovered, so these will not be thinkers that I find reliable in any way. Witch doctors, I’m telling you. (Though witch doctors do have their uses.)
The explanation was elaborate, including the death of his mother, some of his sexual weirdness, and his betrayal by Priscilla. All of this combines to the theory that this repeated mistake is a parapraxis , a Freudian slip, deeply meaningful and revealing.
Let’s not make things too difficult here, Malcolm. Song lyrics are much easier to memorise than spoken lines, which is why people who wish to memorise scripture find that method easier. It may be why music exists at all. Remembering the lyrics but faltering at the bridge is not surprising. Once any mistake has been made it is easier to make the same mistake again – in typing, in dancing, in anything. Secondly, welling feelings of emotion interfere with memory anyway. So, yes, associating that spoken bridge with Priscilla might prompt strong emotions, rendering him less able to focus on remembering words. I don’t see that as having enormous psychological meaning.