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On Lacking a Temporal Memory
sword
tiger_spot
I was reminded this evening, collecting my bike from the shelter, that there's an interesting side effect of having performed an action repeatedly, in slightly different ways, when I don't have much of a temporal memory, and that is that when I get to the shelter in the evening I have to look for my bike rather than remembering where I put it, because I am remembering 60 zillion instances of putting it away in various parts of the shelter and I have no idea which one is the most recent unless it was very unusual.

The same thing happens with my car, if I've parked it in a lot I've used more than, oh, three or four times.

I know my temporal memory is bad, but I'm not sure whether it's unusually bad. Let's find out!



Poll #1518091 Temporal Memory

If someone asked you, right now, "What were you doing on the night of January 4th?" would you be able to answer them?

Yes, immediately
1(2.6%)
Yes, but I'd have to think about it for a little while
5(13.2%)
Yes, but I'd have to figure out what day of the week it was and/or think of a few bracketing temporal landmarks first
12(31.6%)
Yes, because January 4th is my birthday / anniversary / concert / other special event
1(2.6%)
I could tell them what I usually do on that day of the week/month, but I probably wouldn't remember that day specifically
6(15.8%)
No, I'd have to refer to an appointment book / diary / other external record
13(34.2%)

If January 4th is special, would you be able to say what you were doing on a typical randomly-selected date in the past 3-5 weeks?

Yes, immediately
0(0.0%)
Yes, but I'd have to think about it for a little while
2(6.1%)
Yes, but I'd have to figure out what day of the week it was and/or think of a few bracketing temporal landmarks first
11(33.3%)
I could tell them what I usually do on that day of the week/month, but I probably wouldn't remember that day specifically
9(27.3%)
No, I'd have to refer to an appointment book / diary / other external record
11(33.3%)

Do you remember what you had for breakfast this morning?

Yes
23(60.5%)
Yes, because it was special today
0(0.0%)
I always have the same thing, so I know what I had
9(23.7%)
No, but I might be able to figure it out logically if I check the dishwasher / count the plums / find the receipt / otherwise refer to external evidence
6(15.8%)
No, I have no idea
0(0.0%)

Do you usually remember where you've left your vehicle in a familiar parking lot (or other community storage area)?

Yes
15(42.9%)
I always park in the same place so I know where to look
10(28.6%)
No, I have to look for it
10(28.6%)

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I wonder if this is also somewhat related to the fact that we don't necessarily convert short-term memory to long-term memory unless it's new information. I'm reminded of the study of people who were driving on a familiar route and got to their destination and had no recollection of how they got there, which discovered that this didn't actually have any correlation to being inattentive when they were driving. It was just that the drivers hadn't been "writing to disk" any of what they were doing, because it was all "the same".

I do on occasion forget where I've parked, but not all that often.

On a related note, I probably will forget tomorrow that my bike isn't here, and only remember once I don't see it in the garage. Or I would, except that my gloves are also over there with it and I'd not see them first, but also writing this out means I'm actively thinking about it as a unique thing and thus will probably remember.

Yes, there's always a bit of a Heisenberg observer effect with thinking about memory.

Ah, is this why I often forget to take my meds, or forget whether or not I have taken them? Every night I have the same sort of routine, and I get confused sometimes about whether I'm remembering today or yesterday or some days ago.

I ticked "usually" for the vehicle question because there are only a handful of places where I'm likely to park my tricycle around town. Having said that, I have completely freaked out a few times because I've parked it somewhere different to usual and thought it got stolen.

My daily medication comes with day names marked on it, which is Very Very Helpful for clearing up that sort of confusion.

Having said that, I have completely freaked out a few times because I've parked it somewhere different to usual and thought it got stolen.

This has happened to me, too.

damned if you do, damned if you don't

I'm in the same boat for medication. I often have to check if my toothbrush is wet, too. The irritating thing is that I do pretty much the same routine EVERY morning, because if I don't - I forget things. :/ Some things just don't meet that threshold of important memory.
I'm a bright cookie, but sometimes I'm an idiot.

Re: damned if you do, damned if you don't

When I'm in the shower and busy thinking about some new boardgame mechanic or some neat idea for a story or something, I will sometimes forget if I have already washed my hair.

I don't have a vehicle (besides my own two feet), but I answered the question anyway, because I typically do put things in the same spot each time.

Things around the house have very specific spots I put them in, so (a) I only have to look one place and (b) if I have put them somewhere else for some reason, that's unusual and I'm more likely to remember it. Out in public there are too many other people to use a specific spot all the time, but I try to keep to the same general region if possible.

Tuesday night I was hanging out downtown with someone who at the end for a while just could not remember which parking lot she had parked in. Myself, all I had to do was walk over to the bus station.

Too few choices. I don't usually eat breakfast. When possible, I try to park in approximately the same place every day so I can find my car quickly, but I still find it by looking for it, not by remembering exactly where it was. In general I'm *extremely* prone to forgetting where I parked; but I think that's much more a problem with spatial memory than temporal.

I answered the breakfast question generally, because the actual answer is "I am eating breakfast as I read this."

And January 4, you happened to pick the evening I got home from my last trip, so I know I was traveling on Amtrak and then having a late dinner with cattitude and unpacking. I'd started to answer that as a generalization, until I got to the second question. Part of why I keep a journal is that it does remember things I might not.

Skipped the last question because I have no vehicle: that's the Metropolitan Transit Authority's job.

I said that I always parked in the same place because I take public transportation, and I know where the stops are. When I had a car a million years ago, I would look carefully for landmarks if it was a large parking lot, and sometimes even write myself a note.

I know the phenomenon of, as brooksmoses says, 'not writing to disk' - and I find it improves with making a conscious note. Particularly of 'have I switched off x' etc.

Strangely enough the breakfast thing _isn't_ among things I can't remember.

For 'what did you do on the 4th' I'd have to both work out what day it was and bracket it, and I'd probably be only 60% accurate unless I checked my blog entries for the day ;-)

Question 1: maybe, to the extent that I could say that I was almost definitely working (unless I called in sick that day), but other than that, not a clue.

Question 3: yes, because I'm eating it right now. :P

I have very good memory for some things, but sequential time is not one of them. There is a big bucket in my memory labeled "stuff that happened in the past"; everything gets thrown in there, and unless it's specifically tagged with something, my odds of being able to remember it start with "poor" and go down to "hahaha no". Also, I have virtually no sense of when things happened in the past, beyond the last two weeks or so. If something happened more than two weeks ago, I might be able to vaguely place it according to its actual date (if I remember), the time of year it happened, or some memorable year-marker connected with the event; otherwise, it happened "X number of years ago, where X is probably less than, oh, say ten."

If I don't write about it on LJ, I'll probably never remember when exactly something happened. :P

I basically have a two-week-on-either-side sense of "real time". Anything further out than that in either direction is filed as "far away". It's occasionally startling to me when events become real.

I might be able to vaguely place it according to its actual date (if I remember), the time of year it happened, or some memorable year-marker connected with the event

I generally remember where things happened, so that lets me narrow down things that happened in locations I only lived in for a few years fairly closely. It will be less and less helpful the longer I stay here.

Yes! I lived in Squeeky Hollow for - eight years? something like that, and everything that happened there kind of blurs together.

My answer of "Yes," to the breakfast question is honest but a bit of a cheat because I was actually in the process of eating breakfast while answering this survey. I can't remember whether or not I normally remember what I had for breakfast, though.

The biggest problems I have with memory gappage are during my morning ablutions. Almost every day I have a serious issue with remembering if I've already washed my hair, already washed my face, my ears, if I've put deodorant on or not, and I have to check.

My morning routine is pretty fixed, so as long as nothing interrupts me the process just continues in its standard manner and everything gets done once. Adding things to it is tricky, though.

I'm okay as long as I don't think about it, and as long as I'm on autopilot the whole morning, it all gets done. I also don't know that I've ever checked to see if I remembered to do something and found that I hadn't. But whenever I stop and think, "Wait, did I do X?" I can never remember if I have or not.

I answered the breakfast question before I had breakfast, but yes, I would usually find it easy to remember.

As for parking (when I do, now that I'm no longer a car owner), I remember by making a mental note when I park and putting that note someplace where I know where to look for it. On the rare occasions when I park and don't make that note, I'm useless.


January 4th I know I was in Australia... I *think* that was the night we went to Moonlit Sanctuary. Generally I'll know what I did on that typical day of the week, but I won't remember specifics unless something special/unusual happened.

I try to park in the same couple of places in familiar parking lots (e.g. at work). If I don't/can't park there, I may walk on autopilot towards my usual spot before remembering where I actually parked.

Oh yeah! I need to get a proper Australia report from you two. Consider this your pestering.

Once when I was a teenager my father and i went to the Galleria Mall. It was bigger than the malls and stores we normally went to, but it was convenient and new and I needed something or other.

We parked the car (well, I didn't drive yet, he did) and went into the mall. we bought whatever it was I needed and ate whatever meal was appropriate for that time of day.

Then we left the mall to go back to the car. Neither of us could remember which store/entrance we used or where the car was.

We walked around the entire frikkin' mall. For over about an hour or so, if I recall correctly.

When we finally found the correct parking lot it was even unique in that it was a 2nd floor parking lot and had big white post things with feet and inches marked on them so tall trucks didn't come through.

But neither of us could have told you that when we were looking.

I've not lost a car that badly since, but I have wandered many a parking lot in search of my car...

I usually **MUST** leave the mall through the same exact entrance that I entered so I have a chance of finding the car. I have also been known to write down (now on my ipod, before on paper) which lot i'm in.

I'm pretty sure what I was doing the night of January 4 was "curling up into a small ball and whimpering because the baby just. wouldn't. sleep." This is not related to its January 4thness so much as recalling that she gave up sleep for New Year's.

I do a lot of things the same way to save having to look for things, but my vehicle is in the basement because I haven't used it for five years.

What I had for breakfast was "sleep".

After my whole family wandered the nearly-empty parking lots of Disney World for a few hours late one night, I built a habit of making a mental note of landmarks to find the car again whenever my mother was the one driving.

Temporally, I suck. Spatially, I'm mostly okay, mainly because I learned quickly to compensate for my mom.

I can find a car that I parked in a parking lot but I never know where the car is if someone else parked it.

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