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Your Mental Computer

Posted by ooojen z4MN (My Page) on
Mon, Mar 27, 06 at 11:22

The business about visualizing words, shapes, colors, and so on made me thing about other quirks in the way our minds work.
One that fascinates me is how we pull things out of our memory storage. Dementia aside, it seems like more than half of people's mental blocks (thinkos/brainos/brain farts) are about proper names.
Does it ever happen that when you're trying to remember a name, your brain will keep feeding you the wrong one? For example, you're trying to remember who played "Beaver" and your brain supplies "Johnny Mathis" (instead of "Jerry Mathers"). You know darned well that's not right, but the close-but-no-cigar name keeps popping up and getting in the way of the right answer.

So what do you folks do to break a mental block? My method is visual or situational. If I'm trying to think of a name, I'll visually remember the person in different situations, & mull over other details-- spouse's name, the sound of the voice, & whatever trivia I know about that person. If it's singers, I think about all the songs they've done. If it's actors, I'll think about the roles they've played, and the other actors with whom they've featured. If it's someone I've actually encountered, I'll re-play time or times that I've been around them.
Another think-aid I use is syllables. Before I can think of the name or word, I can usually come up with how many syllables it has, and where the stress is. I'll usually come up with it faster if I think about the rhythm of the word.
DH uses a completely different M.O. He goes through the alphabet letter by letter, mulling over each one until he hits on the right initial sound. When he gets to the right letter, he usually knows it. Sometimes the name will pop up once he gets the first letter, and sometimes he has to keep thinking on it. We were playing some word game with a bunch of friends a while back, and one my friends said she was going through the alphabet trying to come up with the particular word she wanted. Apparently DH isn't the only one.
The Johnny Mathis/Jerry Mathers example is one I just made up, not one that actually blocked me. It would be typical, though as the substituted name fills both initial letter and rhythm slots.
I'll usually come up with what I want fairly soon, but occasionally I won't come up with the information until my conscious mind is occupied with something else. I'll be planning my shopping list or something like that, and suddenly the name I'd been looking for will pop into my head. Odd, isn't it, how a person's unconscious mind will keep working on recall, searching memory files even when the conscious part moves on to something else? Once in a while I'll even wake up in middle of the night with the answer to something I've been thinking about-- not just mental block things, but answers to problems or better ways to accomplish things with which I'd been struggling. Once in a while the "solutions" seem better when it's 3 A.M. and I'm half asleep-- but they're generally valid.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Your Mental Computer

  • Posted by fishies Ottawa z4a or 5 (My Page) on
    Mon, Mar 27, 06 at 16:55

I, too, have experienced the word mismatch phenomenon. And like you, I tend to both replace and remember them through the syllabic rhythm of the word. Alliteration is also a big troublemaker.

I don't know exactly what I do to break the block. I can't remember :) I do know that in order to remember some stuff, I have to put it into context - play back a situation in which I used the word, addressed the person by name, etc. I remember scenes vividly, more so than chronologies, names, dates, etc. It's almost like I can see them played out like movies in my brain. Sometimes, if I forget the name of something, or the chronology of events, I'll replay the scene in my head.

To remember songs, I latch on to one bar or word that I can remember, and try to hear it in my head.

But most often, I usually just ask someone :) I have two friends with phenomenal memories, and they're big helps. In fact, in one of my last posts on the grammar thread, I couldn't remember the word "supposably" (one of my peeves). I just called up my friend, reminded her of a casual conversation we'd had about two years ago when I'd mentioned that I hated it when people mispronounced that word, and she remembered exactly which word it was. People with good memories freak me out. They say that coffee and cigarettes can help with memory. I've never found that to be the case.

RE: Your Mental Computer


I find it interesting that I seem to have the names of my ex-wife and wife storied right next to each other in my brain. Or at least it seems like it. How many of you have referred to your ex-significant others' name when talking about your significant other.

I usually do pretty well most of the time. The exceptions are when I talk with my ex-mother-in-law and ex-wife's aunt. Then I am constantly using my ex-wife's name when referring to my wife.

RE: Your Mental Computer

Just the other day I had an important name on the tip of my tongue. At the time I was multitasking and only had a few minutes. I told myself to relax, it's there and it came. I had to let myself zone out and this time it worked.

My biggest problem is forgetting the name of someone I need to introduce to someone else. What a nightmare! Or I have a reoccurring problem of not being able to remember the name of someone I see socially on a regular bases. It can be someone who I like and respect and not being able to remember their name makes me feel a bit sad. But once I realize that I have a block on this person's name, nothing seems to help me remember it because I will also forget the association or helpful hint.

I have not tried the visualization technique-maybe that might work.

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