Monday, September 6, 2010

What Triggers Your Memory?

II remember very few things in my life before I was ten. I especially cannot remember things which occurred continuously and regularly, such as the food we ate, and the care my mother or other relatives provided. Maybe I took things for granted or just did not register some points in my memory, or both. I do have images of specific events that occurred, such as the surrender of the Japanese after the war or the boat trip on the Yangtze where I saw chickens being taken to market. However, when it comes to my parents I have only vague images of Mom's cooking gestures, or her conversations with other people, or of Dad's general comments on my grades even though they were not very special. I remember their moods of sorrow or happiness; they would appear in my brain with vivid images without any time stamp on them. I remember their way of communicating with other relatives and friends and their way of making difficult decisions. Clearly these types of memories become part of our inheritance whether we like them or not. They are part of what we are, good or bad! Specific sequences of events are remembered because we imprint them in our memories, either intentionally or because they are automatically triggered to store in our memories, since we realize their importance. Older people often lose their recent memory perhaps because they have lost the triggering mechanism, yet they still recall a lot of details which happened way in the past. I do not know if you are like me. I have selective things which I remember, and I have no choice on the selectivity. In other words, I do not know why some of the images are in my memory; certainly I did not choose them to be remembered. Maybe you are confused about what I am talking about, I am too. I am just very curious about the mechanism of how our memory works.

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