Above: Detail of “The Hamster Handbook,” 2014. (Julie Blackmon / Fahey/Klein Gallery)
No pre-reading required! All can be read and discussed on Thursday 🙂
How Does Episodic Memory Change Over Time?
Boundary Extension– S. L Mullally
This is an interesting error that occurs in all healthy brains from birth upwards. It involves remembering scenes incorrectly. For example, if one was to view or even glance at a scene before drawing it entirely from memory, their observation would extend beyond what was actually registered at sensory input. Therefore, the extended part of the scene would be entirely fictitious.
False Memories- Elizabeth Loftus
A false recollection of events as a result of being fed information. Thus the original memory is being contaminated each time new information is given.
For instance, witnesses were asked; how fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other? Participants revealed an average speed of 41 mph. When asked; how fast were the cars going when they hit each other? The speed dropped to an average of 34 mph.
Our memories are like a wiki page being continually edited.
Being ‘fed’ false childhood memories, or of times gone by is another example of this theory. An example- participants were fed a false childhood memory of being sick after eating particular foods. Later, during a dinner party, each participant avoided these foods completely.
The longer the time between sensory input and and recall- the more time for ‘fed information’ and thus, memory distortion.
Without memory, can one imagine? Are our imaginations served entirely by our memories? – Eleanor Maguire
Scene Construction Theory- (only with scenes and not singular objects)
This theory concentrates solely on process. The details of memory and imagination are stored within the hippocampus. These could be seen as the ingredients of constructing imaginary scenes. Without memory, how can we construct imaginary scenes. One can’t imagine what a Fegku looks like in a forest for example- because we have no memory of one…they don’t exist!
So how does one with Amnesia cope when it comes to imagining. An example of a study reads: ‘imagine you are lying on a white sandy beach in a tropical bay’. The words that follow from a healthy control were confident, rich and vivid in their detailed description; an excerpt reads: ‘The sand underneath me is almost unbearably hot. I can hear the sound of small wavelets lapping on the beach. The sea is a gorgeous aquamarine colour..’. From patients however, their response was much more vague and fragmented. One patient was asked if they could elaborate on their brief description, to which they replied ‘No, it’s like I’m kind of floating’
Perhaps this theory could explain why we sometimes wondered if we imagined something, or if it was indeed real. In such instances, had the ingredients of our hippocampus been constructed the wrong way? Can we always rely upon our own differentiation between fact and fiction to be correct?
How malleable is our physical memory?
The Knowledge (London taxi drivers)
In a study focusing on the memories of London taxi drivers, it was established that there was a direct correlation between the posterial volume of the hippocampus and the time spent as a taxi driver. As one needs to store more spatial representations, their hippocampus adapts to this requirement and expands accordingly to store such information.
Sadly memory does fade over time of course, thanks to ageing, depression and other diseases such as Alzheimers. Such conditions lead to the shrinking of white and grey matter in our brain and the ability to remember.
How might (or how do) we consciously embrace these theories as artists?
Can we expand our creative avenues with the playfulness and plasticity of memory?
Are some works primarily fact or fiction? Look at ‘New Chair’ by Julie Blackmon
Blackmon creates photographs that illustrate family life, they reflect her experiences of both past and present. She almost illustrates her need to escape amongst the commotion it can entail. This life is not only one that Blackmon grew up with, being the eldest of 9 siblings, but also continues to be apart of; she also has 3 children of her own and lives in her childhood neighbourhood along with 150 of her relatives
She crafts her compositions in situ, or if any of her cast is not as she wishes, she will photograph them separately or adjust them digitally
One can refer to the work of Blackmon for our question. A master of her craft, we could also see her work as a result of her hippocampus adapting to facilitate a particular, well-practised way of recalling and relaying information. She has become attuned to home in on the poignant moments of her busy family life and regurgitate them as endearing, delicately embellished and sometimes comical memories, as seen in New Chair for example:
For further reading of my research paper please click here. The password is ‘unlock’.