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morning linkage

Links from the_xtina, a neverending source of fascination and online time-killing:

This is a very good summation of why I left the work world.

An article about why talent is overrated. A snippet:

[Ericsson's] first experiment, nearly 30 years ago, involved memory: training a person to hear and then repeat a random series of numbers. "With the first subject, after about 20 hours of training, his digit span had risen from 7 to 20," Ericsson recalls. "He kept improving, and after about 200 hours of training he had risen to over 80 numbers."

This ... led Ericsson to conclude that the act of memorizing is more of a cognitive exercise than an intuitive one. In other words, whatever innate differences two people may exhibit in their abilities to memorize, those differences are swamped by how well each person "encodes" the information. And the best way to learn how to encode information meaningfully, Ericsson determined, was a process known as deliberate practice.

See? Ritual memorization is good for your brain!

If I could count the number of people who've admired my memorization ability and told me "I can't memorize stuff... I don't know how you do it".... it honestly does just take practice. Start small (Liber Resh was my first, and it seemed insurmountable at the time) and it will honestly come faster and faster with time.

This also makes me rest easier about something that's going to sound awfully egotistical. It's been felt over my life that I'm 'talented' at just about anything I try, which people have gotten greatly upset at me for (generally not since grade school, but that kind of thing sticks with you). By this interpretation it wasn't talent at all, but just my freakish enthusiasm for anything new and shiny that allowed me to seem disgustingly good at it - at least until I got bored and found the next shiny thing.

That includes art. I'm a good artist not because I'm talented, but because I've been working at it for nearly 25 years. You try doing something for 25 years and *not* being good at it!



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 8th, 2006 05:27 pm (UTC)
There is a fundamental process in the human mind that gives you a pretty limited set of registers for information, most people can only remember 5-7 items at once, you can train someone all you want but that underlying process remains. So while you may have trained someone to remember a long string of numbers like they did if you turn around and ask them to remember a string of nonsense syllables (ba fa da ma) they are back to where they started with of 5-7 items.

May. 8th, 2006 09:46 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was going to bring this up. The guy who could remember huge strings of numbers, did it by encoding it into track information (information about races, which is numerical and information he was interested in and was meaningful to him), and thus could encode huge random strings of digits as basically short pieces of information about sports. But it wouldn't transfer to anything non-numerical. You have to learn tricks for encoding for each setting. There are a lot of memory tricks people can learn, and I'm in favor of people being presented with many of them and finding which things help them. But if you're going to put huge amounts of practice into something, it's best to make sure that you're practicing the specific skills you want to keep, rather than assuming they will generalize.

That said, as far as I can tell, the number of chunks I can remember is significantly smaller than average, it tends to be 3 to 4. This is quite problematic for me in small ways, where people assume I can do simple tasks that I just can't do (like figuring out what words someone is spelling at me if they don't want a young child to understand... generally the kid will figure it out before I will). But it hasn't caused me any serious problems, since I do chunk data decently, have/had a very good episodic memory, and generally learned how to work with what I had. So, inherent memory issues for short term memory aren't really a big deal unless you're working in a field where good, quick memory for random data is important.

I'd also think that the sort of working memory being discussed here is fairly irrelevant for the purpose of memorizing large pieces of text, which would be more likely to involve trying to write a lot of information into long-term memory. And probably involves many of the same processes of learning lines for a play (something I have personal experience with). Which is a very different task from memorizing a 10 digit phone number said to you long enough for you to then make the phone call (something I can't do unless I can get it said to me in pieces and I have enough time to turn them into chunks or a mathematical pattern). Pen and paper, the great equalizer of short-term memory differences.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


firesea: self-portrait
Heather Keith Freeman
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