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Alice Again!

By on March 6, 2015

A few days ago we posted about an article published on the BBC website concerning neuroscience and Alice in Wonderland.  there are several great lessons in this article and is worthwhile talking about another of them. This one concerns the White Queen, who has the following discussion with Alice:

It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,” the Queen remarked. 
“What sort of things do YOU remember best?” Alice ventured to ask. 
“Oh, things that happened the week after next,” the Queen replied in a careless tone.

This may sound like a typical piece of Lewis Carroll nonsense, in fact it contains a fundamental truth about memory. You see, memory is not about allowing you to remember things from the past. Most animals have virtually no memory of past events, although they may remember locations (where’s their home is), individuals (family members or members of their pack), and other information that is vital to their survival. For example research shows that while your dog may recognize you, it doesn’t have a specific memory of the fact that you gave it a trade, or threw a stick for it, more than two minutes ago.

The reason that human beings have such amazing memories the past events is not because nature thinks is important for us to remember the past. Instead is because nature wants us to have reference experiences that will allow us to make good decisions in the future. So in this sense, your memories are all about the future, not about the past. the Whites Queen is right, what is important about memory is ‘remembering’ something that will happen the week after next!

Those who want to read the article again, we provide another link below:

BBC – Future – Five things Alice in Wonderland reveals about the brain

White Queen comments on memory are themselves surprisingly prescient. “Since the mid-2000s neuroscientists started to realise that memory is not really about the past, it’s about helping you act appropriately in the future,” says Eleanor Maguire at University College London, who often uses the White Queen to illustrate the idea. “You need to project yourself forward to work out the best course of action.” BBC – Future – Five things Alice in Wonderland reveals about the brain

Shawn Carson – CafeHypno Editorial Team
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