Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mind Reading

So I sat down today and read 'Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind' by Gary Marcus [amazon]. It was overall enjoyable, but I think 'On Intelligence' by Jeff Hawkins [amazon] will still stick with me more. If you've got the time, both are worth reading, but I'd start with Hawkins' book.

My favorite part of Kludge, and a decent proportion of the text, was the numerous references to studies that had been performed, testing varying aspects of the mind and human behaviour. Examples:
  • Groups were given scrambled sets of words that, properly unscrambled, formed sentences. Those groups with words "designed to elicit the concept of the elderly" tended to leave the study walking slower than other groups. (p. 25)
  • An apparently isolated indigenous group (in the mountains of central Asia, in the 1930s) was presented with the following: "In a certain town in Siberia all bears are white. Your neighbor went to that town and he saw a bear. What color was the bear?" To this, individuals responded that they wouldn't know, and the neighbor should be asked directly. (p. 63)
One quote I liked from the book was (p. 149)
To be human is to fight a lifelong uphill battle for self-control. Why? Because evolution left us clever enough to set reasonable goals but without the willpower to see them through.
I also learned a new strange sentence in this book: "People people left left" (p. 117). That is, 'a group of people, who were left by a group of people, left'. It reminds me of this one.

Another thing I'll take away from this book is a new method of remembering lists. I've grown to distrust memory, as it seems like one of the more fallible parts of the (at least my) brain. Anyway, the technique: if you've got a list of things to remember, associate each with a room in a building that you know well. Then to remember the list, just 'walk through the building'.

While I'm at it, I'll share a memory technique of my own, which I got from my reading of 'On Intelligence' (I don't know if it was mentioned there explicitly or not, I'd have to re-read it to find out). Frequently, as I'm trying to fall asleep, I'll remember something I need/want to do. If it's not important enough to deal with immediately, what I'll do is take something nearby my bed (a book, or shirt or something), and place it somewhere that I'll be surprised to see it in the morning (toss it across the room, maybe, or, in the case of the shirt, fold it up neatly). The idea being that when I wake up, I'll notice something out of place, and it will trigger the associated memory from the night before of the thing I have to do. It's worked out well enough for me so far.


zifnabxar said...

I, oddly enough, do the same thing, though I don't remember how I came up with it. I can't count the times I've woken up to find random stuff in my shoes or watch as a reminder to do something.

Anonymous said...

I thought People people left left was:
The people-people left by going to the left :)

sumidiot said...

I couldn't figure out a first meaning to ppll... surprised there are several!