there is no polaroid of this in my brain

the following are not my words but I didn't wish to summarize

Antonio Damasio:  I don’t have a memory.  I’m not going to have a Polaroid picture of you right now talking to me complete with soundtrack.  What I’m going to have is all these bits and pieces of information with which I will be allowed to reconstruct something of this moment, but of course the reconstruction is not going to be entirely accurate, and who knows?  Maybe then in time I may even make a confusion and I could be asked in court to say what you were wearing and I could say that you were wearing a blue...

Siri Hustvedt:  Actually and I think this is quite important, the fact that our brains and our memories are not like recording devices, not like film and that that is how we make sometimes significant errors. And those errors also can be created by an emotion attached to the experience, so that you can even entirely invert a memory, depending on the motivation in some way—and I don’t mean conscious motivation, but a deeply embodied drive or push sometimes that can have an emotional valence that will change memory.

Antonio Damasio:  Right, absolutely and people you know the testimonies in court are very often affected by that and you have all sorts of misattribution errors, inversions of the time sequence and so and that is because we don’t have a filmic medium.  We don’t have celluloid with an optic soundtrack attached to it.  What we have is this incredibly sophisticated mechanism of transforming…  It’s almost like coding.  You have these little bits and pieces that are occurring in time and then you have the possibility of reconstruction or reactivation, which is they are very, very, very intriguing and by the way, it is extremely economic.  You know the brain whenever it can, does things fuzzily and lazily and you know if there is no need to repeat and reinvent the wheel it won’t.

Siri Hustvedt:  Well, and I think this is very important for perception because perception, the way we perceive things has to do with deep learning in the brain and one of my favorite philosophers, who you mentioned a footnote in your most recent book, Maurice Merleau-Ponty talks about perception as something he calls stereotypes and in neuroscience there is a similar idea, which is that the brain also will take in information according to its own expectations.

Antonio Damasio:  Absolutely.  Yeah, because we don’t…  You know it’s not just that we have memory of the things that we have been living through since we were born.  We have past memories that we have inherited through a whole history of evolution before us that in fact have memories of things that our forerunners have been doing and I’m not just talking about the human forerunners, but forerunners that go all the way into reptiles and single cells.  You know things that have been done in a certain way in life forms and that of course been memorized by the biological systems we inherited.

from a conversation with Siri Hustvedt & Antonio Damasio July 2, 2010
accessed online: http://bigthink.com/videos/a-conversation-with-antonio-damasio-and-siri-hustvedt

Tags: photograph, neurology, fragmentary

Posted on Sunday, 10 May 2015 by Karen Christopher