Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Information Retention & Processing

So something I've caught a lot of crap about lately is that I don't retain everything I perceive. I have a phenomenal memory (as many of us do), but if something is presented in a way that's not very good for me, I don't move all of it from short term to long term memory. That's just the way it is.

However, what the people taking this to mean I cannot learn are not understanding is that I perceive far more than they do. I probably don't catch everything, but not much goes unnoticed. As I sit here now I am aware of the smoothie being made 25 feet away (it has bananas and berries), I am aware of 5 different conversations about 5 different things, I feel and hear the lights, including the one about to die 10 feet to my right, the butt groove in the chair I am sitting in, the crookedness of the table directly in front of me, the grinding of the coffee across the big open space, the smell of the daily special (I think it has sausage). When I go to the hospital or doctor I can remember the names of the nurses because they wear name tags. I notice what hand people prefer.

In other words, remembering even half of what I take in would be remembering more than many people indicate noticing at all. If I remembered absolutely everything I'd have more conflicting information than I can deal with-that threshold is already awfully close. Discarding some of those conflicting details is how I have cognitive capacity to learn new things rather than spending all my time justifying 2 opposite ideas as compatible.

So yeah. I learn just fine, thank you.


Ari said...

I think I've heard this called "lack of filtering", being unable to direct one's attention towards the "useful" things and away from the "inconsequential" things. (In quotes because honestly I don't usually agree with what things others consider useful vs inconsequential...)

I think I am similar to what you described here, except I don't see it as a problem. At least, aside from those situations where there's an overwhelming quantity of things I can't avoid noticing while someone or some situation is demanding my absolute focus (test-taking, for example).

I'm saddened by how very infrequently most people notice the pretty details of the world around them. I don't remember anything very well, I think not much stays in my head. But there are always a near-infinite beautiful things to see in every single moment, so it doesn't matter that much to me.

Karen V. said...

Thanks for this. It gives me perspective. My son is learning very basic stuff right now and I am having trouble understanding why he is not retaining it. I think it is for this reason. He takes in a lot - I don't hear about it til much later but then I go back and think - okay - wow, I guess he did hear me three months ago...

Rhonda said...

thank you for your perspective. Mom of a teen with autism and this helps.. so much.

Janesprints said...

You have described my brain to a T. I learn peripherally far better than I rote memorize/move things from short term to long term memory. That is a real fight.repetition is all that works.....years ago, before I got my autism label , i was denigrated for this learning difference, told I shouldn't have that problem. sigh. Left scars. Trying now to help my youngest son work around a similar problem in wiring. The joys of being a neurodivergent mom of neurodivergent kids.