Monday, November 3, 2008

On having a visual memory

I have a near-photographic memory, which probably explains my choice of career. By photographic I don't mean perfect, but rather extremely visual (and spatial). I remember how to spell words by visualizing them on the page, then checking to see if they look right. I can't remember anybody's name until I've written it down, or at a minimum until I know how it's spelled so I can visualize it. I learn historical periods by pegging them to artistic styles, and I didn't learn the dynasties of China until I started learning Chinese art history (in fact, the worst grade I got in college was in a Chinese history class). Works of art stick in my memory by the hundreds, but I can't learn how to play a game by having the rules explained to me - I have to see it unfold to understand it.

Sometimes this is useful, and sometimes it is not. It's useful in retrieving information, as I can often visualize where on the page the information is located; and its applications to art history are obvious. However, on the way in to work this morning I thought of another topic to blog about, and now I can't remember what it was. I can remember precisely what I was seeing at the moment I came up with this idea (I was whizzing past the agricultural science laboratories, with the parking lot on my left across the street and the big Mindanao gum tree on my right); but I can't for the life of me remember the idea itself.

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