Monday, February 27, 2017

Visual Memory

I was interested to come across this paragraph on the Wkipedia page for Aldous Huxley:

American popular science author Steven Johnson, in his book Mind Wide Open, quotes Huxley about his difficulties with visual encoding: "I am and, for as long as I can remember, I have always been a poor visualizer. Words, even the pregnant words of poets, do not evoke pictures in my mind. No hypnagogic visions greet me on the verge of sleep. When I recall something, the memory does not present itself to me as a vividly seen event or object. By an effort of the will, I can evoke a not very vivid image of what happened yesterday afternoon ..."

I suffer from this lack of a visual memory or a visual imagination to an extent that it's hard for other people to believe. I hate descriptive passages in novels, because pictures simply don't form in my mind. Sadly, descriptive passages are usually the passages other people like the most, quote the most, and discuss the most.

Very often, I imagine scenes in novels as happening in places I have been, even when it's a ludicrous setting for the scene.

I am unable to draw a detailed picture from memory, or to give a visual description from memory, of places where I have been thousands of times, or for hundreds of hours.

I frequently get lost, and even when it comes to places I can navigate with no difficulty whatsoever, I can rarely direct other people there. This is quite an impediment in the library, where giving directions (both to parts of the library and places around campus) are a major part of the job. Very often, if it's within the library, I need to bring the person there as I don't know how to direct them. If it's outside the library, I often simply have to ask a colleague to give the directions instead.

I have often been unable to remember the simplest details about something I have looked at innumerable times-- its colour, for instance.

I am rubbish at identifying flowers, trees, birds and cars.

I guess it's a small impediment as impediments go. But it's nice to hear it didn't hold Aldous Huxley back.

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