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RE: How do our brains work?

by KM (Priest)
on Oct 17, 2000 at 20:57 UTC ( #37176=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to How do our brains work?

Memory is associative. Our brains work more like a large relational database. I say database because a database is more permanent than a hash, and is still curruptable :) You can also look at this as a large HoHoHoHxN datastructure. For example, this is a way a brain can make relations:


You can see, all this information in linked together, and various links share common items. This is going to all be part of the neural network which links items together to form your memory (like a good relational db may use keys and indexes), and assist with recall.

because I didn't have array-indexing abilities. I had to step through the list to find the 8th

I also had to remember mine for my fraternity (TKE) a few years ago. I had to remember which was the 8th, as well as who he came before and after in the lineage. So, my memory structure looked something like:

%founders = (1 => {Name => "John Dough", Preceeds => "Jack Mehoff", Af +ter => "I.P. Freely"}, 2 => etc... )

Now, I built relations between numbers, names, and numbers and names. When asked who is number 8, my brain had a few ways to connect the information:

7s Name-8-Name

Then, after a night of heavy drinking, I would likely loose one or two of those relations by killing brain cells (a random delete on the hash, or database corruption), but could still recall the information because I had various relationships.

Will: No, letters have a base 26 pattern than just doesn't get a chance to repeat.

Not only that, but we are conditioned to learn the alphabet forwards. If you build the relations of the alphabet in reverse, you can do this. This is sort of like asking someone to say the alphabet without singing the alphabet song... most (at least in the US) learned with this song, and the tune is related to the alphabet. I also had to do this for my fraternity, but it was the Greek alphabet.. forwards and backwards.

A phone number may be remembered sequentially. When we remember phone numbers, like 888-555-6473, we practice the pattern in sequence. I wouldn't tell you what number comes before the 7 without starting from the beginning. The numbers aren't related to eachother in a truely relational way (unless you practice it), only to who owns that number, and such. Generally, people put phone numbers into short-term memory (a temp hash), and have to put it into long-term memory (the db) by relating the number to something(s). But, when you remember something like this in a list, you will need to find meaningful ways to associate one number from the others around it. If you chunk the numbers together from the end, you will likely achieve this.

Human memory is very complex, and doesn't simply involve something like hash key lookups, because links can be broken and things can be "forgotten". This is retrieval. Retrieval can work really well in a soundex fashion (as well as remembering things in chunks). For example, studies have shown that classes over 45 minutes give students chunks of information which are too large to remember. Or when you think "Oh! The name of that song is something like 'Shallow Hole'.. er.. 'Mallow Pole'.. oh yeah, 'Gallows Pole'". You scan your memory for things that are similar, until you make the correct association. Ok, wait.. I am getting too much into how Human Memory works (grad school flashbacks).

So I'm curious how you think your brain works in the Perl sense.

In a Perl sense? Well, I think it would be large HoHs which would be short term memory. To store it in long-term, I would use DBI to stuff the data in useful chunks and relations into a database. To retrieve the information, I would use a large SQL statement with a large WHERE clause :)

select memory where key=flower and environment=outside and result=snee +ze

That will recall a memory that the wind will carry pollen of a blossomed flower and make me sneeze. I would hate to be the DBA who needs to design a database to replicate human memory and recall!!


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RE: RE: How do our brains work?
by swiftone (Curate) on Oct 17, 2000 at 21:02 UTC
    After careful consideration of your and japhy's posts, I can only conclude that I'm glad I wasn't in a fraternity. :)
RE: RE: How do our brains work?
by Blue (Hermit) on Oct 17, 2000 at 21:56 UTC
    I'd have to agree with associative thinking as a start. The chains read perfectly to me. Following the "flower-plant-water-grow-bloom-seeds" example, each one builds not only on the proceeding word, but also the entire list. Just as "flower" and "water" had different next terms, they stayed within context. If I was given "water" as a starting point without "flower-outdoor" or "flower-plant" as a context, there are many more choices then just "grow" or "bloom".

    As such, the entire context is taken, not just a simple linked list. Much uglier to code. 8) Each member of the list build on the entire connotation to focus. Any one item is virtually unlimited in potential associations. If we thought context-free, then every time we started thinking, we would be lost in a wonderland until we defined enough of what we were thinking about to give us roadmarks and help narrow our path to something we can deal with. In most cases, this is not the situation.

    One aspect of this could be non-sequitors. They could be associations that fall outside the normal context, so they allow a large range of connections until focus is achieved. Any ideas?

    Play word association in a social setting. Then play by e-mail where you only send on the current word. Look at the whole game afterwards. There should be a large difference in the flow of game, when in the former everyone heres the context, and in the later people only have the previous word. And this still isn't context free - you also have all of the previous "turns" that you've had a word come to you and submitted a word yourself. (Anyone want to code a quick CGI to try this with?)

    =Blue might be eaten by a grue...

RE: RE: How do our brains work?
by motomuse (Sexton) on Oct 19, 2000 at 03:17 UTC

    > Not only that, but we are conditioned to learn the alphabet forwards.

    There was a schoolyard folklore when I was a kid, that if you ever successfully repeated the alphabet backwards, The Devil(tm) would appear... or was that the Lord's Prayer?

    > When we remember phone numbers, like 888-555-6473, we practice the pattern in sequence.

    "Me too, I ate one sour too." - Fat Freddy

    The phone numbers I remember best, I don't store as a sequence of numbers, but rather as the pattern on the keypad. Strange, no?

       - Muse (who is always reminded of San Antonio when she smells acacia)

      The telephone company (the *real* telephone company, before that Communist b******d, judge Harold H. Greene, got his politically motivated mitts on it) spent a fair amount of money determing how people remembered phone numbers.

      Back in the days of rotary phones (I doubt but a few of you are old enough to have used them. Perhaps you've seen them in museums and such), when phone numbers were shorter, they used a couple of letters, and the digits, like 'BR-549', or some acronym for the letters ('Slick Willy-666' for SW-666).

      When semi-modern (non-VoIP) phones (ones with DTMF pads) were developed, and a standard length number format was settled on, they spent much more money learning that people grouped digits to remember them, and the 3/3/4 method of expressing a phone number came about. Along with this study came the layout of the dialing pad itself, with 1 at the top left. This came out slightly ahead of another possible payout, more like a common calculator would later use. It was determined that for the purposes of remembering the numbers, the TL1 (TopLeft1) layout aided memory better than then the BL1 (BottomLeft1) layout.

      For some reason, the Europeans never took this to heart. Since it was a lot harder to get various countries, each with their own switching equipment ranging from pre-crossbar-1A systems up to the latest switches, to all upgrade together, the European phone numbers range from 4 to 13 digits, sometimes even within the same country. Imagine trying to work with that...


      e-mail jcwren
        Why, you young whippersnapper! Keypads? Dials? Faugh! When I was a girl, you had to thwack the cradle a few times and tell the operator where to switch you!

        Actually, no, I'm not that old, but I do remember the rotary dial phone, as well as the trick that you could (still can, I guess) pulse the cradle button manually to dial a number.

        But you left out one (probably trivial, but cool nonetheless) detail: those "two letters" you mention were called the "exchange", and were actually leftover from the manual switching days, where you'd tell the operator, "Essex Five Two Four Eight Oh, please." Or "Olympic Two Nine Nine Eight Six." Or some such. And the phone books listed them so: "OLympic 2-9986." In these days of cell and pager numbers eating up the availables, so that new areacodes have to be invented to keep up, not to mention the ability to pick your own number so as to make a memorable text, this doesn't mean as much, but in those days, your exchange was unique to your city and neighborhood. When you left the neighborhood, you couldn't have the same exchange.

        This moment of daily nostalgia brought to you by
           - Muse (lifelong resident of the THornwall exchange)

        For some reason, I have the tune of Transylvania 6-5000 in my head... :)

      My sister noticed that one of her beauty creams has acacia in it. That's cool. My fraternity gets around. ;)

      As for phone numbers, it depends. I've been able to memorize serial numbers on money and credit card numbers and driver's license numbers by finding patterns. I do that for some phone numbers too, but I especially like it when the phone number offers a visual pattern on the keys. This is made far simpler by the fact that the keys are in a square (and then 0, of course), unlike the numbers at the top of your keyboard, which are in a single row.

(jeffa) 2Re: How do our brains work?
by jeffa (Bishop) on Oct 18, 2000 at 09:02 UTC
    I also had to do this for my fraternity, but it was the Greek alphabet.. forwards and backwards.

    You forget to tell 'em about having to hold a lit match while you recite . . .

    Heh . . . geek hazing:
    having to count from 0 to 30 in hex
    backwards while holding a lit match

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