Thursday, March 30, 2006

Woman Has a Dry Ledger for a Memory

"AJ" has a ridiculously encyclopedic memory. Give her a date in her lifetime and she'll tell you the day of the week, personal details of her life, and major news events that happened on that day:
[Memory researcher James] McGaugh has spent decades studying how such things as stress hormones and emotions affect memory, and at first he thought AJ's memories were of such emotional power that she couldn't forget them.

But that hypothesis fell short of the mark when it became obvious that "the woman who can't forget" remembers trivial details as clearly as major events. Asked what happened on Aug 16, 1977, she knew that Elvis Presley had died, but she also knew that a California tax initiative passed on June 6 of the following year, and a plane crashed in Chicago on May 25 of the next year, and so forth. Some may have had a personal meaning for her, but some did not.

. . . .

"I wasn't sure she would know [who Bing Crosby was], because she's 40 and wasn't of the Bing Crosby era," he says.

But she did.

"Do you know where he died?" McGaugh asked.

"Oh yes, he died on a golf course in Spain," she answered, and provided the day of the week and the date when the crooner died.

When the researchers asked her to list the dates when they had interviewed her, she "just reeled them off, bang, bang, bang."

Link (via Fortean Times). This trick is indeed pretty amazing, but I don't think it would make for very interesting conversation. In fact, AJ might need a boredom detector.

Indexed by tags science, memory, woman, dates, AJ, James McGaugh, boredom detector.


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