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Total Recall
May 18, 2009 2:16 PM   Subscribe

AJ has come forward. Last year ericb told us about Hyperthymesia, a condition where the affected individual has a superior autobiographical memory. AJ is Jill Price, author of The Woman Who Can't Forget: The Extraordinary Story of Living with the Most Remarkable Memory Known to Science—A Memoir.
posted by netbros (26 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Funes the Memorious.
posted by Slap Factory at 2:26 PM on May 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


what's this post about?
posted by billybobtoo at 2:42 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Story is a little dated, but it's a great read.

Summary: This woman isn't a genius, she just has OCD and is a huge narcissist, and keeps an insane journal of everything she does all day, and re-reads the journal. That ability in itself is remarkable, but not worth the attention.
posted by brocklanders at 2:51 PM on May 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow, this woman is just like Funes--a dramatic emblem of the importance of forgetting things to our psychic health. We forget, we move on, we stay sane.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:52 PM on May 18, 2009


she just has OCD

To be a little more precise, she has an OCD that is focused on herself, her past, and her memories. It's not like all people with OCD have incredible recall about their lives.
posted by shen1138 at 2:53 PM on May 18, 2009


This is obsessive behavior, certainly. She doesn't seem to have a lot of compulsions (except maybe for collecting and keeping journals), but I think this is another case of the acronym "OCD" being bandied about without a clinical diagnosis. It also doesn't seem particularly maladaptive, so I'd hesitate to say it's even a disorder.

Fuck the DSM anyway. Behavioral predispositions exist along spectra, not in boxes.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 2:59 PM on May 18, 2009


Wow, that GMA clip is completely obnoxious in a "let's make the monkey dance! Dance monkey, dance!" kind of way.
posted by odinsdream at 3:13 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember her, didn't she do something? or other?
posted by Senator at 3:45 PM on May 18, 2009


She is nothing like Funes. She doesn't remember a tree branch from every angle she ever viewed it at, she remembers that a plane crashed in Germany the first time she ever watched Dancing with the Stars. She also keeps a journal that looks like a serial killer wrote it.
posted by Falconetti at 5:06 PM on May 18, 2009


This is obsessive behavior, certainly. She doesn't seem to have a lot of compulsions (except maybe for collecting and keeping journals), but I think this is another case of the acronym "OCD" being bandied about without a clinical diagnosis. It also doesn't seem particularly maladaptive, so I'd hesitate to say it's even a disorder.

Well, it's not exactly rock-solid evidence, but the article does include this quote (second paragraph), which has nothing to do with DSM, afaik:

"Lost in all the hype is an inconvenient fact: Price's brain was scanned more than two years ago, and the results—not yet published—apparently don't support the notion that she's some kind of memory goddess. Her hippocampus and prefrontal cortex are reportedly normal. The one significant aberration, according to Price—who was told about the scans by doctors who won't discuss them publicly—is that her brain resembles those of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder."
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:37 PM on May 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would love to own a copy of those journals. I can't make most of it out, but you know it's all English, and the handwriting is so squiggly...
posted by nobody at 6:08 PM on May 18, 2009


Ha ha, she's just really self-obsessed.

That's like if someone announced that he was the fastest man in the world, but it turned out he was only the fastest man in the world at taking a huge crap.
posted by Damn That Television at 6:53 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


The onset of Price's exceptional recall seems to be closely tied to a painful event: her family's move from South Orange, New Jersey, to Los Angeles on June 29, 1974. For Price, life can be neatly divided into periods before and after that childhood trauma, and her detailed memories begin just after the move.

LA has sometimes has that effect on people.
posted by eye of newt at 7:37 PM on May 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Like Funes in the story by Borges, Solomon Shereshevskii, the subject of Alexander Luria's classic book The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book About a Vast Memory is a fascinating, tortured human being.

He struggles with his prodigious memory and has to go to great lengths to forget anything--for example, he pictures that something he wants to forget is written on a blackboard, then "sees" it being erased.

It's said that Borges' story about Funes was inspired by Luria's book about Shereshevskii.
posted by subatomiczoo at 10:01 PM on May 18, 2009


It also doesn't seem particularly maladaptive, so I'd hesitate to say it's even a disorder.

Yeah, I'm sure documenting every other minute of her life (with the interstices spent reading past documents) isn't interfering with anything else she could be doing.
posted by DU at 4:39 AM on May 19, 2009


There's a warning in this story. I've been ruminating on it for some time and her condition brings it into sharp focus.

Imagine, perhaps in a few years, that our lives are completely documented for us, maybe by a handy iPhone app, or by our clothes that video record, translate to text, tag and catalog, everything we do, say, see. It's very easy to find exactly what someone said or did. Everything.

Our past is now inescapable. Remember that stupid outburst you made in front of friends and family when you were thirteen that still makes you burn with embarrassment when something brings it to mind? Well there have been thousands of other incidents that you've gratefully forgotten. Imagine dragging a life full of them forward with you. Think about everything you've said to a friend or co-worker (or boss!) that isn't 100% accurate, correct, or true. What if you couldn't mutually soften those discussions and arguments? Could you ever change or grow?

Think of it as auto-twitter. It would suck.

I feel for this lady, but I think we're all going to need some help.
posted by cptnrandy at 5:55 AM on May 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


It also doesn't seem particularly maladaptive

She lives with her parents at over forty due to separation anxiety, and doesn't appear to hold a job. That sounds like it could be a little maladaptive.
posted by Ery at 6:00 AM on May 19, 2009



Our past is now inescapable. Remember that stupid outburst you made in front of friends and family when you were thirteen that still makes you burn with embarrassment when something brings it to mind? Well there have been thousands of other incidents that you've gratefully forgotten. Imagine dragging a life full of them forward with you. Think about everything you've said to a friend or co-worker (or boss!) that isn't 100% accurate, correct, or true. What if you couldn't mutually soften those discussions and arguments? Could you ever change or grow?


Since I've been known to lie awake at night kicking myself for being an asshat when I was 15, this is pretty much the only kind of hell that makes sense. Wasn't there a scene in A Scanner Darkly like this?


*shudder*
posted by The Whelk at 6:34 AM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Our past is now inescapable. Remember that stupid outburst you made in front of friends and family when you were thirteen that still makes you burn with embarrassment when something brings it to mind? Well there have been thousands of other incidents that you've gratefully forgotten.

Sure, but who has time to go back and look through it all? There's evidence of most of the stuff I've said or done on the Internet in the past decade scattered across Usenet archives, Wayback machine pages, forums, hard drive backups, etc. It's all out there for me or anyone else to sift through, but nobody bothers to do it.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:30 AM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Her memoir is only 272 pages?
posted by ODiV at 8:02 AM on May 19, 2009


Her memoir is only 272 pages?
Subtitled "Volume One: My First Week."
posted by Floydd at 8:41 AM on May 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Sure, but who has time to go back and look through it all? ..."

Today: would-be employers, the police, IRS, stalkers, etc.
Tomorrow: ...a future fully automated super indexer & collator of all things "you" isn't so hard to imagine, is it? All she wrote.
posted by Glee at 8:54 AM on May 19, 2009


Our past is now inescapable. Remember that stupid outburst you made in front of friends and family when you were thirteen that still makes you burn with embarrassment when something brings it to mind?

I actually don't think this is necessarily such a bad thing. Some of us could stand to learn some humility, and reminders of how much of an ass we've been at various points could help. Maybe it could actually help you change or grow.

Of course, for the bigger things that society will no doubt never let go of like crimes or even just accusations, yes, this could be a big problem.

And of course, I say all of this while, most likely, harboring a deep fear that it could actually happen and I'll have to face it.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 3:19 PM on May 19, 2009


Also, it's not as if you your outbursts would be out there. Everyone's would, which, one hopes, would lead to a little more understanding that this is a perfectly normal thing and nothing that can "haunt" you.
posted by Casuistry at 7:31 PM on May 19, 2009


» Since Our Benefactors, both stately and incorporated, take increasingly active roles in controlling shaping the public arena and spy on oversee what we do here, what can possibly go wrong?

Well, maybe there'll be safety in numbers. Or bigass prisons.
posted by Glee at 8:19 PM on May 19, 2009


She lives with her parents at over forty due to separation anxiety, and doesn't appear to hold a job. That sounds like it could be a little maladaptive.

No, she has a job and it is mentioned in the article--she does some kind of administrative work for schools.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:33 AM on May 20, 2009


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