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Post  Post subject: Try Not to Think About It  |  Posted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 6:31 am
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Joined: Sat May 28, 2016 2:53 am
Posts: 229

I'll describe a very subjective quirk of cognition, hope others share this and maybe have some insight.

The oddity appears while weighing choices, and, especially when trying to recall something I'm uncertain of. Let's say I want to remember someone's birthday, and I'm pretty sure it's either February 28th, or March 5th. Say I have no way of checking these empirically. I begin to think about these items, but not as a group - I take each one in turn to explore the validity of it. This is a "feely" exercise. Normally with good memory I'd have a strong feeling of certainty about the item, and continue thinking without questioning it. But no such feeling associated with things uncertain. If it's one thing that feels weak, okay I can attack that full force and make up my mind about it. But something different happens when I'm weighing weak multiple choices, like the example of two possible birthdays.

I feel as though I mustn't think too strongly about a particular possibility, lest the act of thinking about it leaves "weight" behind. I feel that "weight" would later deceive me to feel certainty about the item. For example if I think very hard on Feb 28th, but not about March 5th, then give up: later when I try to recall the birthday February 28th will stand out strong, and I'll feel certain of that date.

So I employ a strategy of lightly touching around such options, careful to apply equal pressure. I've learned the technique from experience. It's similar for dream recall, but with dreams more a sense that if I "put my foot in it" I'll scatter the arrangement.

If my gentle dancey attempts to feel out the correct option fail, I often rather leave the question on hold. Leaving it carefully balanced just as I found it, I tell myself, "Try not to think about it."


Post  Post subject: Re: Try Not to Think About It  |  Posted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 8:39 am
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Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:40 pm
Posts: 5656
Location: Iowa

This "feeling around" you describe is about associations and filtering down the number of variables / discarding noisy distractions. You're activating connections so the activity in that "area" of your neural web becomes less dormant and maybe the connections to the actual object you're trying to recall will "shake loose."

Then, by walking away from it consciously, you unconsciously keep exploring it until you have that epiphany moment. It's a bit like submitting a query for a large report then waiting for the results to generate in the background. You then shift your attention to something else and if you're lucky...voila!

It happens all of the time and is akin to a persons name you were trying to remember earlier in the day or a song lyric popping into your head in the shower or while walking down the aisle at a grocery store.


"[Time] is one of those concepts that is profoundly resistant to a simple definition." ~C. Sagan

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