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Thread: I can feel when my brain reaches its ceiling

  1. #21
    Meae Musae Servus Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ACow View Post
    Now, I can rotate entire cities in my mind. I can even in some sense "see" algorithms (for long or complex ones I sometimes represent them spatially inside my head).

    What I'm pretty sure I struggle to do, to the point where I'm not sure its even a real thing and not just something invented by hollywood, is consciously retrieve faces out of my memory.

    This is different from storing or recognising faces, either in working memory or in front of me or later.

    What I don't understand are police sketch artists. I mean, I would have trouble describing to anyone the face of my wife or my friends: not because of a lack of vocabulary, but because consciously pulling the details of a face before my mind from memory is incredibly difficult.

    Is this real? Are there mental tricks involved?
    Naw, it's real. Typically happens pretty quickly unless I'm in a daydream. The biggest problem is all the stimuli around you. If you went to a nice, bland environment with few distractions and imagined talking to someone you knew well, I'd be surprised if you didn't visualize them in some form. Once that happens take a moment to focus on a detail of their appearance.

    It might help to be an avid fiction reader, as we frequently create detailed images in our heads of people we've never even met. As a writer, I'm also accustomed to figuring out how to describe a person in detail from imagination as well, so I might have a leg up on that than some from that practice.

    Another thing that helps is that they aren't working just from what the person says. A sketch artist isn't going to play coy and hide what they're drawing from the witness, so the witness can offer corrections as the picture develops--as long as you can compare a person in absentia to a person in view, you'll have something to work with, even if it's just a reference point of what the person is not. The more those differences are contrasting rather than just outright different, the easier and more successful I'd expect the endeavor to be.
    Most of time, when people ask why something terrible happened, they don't realize they are looking for someone to blame.

    --Meditations on Uncertainty Vol ξ(x)

  2. #22
    Now we know... Asteroids Champion ACow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    Naw, it's real. Typically happens pretty quickly unless I'm in a daydream. The biggest problem is all the stimuli around you. If you went to a nice, bland environment with few distractions and imagined talking to someone you knew well, I'd be surprised if you didn't visualize them in some form. Once that happens take a moment to focus on a detail of their appearance.

    It might help to be an avid fiction reader, as we frequently create detailed images in our heads of people we've never even met. As a writer, I'm also accustomed to figuring out how to describe a person in detail from imagination as well, so I might have a leg up on that than some from that practice.

    Another thing that helps is that they aren't working just from what the person says. A sketch artist isn't going to play coy and hide what they're drawing from the witness, so the witness can offer corrections as the picture develops--as long as you can compare a person in absentia to a person in view, you'll have something to work with, even if it's just a reference point of what the person is not. The more those differences are contrasting rather than just outright different, the easier and more successful I'd expect the endeavor to be.
    I can "visualise" many a thing :P When I read (and I borderline did nothing BUT read for 20 years growing up), i get the "internal movie/virtual reality effect" where the world becomes real and i think its fair to say I have "impressional archetypes" of the characters, but I cannot honestly say facial features ever play a part in my representation.

    When I dream, these days most of it is in places and realities that do not exist. There are sometimes people in my dreams: some of them known, some of them unknown.

    I think, if i learnt to paint well, I could paint images of the places and scenes in my dreams. If i had a reference picture, I think i could easily paint or describe to an artist any representation of that person. I could almost say i have an audio recording of my mothers voice in my head (though god knows how i'd communicate that).

    I think its an open question whether I could ever paint the people I see/meet in dreams...or more dramatically even some of my past friends. I am conscious of characters having had faces in the dream, but I cannot "see" or recall them afterwards.

    When I remember people in real life, i can remember different faces with varying levels of clarity. But in general, my mind places more importance on other things about them: a feeling of stature, an internal representation of the way they move, their shape, the feelings they express and evoke, their voice, how each part of them relates to other parts. Paradoxically, everyone is the same height in my memories: or more accurately still, "heightless". If i want to give them height, i have to measure them relative to scenes/known objects with that property.

    There's a good chance some of this is just lack of practice. But then there's two issues there too:

    1) I'm not sure what other people are doing cognitively when they're trying to do it: I'm concerned I would just be cheating. Like saying "Oh, i can remember faces now" when actually I'd just learn to represent each face internally with about 100 triangles/polygons and their relationship to each other, or "distance/combination" of various pre-rendered archetypes.
    2) I'm curious whether this is a bandwidth/throughput/relative thing: that I'm loosing out on a visual signal/storage/retrieval and picking up on other bands I deem of relative importance. Or do i do that specifically BECAUSE I'm loosing out on visual signal/storage/retrieval. Or am I not doing anything and am just completely normal.

    For instance, I know I'm scarily bad at "tying unique symbols to particular instances": be it names or places or dates. But this I'm convinced is a purely learned behaviour (or at least one i could unlearn with some work), because my everyday life for the past decade or two has been doing nothing but working in contexts where the abstract label is more important than the concrete instance, and my memory, when i actually use it ,is nothing special but probably slightly above average.

    But facial representations: i dunno...

  3. #23
    Meae Musae Servus Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ACow View Post
    But facial representations: i dunno...
    Might be an even more interesting "problem". You are able to recognize people. If you are able to recognize someone by their face in a photograph--and not because you recognize the photograph or the event the photo was depicting--then we can be certain you have stored a pattern of their face in memory. If you can do this from multiple angles, it's even more certain, because it's unlikely those intangible qualities you remember as the matrix of "them" is visible. Unless your some sort of hardcore phrenologist--but I'm disinclined to believe you are. There's probably some other psychic abilities that, if they exist, would still be so unlikely we could safely ignore them until we were out of other options. And even then. Enh.

    Therefore, what you have needn't be a throughput issue at all. You might just be missing the ability to make a conscious retrieval. But if you can recognize people's faces from previously unknown photos, then the pattern for faces is somewhere in there.
    Most of time, when people ask why something terrible happened, they don't realize they are looking for someone to blame.

    --Meditations on Uncertainty Vol ξ(x)

  4. #24
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    i think i experience something like this a lot (a lot a lot), the more sleep-deprived and stressed out i am especially.

    i guess i hit the wall, or feel myself putting up a wall, during moments of information overload. the response makes sense; there's simply a limit to how much your brain can process at a given time. working through those complex problems takes a lot out of you, but it's good practice to confront those problems occasionally to exercise the muscle that is your brain, at a pace and setting you can comfortably bounce back from.
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  5. #25
    Faster. Than. Ever. Sloth's Avatar
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    I've had the experience of my brain improving its ability to visualize over the last few years. So I guess you could say I've raised my ceiling a little bit.

    I think with enough practice you really do get better at certain things. I have to visualize space to an absurd level of detail for work, and I'd be screwed if I couldn't. I think I started off with some above average ability to do it, but over the years I've really improved my ability. Even my dreams are a lot more vivid than they used to be (and they were fairly vivid to begin with).

  6. #26
    No Thank You Blorg's Avatar
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    I'm trying to study history these days and what I would give to be able to remember. For example, Roman history is impossibly difficult to grasp. They all have similar names and I've already forgotten which ones are the murderers and which ones are the saviors. There's Sulla and Marcus Aurelius and all kinds of Augustuses and Caesars and a million other characters. Sometimes they chop the feet and hands off thinkers. and other times they do peaceful things like invent new currency systems. Somehow I'm supposed to keep track of it all as if I'm google.

    Some people just absorb information but it takes me so much work to internalize the most basic facts. I'm good at reading - unless there's a ton of new and undefined vocabulary I won't experience any block there. But that's pretty useless since 90% of what I read evaporates before I can put it to any use.

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