Saturday, December 08, 2007

Chimps remember better than us

Chimpanzees seem to have better memory than us. Mr. Ayumu, a 5-year-old Chimpanzee, can memorize the position of nine Arabic numerals in ascending order represented at computer screen (see the photo of Mr. Ayumy at the blog of Lubos). Something impossible for us. It is of course important to make clear what kind of memory one is testing in these experiments. Also so called idiot savants (sometimes people who are autistic or have severe damage in some brain areas involved with higher cognition) are able to perform memory feats. The essential point is that sensory memory rather than cognitive memory based on abstraction and concepts seems to be in question. In jungle precise sensory memories are a blessing. A severe problem with sensory memories is that you do not know when the event happened and you might be even unable to tell whether the memory mental image correspond to something happening just now.

Conceptual memory in turn saves huge number of bits as compared to direct sensory memory and has probably been one of the reasons for the rapid evolution of human culture. I remember a nice book of Willian Golding about Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens. The basic difference between these two species was supposed to be that Neanderthals had only sensory memories and because they were also unable to cheat, they were therefore doomed to lose the fight for survival.

The chimp making memory recall would literally see the numerals on the mental computer screen rather than remembering conceptually. TGD inspired theory of consciousness explains sensory memories in terms of direct fusion and sharing of sensory mental images associated with recent brain and brain of the geometric past. Sharing involves time like entanglement. Both time-like entanglement and the possibility of subsystems to entangle although systems remain un-entangled are purely TGD based notions and reflect the new view about space-time and quantum theory involving the notion of measurement resolution as a fundamental concept (see this).


At 10:51 AM, Blogger Kea said...

I think the interaction of different kinds of memory must be quite complex. An autistic family member, when he was only a toddler, would remember times and locations for enormous numbers of day-to-day events, a feat that isn't just using sensory memory. Eg., he would say that such-and-such a road accident occured on this intersection back on September the 9th at 3pm.

At 3:03 PM, Blogger CarlBrannen said...

A wonderful example of the difference in how one interprets vision occurs when you have children draw scenes. They represent things not as they "appear", but instead as "what they are". So humans become stick figures rather than shading and shapes.

When you learn art, you have to peel back this learning and return to a sort of autistic state where you see things according to how they appear instead of what they are. It is quite a bit of an awakening, if you've been in science all your life.

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

One example of sensory memory feat is seeing city from height of kilometers and drawing later the scene in all possible detail. Or seing some building in Rome, and later being able to tell many stores, how many windows,..etc. Not possible if one conceptualizes.

It would be interesting to know whether children see in this manner before some age.


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