Memory, Emotional Stability, and Test Taking

1) How’s that for a title?

2) Sorry, it’s been a while since my last entry… real life… sigh

I got my last issue of Science News yesterday. I won’t be renewing my subscription.  My mom gets it and she always gives them to me.  There’s a new mag coming out… Science Illustrated.  It looks a little more in depth and I’m thinking they’ll have a swimsuit issue (check this out for why I hope so).

Anyway, on to the reason for the title.  The article was title Mind Control and the research in the article is being used to attempt to learn more about amnesia.  There seem to be issues with the experimental method.  Hypnotically telling people to not remember is poorly understood at best, but it’s a still a neat idea.

The part that really caught my eye though was a brief section on Memory Suppression.  According to the article, memory suppression is a health, normal process that allows us to function.  Instead of our memory flooding us with data every time we remember something, we suppress a lot of memory and only retrieve the valuable memory.  For example, I look at my son and see a red mark on his forehead, my brain doesn’t flood me with memories relating to his birth, and Christmas, and the time he laughed so hard he peed on me.  No, my memory specifically scans for things that happened recently that might have caused the red mark.

NOTE: From here on is pretty much my thinking on the matter.

My hypothesis is that there is a specific chemical mechanism in the brain that controls this.  There is also a specific gene that controls the chemical mechanism.  Here’s why I think that is so…

1) I have a problem.  I’m very intelligent.  I’m an excellent test taker (SAT, GRE, IQ tests, etc).  However, on a more emotional level, I am often crushed by unwanted memories, very often negative.  Seeing a bird on the side of the road can dredge up some painful memories of my first hunting experience and cause me some emotional stress.

2) I have many students that are just the opposite of me.  They are poor test takers and do not seem to learn from (what I would consider) significant events.  The girl who graduated with two children comes to mind.  It seems to be an inability to bring up memories that could potentially help.

3) To me there is a huge increase in students’ inability to remember, make correlations between events, and do well on tests.  This could easily be a selection issue for humans.  What people are going to have the most children, younger, the people without the ability to consider the ramifications of their actions.

There are several studies that show a criminal’s brain is significantly different than a ‘normal’ brain.   The part of their brain that does things like ethical considerations and consequences of actions, literally doesn’t work.  Could this be a similar phenomenon?
Yes, I know there are hundreds of other factors to consider.  Nevertheless there appears to be a slight correlation between ability to suppress memory and  (for lack of a better term) intelligence.  I know, intelligence is not the correct term here… I hope you understand what I mean though.

So that’s it, are people with better test taking abilities** (memory) also more emotionally strained because of how their memory works? Could there be a chemical link between the ability to recall and suppress memories?  Could I be just plain nuts?

I would really like to hear from some people with total recall and what happens to them during recollection.

** Yes, I do think that even IQ tests use a lot of memory, if only for calling up a strategy for finding a solution to the problem.


~ by OgreMkV on January 20, 2008.

10 Responses to “Memory, Emotional Stability, and Test Taking”

  1. Facinating, however, on genetics, we have to take into account that no matter what gene’s you have, your brain must be stimulated to develop. Considering the state of society today, it is no surprise that criminals lack that area of the brain, and some of your students as well. I’m not sure what is required for that area to develop, ethical teachings, situations, or a combination of both (deciding not to steal because mommy said so). Also, on the latest fields of research, I have been hearing things about genes changing IN the brain. So perhaps this nurture/nature conflict is self perpetuating, your genes determine your thinking determining genes/thinking etc. Who knows?

  2. I totally agree that there is a lot of nurture in brain development, however, I have a great deal of personal evidence that genetics plays a huge role in personality.

    Nurture however, cannot affect genetics. Once your genetics are in place from that first meeting of egg and sperm, your genetic code is fixed.

    I too have heard about gene expression changing and that may be what you are referring to. See this article for something weird that happened after a liver transplant.

    Obviously, there’s more going on here, than we though.

  3. Sorry, guess I read the article wrong. It would be nice to run some tests on this on a simpler, and faster reproducing animal. A group of mice would work nicely. I’m not sure what variables of mouse personality can be tested (Agressive v.s Passive) that couldn’t be explained by personal experience. Such as a runt being submissive due to his weaker structure. But if you know personality is genetic, than there must by something fundemental that genetics does to affect the structure and inner workings of the brain, perhaps scientists could follow the developement of a fetal brain, recording everything possible, then after factoring in personal experience, finding patterns in personaltiy in brain developement.

  4. From a completely un-scientific pov….I, too, am very intelligent. I test very well, based on my knowledge of how to take a test…. I am able to read a book once, and tell you where on a page something was written (upper right hand side, chapter 10, for example), yet I do not believe that I am more emotionally strained than any others. Yes, I can be brought to tears by a student (8th grader) telling me that she is pregnant, and “soooo happy” about it, but despite overwhelming emotional trauma, I am fairly happy and able to take life in stride. I don’t know how this is affected by my memory, if at all, but I enjoy your blog and wanted to add my two cents…..

  5. That might just indicate that you have become extremily effective in choosing which memories to contorl.

  6. Could be…..that’s both reassuring and scary at the same time….

  7. Can you tell me how… that’s why I wrote this. I am constantly bombarded by memories that are bad, painful, embarrassing or just stupid.

  8. I can’t find a great way to explain it myself…..when a 12 year old girl asked me to tkae her to PlannedParenthood yesterday, I managed not to cry, or expound on my own memories that have to do with some of the things I’ve experienced. Sure. I thought about them, but it wasn;t the time or the place. I think about things that have ahppened to me/stupid decisions made by me all the time, but I can’t let the past crap get in the way of where my life is now. I believe that we are shaped profoundly by our experiences, but that they do not have to dictate what we do now. I have made some sort of peace with my life, and am alwaus striving to move past it. I forget the first part atm, but one of my favorite quotes comes from Thoreau: “Live the life you have imagined.” I know I’m young (only 25), but I am in control of what happens in my life. I can now share humiliating/painful experiences because they enable me to live the life that I have imagined for myself………this has come out rather pedantic, and i dodn;t mean for it to…. Maybe it’s because I am a woman, lol. I made a choice 4 years ago, when I turned 21, to be happy and not let my previous crap get in the way of my future. Now I am teaching, I am married, and we are planning for a baby. I am a good daughter, when before I was an insolent shit, and I accept people for who they are. I really believe that it comes down to making a concious and conscientious effort to move past our pasts and accept things about ourselves that we may not like, but that shape who we are at the moment……..Not much of an answer, I know you’re familiar with as much philosophy as I am (probably more 🙂 ) , but this is how I manage and how I grow…….~brandy

  9. The human brian is wired to change its structure to fit its needs. If you were exposed to such information consistantly (Pain, sadness) and you needed to overcome it, your mind will attempt to find a route. You were lucky in that you seemed to take a positive one, you can manage your emotions, and not have to repress them. In other words, getting over it. It’s something that not everyone is good at. You indeed did make a choice to free yourself, which is the best thing you could have done, biology can only take us so far in life.

  10. Don’t push your feelings down, pick yourself up!!!

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