Friday, April 25, 2014

My experiencing self and remembering self don't talk


My latest binge watching craze on Netflix has been the TED videos.  And no, these are not videos of my brother Ted. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. And the videos are a series of experts on various topics condensing years of study into a 20-minute presentation.

The beauty of the TED videos is that you can binge watch television and delude yourself that you are at least expanding your mind. And I wouldn't be surprised if there were a TED video on that very topic.



My favorite TED video so far was one by psychologist Daniel Kahneman about the Riddle of Experience vs. Memory. He is a noble prize winner noted for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, behavioral economics and hedonic psychology, none of which I know anything about.

Anyway, Kahneman posits that there are two sides to every person, the experiencing self and the remembering self. The experiencing self is the self who is always in the "now." The remembering self is the self who is essentially living in the "then." You can think of the experiencing self as always being in real time and the remembering self is always living in the Cliff Note version of the cumulative experience of the experiencing self.

At least that's what my remembering self recalls of my experiencing self watching that particular TED video. The interesting thing about the theory is that the remembering self is the one who gets to make all the decisions based on the experiencing self's experiences. But the experiencing self just flits from moment to moment apparently oblivious of a past or a future.

The catch is that the remembering self doesn't remember each moment, just the hazy highlights and those are either enhanced or diminished by how sharp the remembering self is on any given day. So I imagine reality becomes a relative thing in the translation.

I picture the experiencing self as kind of a border collie nipping along life and easily getting distracted by squirrels. And the remembering self is pulling on the leash, shaking its head and trying to get the experiencing self to focus.

The remembering self is the nostalgic one, wistfully remembering the good old days or demonizing 4th grade teachers named Mrs. Gussie who resembled the Wicked Witch of the West. Or the sadist PE teacher Mr. Ackley who made it run forever while coughing up a lung. Or the asshole driver instructor Mr. Young who mispronounced your name and gave you a D in driving.

My remembering self remembers most slights in my life pretty darned well. But the older I get, I begin to doubt how accurate the remembering self actually is. Also, the more crap the experiencing self dumps on the conveyor belt for the remembering self to sort through, the more good stuff goes by and ends up in the rubbish bin.



So that's just about all I have to say about that. Maybe I should have my own TED video. Or would it be a TIM video?

1 comment:

Alex Seaford said...

The beauty of getting older, and having been through chemo, is that any memories that are rose tinted or hazy I can put down to 'age' or 'residue chemo brain' win win! I like the way I remember things :)