Saturday, September 7, 2013

Information retention & processing-classic Neurodivergence

So something I've caught a lot of crap about lately is that I don't retain everything I perceive. I have a phenomenal memory (as many of us do), but if something is presented in a way that's not very good for me, I don't move all of it from short term to long term memory. That's just the way it is.

However, what the people taking this to mean I cannot learn are not understanding is that I perceive far more than they do. I probably don't catch everything, but not much goes unnoticed. As I sit here now I am aware of the smoothie being made 25 feet away (it has bananas and berries), I am aware of 5 different conversations about 5 different things, I feel and hear the lights, including the one about to die 10 feet to my right, the butt groove in the chair I am sitting in, the crookedness of the table directly in front of me, the grinding of the coffee across the big open space, the smell of the daily special (I think it has sausage). When I go to the hospital or doctor I can remember the names of the nurses because they wear name tags. I notice what hand people prefer.

In other words, remembering even half of what I take in would be remembering more than many people indicate noticing at all. If I remembered absolutely everything I'd have more conflicting information than I can deal with-that threshold is already awfully close. Discarding some of those conflicting details is how I have cognitive capacity to learn new things rather than spending all my time justifying 2 opposite ideas as compatible.

So yeah. I learn just fine, thank you.


  1. I find my success in learning and retaining information correlates with my interest in the subject. So for example I can quote chapter and verse from some technical standards documents but couldn't tell you for certain whether I washed my hair yesterday.

    What you write about being "aware of 5 different conversations" feels like a super power to me. You get even 2 people talking at once and I can't focus on either. More than that and all I can hear is a babble with the occasional isolated word.

    Ofttimes I find that noticing so many details of my surroundings is a severe distraction - the hum of the A/C, the faint flicker of the fluorescent lighting, the fans in the computers, people's voices, the vibrations in the floor as they walk by... far from trying to notice and remember all that I do my best to focus and shut it all out.