The other day Luann and I were thinking of a long-ago friend and realized we’d forgotten the name of that friend’s daughter. Decades ago she was a spunky blonde blue-eyed little girl; we could still see her in our minds’ eyes, but her name was gone.
“Don’t worry,” I said confidently, “it’ll come back to one us.”
Sure enough, a few days later, on a bike ride, the name popped into my head. I’m sure you’ve had the same experience. This time around it prompted me to think about how that happens.
To me it feels like starting up a background search process that runs for however long it takes, then notifies me when the answer is ready. I know the brain isn’t a computer, and I know this kind of model is suspect, so I wonder what’s really going on.
– Why was I was so sure the name would surface?
– Does a retrieval effort kick off neurochemical change that elaborates over time?
– Before computers, what model did people use to explain this phenomenon?
So far I’ve only got one answer. That spunky little girl was Diana.