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The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book about a Vast Memory
by Aleksandr R. Luria
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A neat book which shows various abilities of mind from various angles and make a complete assessment which is very rare in psychology books. ( )
An engrossing and excellent account of a man with a phenomenal memory. Referred to throughout the book as S., Luria recounts his astonishment at this man and his talents. Of course, S. has problems that bother him only, namely forgetting, but he does pretty well for all that.
Luria is introduced to S. in the 1920s and follows him for around 17 years or so. There seemed to be no limitations to his memory capacity, so Luria became bored with that sort of thing, and began asking how he did these things, and what his methods were.
S., whose name is never disclosed, was a synesthete. He had a marvelous visual memory and saw everything in images. Though this may be seen as a good thing in some cases, S. did not have a filter to determine what was important and relevant. He remembered everything that he was told. S. also did not have any way to visualize vague things like ideas and concepts. Words suggested images and these got him lost in such things as poetry. So initially he would take walks and use the memory palace method in his mind. Once he became a mnemonist, he needed a better way to recall things, so he started to make a visual shorthand.
In any case, this book was a quick read and quite enjoyable.
It's always embarrassing when I'm the one who "doesn't get it." I admire and actually cherish Luria's considerable contributions to the field of psychology, but as a read, I just couldn't get into this. Of course, I finished it, but aside from moments of interest when Luria described the way a mind saturated with synesthesia works, I found it rather dull. A case study that lacked the interest of, say, and Oliver Sacks case study. And of course Sacks stands on Luria's shoulders; yet I simply couldn't get engaged in the book, despite my admiration for the author and his contributions.
The part of this book that most surprised me is that "S", The Mnemonist, did not have a system for his memory. "S" was a person who had a very vivid imagination which was the source of his memory.
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Wikipedia in English (2)
This study explores the inner world of a rare human phenomenon--a man who was endowed with virtually limitless powers of memory. From his intimate knowledge of S., the mnemonist, gained from conversations and testing over a period of almost thirty years, A. R. Luria is able to reveal in rich detail not only the obvious strengths of S.'s astonishing memory but also his surprising weaknesses: his crippling inability to forget, his pattern of reacting passively to life, and his uniquely handicapped personality.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)616.858Technology and Application of Knowledge Medicine and health Diseases Diseases of nervous system and mental disorders Miscellaneous Personality, sexual, gender-identity, impulse-control, factitious, developmental, learning disorders; violent behavior; mental retardation
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