reading a book

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Thu 21 Apr 2005 - 14:21:19 GMT

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    In his 1958 paper "Cerebral organization and behavior" here's an interesting quote from Karl Lashley to ruminate upon, given the tension that exists between notions of replication, transformation and re-creation.

    Lashley writes (found in Orbach, p 371):

    [KL] "We remember the content of a book, not in the author's words but in meanings which fit into previous knowledge of the subject. During the reading the meanings are not necessarily formulated clearly in verbal or other thought forms, but they may be so formulated later. That is, associations may be formed during reading with traces in the system which are not activated above tonic levels during learning."

    Would this passage support replication, transformation or recreation? Words are supposedly "digital" and we'd thus assume a replication based on transmission of language content, yet Lashley's saying we don't recall the author's words but meanings. Previous knowledge may influence how what we read fits into our mnemic trace system (or engram store). If we're not actually replicating the author's words in our knowledge base, maybe we are transforming them based on our personal history or we recreate them later? I'll need to digest Sperber and Bloch for more on these tangents.

    When I'm reading Lashley my knowledge base is influencing the meanings I attribute to his concepts. When he talks of reduplication of engrams, my knowledge of replicator theory and memetics is biasing me towards an interpretation of his concept of reduplication into terms of internally replicated engrams that are distributed through the cortex and as equivalent mental representations they may convey some redundancy of memory that's impervious to ablation or minor insult. I'm also thinking in terms of how unequal crossing over during meiosis may result in gene duplication and Susumu Ohno's theory of duplication and divergence. If we have redundancy in memory traces, maybe we can mutate and recombine some, while others remain faithful to the original?

    I'm also drawing upon my knowledge of Semon's mneme theory and wondering why (as I think Daniel Schacter has pointed out) Lashley fails to acknowledge him.

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