Legion Theory explains


Memory is a curious and complicated thing. James Tulsky, for example, writes the following about amnesic patients completing a puzzle

an amnesic patient may be taught to solve the Tower of Hanoi puzzle, which involves moving five rings of different sizes between three pegs without ever placing a larger ring on top of a smaller one. After learning the task, these patients will repeatedly solve the puzzle perfectly but deny ever having seen it before. [1]

Memory is also a complicated thing in Legion Theory. From Legion Theory it is immediately obvious that there are at least three types of memory, or three quite different ways in which information may be stored in the brain. The first type of memory, are the memories of the individual selves. The second type of memory would represent the rules of construction of the realm primus. And the third, would be the rules of construction of mindscapes.

Implicit and explicit memory

The description above by Tulsky of amnesic patients reveals two different types of memory – the memory the patient has of the experiences they had when they learnt how to complete the Tower of Hanoi puzzle, and the memory they acquire that allows them to successfully complete the puzzle. Given patients, like the amnesic patients described by Tulsky can lose one, and not the other, psychologists have long described them to be different types of memory which they call, respectively, explicit memory and implicit memory [2].

Explicit memory is both something we know, and also something that we know that we know. For Tulsky’s amnesic patients explicit memory would correspond to a memory of the events surrounding the training sessions they went through to learn the Tower of Hanoi puzzle. Such things as; where they were, who taught them, how long it took them to learn the puzzle, etc. These amnesic patients have deficits in their explicit memory.

Whereas, implicit memory is something we know, but also not something we know that we know. In this example, it would be the rules that they learnt to play with the puzzle and to correctly solve it. These patients have intact, or relatively intact, implicit memory.

Explicit memory corresponds to the memories held by the selves. The deficits these amnesic patients have is in the neural machinery underlying the selves and the corporate self. Implicit memory, on the other hand, represents storage of information in quite a different system. These memories represent rules that have been stored within the neural machinery of the realm primus.

A study of implicit and explicit memory of DID patients produced results consistent with this interpretation from Legion Theory. The researchers presented a memory task to one alter, and tested the memory of another alter. The results showed a decrease in explicit memory between alters (as the selves had changed), but no change in implicit memory between alters (as the realm primus was constant across learning and testing) [3].

Simonides method of loci

In many parts of the world, an expectation of universal taxation preceded an expectation of universal literacy by many centuries. Not being able to put your financial records neatly down into a set of books was not generally accepted as a reason not to be levied taxes by a king. Each year merchants would have to appear before the tax collector and provide a verbal (auditory) history of their transactions throughout the previous year - hence the name “audit”.

One method to aid in this task is attributed to Simonides, and is generally referred to as “the method of loci” [4]. The method of loci consists of first making an internal map, such as that of an imaginary building, or a path running through an area with landmarks. Each thing which is to be remembered is assigned an image and placed at a particular spot within this mental map. For example, were the mental map to be a house, an object representing each thing to be remembered might be placed in a different room. Later, to recall all of the things you need to remember you simply mentally walk around the house, open each door, and see the image of what needs to be remembered.

The method of loci simply represents the production of a mindscape, in this case the mental image of the house, its rooms, and the things to be remembered within each room. To access the information later, a self undertakes an excursion and ‘enters’ the mindscape (the house), moves around the mindscape and observes the objects stored within it.

From our perspective, the reason that this technique works and is so useful is (after all people have used this same technique for thousands of years) is that it is using an additional type of memory which relies on different types of mental machinery (the machinery producing mindscapes) to the memory which would be used when one or more selves might attempt to remember the list.

Executive self recall: State dependent, context dependent, and mood dependent memory

Legion Theory proposes that our corporate self is composed of several selves. One of the selves will have executive, or dominant, control at any point in time – with other selves vicariously experiencing events (or deciding not to attend to events). Legion Theory also propose that the individual selves each posses their own memories.

Two things follow directly from this. First, the particular self which is in executive control of the body when something is learnt should have the best memory of the events which occurred at that time. And second, we know from selves who are alters that different selves have different dispositions and interests and will perform different functions. So we would expect that at different times, under the same circumstances (having an argument, looking after children, studying etc.), it is likely that the same self will usually have executive control.

In the psychological literature we find that scuba divers who memorized lists of words either under water or on land recall the words better when they were tested in the environment in which they learnt them. Psychologists refer to this as “context dependent memory” [5].

Even more interesting is the fact that material learnt under the influence of alcohol or marijuana is better remembered when the person is again intoxicated with the same drug than when he is sober. Psychologists call this “state dependent memory” [6].

Psychologists have also found that when a person is angry with someone, for example their partner, a flood of memories will appear into their consciousness. These memories will comprise a multitude of the slights they perceive themselves to have received at the hands of their partner. Similarly, when people are depressed they selectively recall depressing memories, and also memories of events which took place in earlier periods of depression. Psychologists call this “mood dependent memory” [7].

From Legion Theory it logically follows that our memory of events in a particular situation (e.g. when we are at work), or when we are in a particular emotional state (e.g. angry), would be better when we are again in that particular situation or that particular emotional state. This is because the same self would have executive control at the time of recall as had executive control at the time the events happened. Consequently we would describe all of these events – “context dependent memory”, “state dependent memory”, “mood dependent memory”, etc. as representing a single phenomenon. That is the self with executive control when learning takes place has superior recall when the memory is retrieved, and we refer to this phenomenon as executive self recall.

  1. Tulsky, 1993
  2. Schacter, 1987
  3. Elzinga, et al., 2003
  4. Cicero, circa 50 B.C.E.
  5. Godden & Baddely, 1975
  6. Goodwin, Powell, & Bremer, 1968
  7. Gray, 1991

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References and further readings

Cicero, M. T. (circa 50 B.C.E.). De Oratore.

Elzinga, B. M., Phaf, R. H., Ardon, A. M., & van Dyck, R. (2003) Directed forgetting between, but not within, dissociative personality states. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 112(2), 237-243.

Godden D., & Baddely A. D. (1975). Context-dependent memory in two natural environments. British Journal of Pschology, 71, 99-104.

Goodwin D. W., Powell B., & Bremer D. (1968) Alcohol and recall: State dependent effects in man. Science, 163, 1358-60.

Gray P. (1991). Psychology. New York: Worth.

Schacter, D. L. (1987). Implicit memory: History and current status. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 13, 501-518.

Tulsky, J. A. (1993). Amnesia in medical practice. The Western Journal of Medicine, 159(4), 465-474.





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