Remembering Without Knowing It

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Ever notice when you walk into a room that you know something has changed and it takes a moment to realize what's missing?  Your eyes may know the answer before you do, as simple memory games have shown that your eyes focus on the correct answer before you are able to identify it. 

By observing the hippocampus part of the brain, which is responsible for traditional memories, neuroscientists Deborah Hannula and Charan Ranganath noted that persons giving incorrect answers still had increased activity when their eyes observed the correct answer.  The prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is responsible for decision making, mirrored the behavior of the hippocampus.

So your hippocampus may have made the connection that the napkin holder is missing, but your PFC must get involved for you to realize it. "The idea is that recollection may be a two-stage process," Hannula says. "First you have retrieval of the memory, and then you have a conscious appreciation of what's been retrieved."

The study provides strong support for the idea that the hippocampus can process relational memories without a person being aware of it, says Boston University neuroscientist Howard Eichenbaum.

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Tetris stimulates the hippocampus. I am really good at remembering where I've put things, even when the house is a mess. I attribute this to my many many many hours of playing tetris. :D
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Something similar happens when I see a gruesome or disturbing picture. I feel the "Yikes!" shock before I can articulate what I'm looking at.
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I notice that when I return to a book and try to find my place on a page I've been reading, if I just stop thinking my eyes will fall right on the spot I left off. When I think and search sometimes I go past the spot multiple times. Seems my eyes know better than my brain.
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