19 September 2013

#fridayflash: the evidence

Note for 20 September 2013. Patient ID CW-141-5359, name Cassandra Alicia Webb. Barry, a reminder that "Alicia" is the variant spelled as "Alice" except with "ia" at the end instead of "e", and "Webb" has two "b"s, not one.

Test results:
This is Day 3 of testing, and the general intent of today's tests was to attempt to confuse the subject and check on long-term memory. We started with a series of short-term memory tests which the subject had already performed on Day 1, but with different content.

Test 1a: subject was provided orally with a list of the five most recent Australian prime ministers. There was a fifteen-minute pause, during which we discussed the most recent American League East baseball games in general and the performance this season of the Toronto Blue Jays in particular. Not only did the subject mention several box scores during the pause conversation — Barry, make a note to check the source recording and see if all of her numbers were right, please — but she was able to recite all of the names of the prime ministers correctly, in the reverse order from how they were provided. She also noted that we started the sessions with the same test using Canadian prime ministers, and asked if we were testing her knowledge of politics. This is another instance where the subject has exhibited mild belligerence and/or frustration with the testing.

Tests 1b and 1c: number and shape memorisation. Same numbers and shapes as last time, but in a different order from the tests conducted on Day 1. Again the subject scored 100% on recall and supplied the responses from the Day 1 versions herself after providing the Day 3 answers.

General observations: the subject recites the responses rapidly and in a slightly angry tone, although otherwise she is generally polite and easygoing. Her demeanour changes noticeably when we have the pause conversations. I've tried to react neutrally to these shifting moods, but she spontaneously apologised for her behaviour and said she finds the tests too easy. Since she knows she's got 100% on everything thus far, I acknowledged that she's never had any difficulties with them.

After the first three tests were administered, we took a coffee break. The subject noted that I put the milk in my coffee first today. She said that since the beginning of the sessions I've always put the sugar in first. I admit I can't remember either way. Barry, if the cameras were left running please take a look and see if we can find any evidence.

Second half of the session: I brought Cassandra to the lounge so that we would be in a more informal environment, and explained to her that the rest of the day would be spent learning about her memory ability from a subjective point of view — that is, how she believes she is perceived, and what she believes are the differences between how she perceives the world around her and how other people do. She gave several examples of when she noticed that a shared experience changed for the people involved as it was discussed, whereas with her particular condition it does not. One typical statement, quoting from my notes: "Ironically, I get told I'm wrong a lot. But as you can see from the tests, I don't seem to forget anything. Sometimes I wish I could shift details the way that other people do." End of quote. Barry, the time for that was about 2:30, give or take five minutes. Please provide the exact quote from the audio in the notes. Thank you.

During the discussion I asked the subject to repeat for me what I had said to her when we were first introduced last week, and she recited what seemed to be a word-for-word repetition of my explanation. Barry, once again, please check the recordings and verify. There's a lot of verification work with this one. Remember it's the final session.

I introduced some deliberate variations on details as we reviewed the different tests and what had happened on each day, and the subject corrected me every time. Barry, I'll do the verifications on these because you already have a lot of recordings to get through and I was working from my notes. Please enter a comment that I ensured that at no time could the subject see my notes. The video record will be evidence of that.

Conclusions: If all of the verifications show a match, then the recommendation will be that the charge of perjury be withdrawn. If we do find any discrepancies, they may indicate the subject is either lying or has made a mistake, but in light of the formal test results we'll have to review our own notes very carefully to ensure we weren't the ones who made the mistake. Per standard procedures, please don't send anything to the prosecutor's office until I've had a chance to review all documentation.

Final notes: If, based on the evaluations, the recommendation is to withdraw the perjury charge, the subject will most likely be out of a job. Barry, please prepare a remuneration application and a letter of proposal for further research with Ms. — that's Ms., not Miss, she stated that explicitly on her release form — Webb. Examples of hyperthymestic syndrome are few and far between, and all indicators are that she has it.

End notes. If I remember anything else to be documented, I'll send a separate file. See you at the meeting.


  1. Now I wonder how hard it must be to be hyperthymestic - so much information about the past going around one's head.

    This was a fascinating read, I felt like I was really reading a report document. ^_^

    No flash from me this week but I did the finished artwork for Dorothy - a study in sepia - post on my blog if you're interested. Would be happy to hear what you think. ^_^

    1. I love sepia! Yes, I'll be catching up on all the blogs either tonight or tomorrow morning.

  2. Makes me happy to have CRS (Can't Remember S***) sometimes. Then again, I can recall certain bits of trivia in detail. Memory is such a weird thing.

    Mason shows an interesting ability to remember minor events that happened months ago. I hope he doesn't end up like Ms. Webb. Interesting that all these tests are to dismiss a perjury charge... and that the dismissal will get her fired.

    Like Helen, I don't have a flash up. It's half-written, but it's my superhero world & I don't want to step on Tony's toes this week. :) But my serial is up....

    1. Supposedly memory ability starts to diminish in one's early 20s -- that is, when you're a full adult and no longer a junior member of society. My nieces are about Mason's age, and what I find interesting is what they bother to remember our forget. Niece the Younger is two and knows I made her panda bear boot cuffs last Christmas -- which she screamed at and refuses to wear. Go figure.

  3. Very true to life, scarily so. I used to do this. Word-for-word perfect recall of conversations, movie dialogue, actions, events. Was terribly frustrating when I'd remind people exactly what they said and when they'd said it, only to be shut down with, "That's not what I said, I never said that, that's not how that scene went".

    Fortunately for my interactions with the people around me, that ability (curse?) faded in my thirties. Makes me wonder what my memory will be like in coming years.

    Thanks for the consideration, Larry! I say the more superheroes, the better. ;-)

    1. I used to have it too -- working too much/chronic lack of sleep wrecked it in my 20s. What I find weird is that I can still quote things I read in high school -- but not last week.

    2. I used to have it as well, and it faded in my late twenties. I sometimes still think my recall is perfect, and it's a point of contention with my husband. It used to be perfect! How does he know his perception is the right one? He keeps saying we should put video cameras in our living room so we can go back and see whose memory was right when we argue, so your piece hit home for me. Frighteningly so. (It'll never happen, but it's scary to think about a world where it could.)

  4. I figured it was going to a disturbing place, but Test 1a made me chuckle with all the subjects. A good grounding of characters before take-off.

  5. I'm not sure why, but this story made me think of the film "Minority report" Possibly different avenues of gaining information?

    I do like this line in particular too...

    "Ironically, I get told I'm wrong a lot. But as you can see from the tests, I don't seem to forget anything. Sometimes I wish I could shift details the way that other people do."

  6. I love the way you write these pieces. They're always scarily plausible.

  7. Nice work. A friend of mine likes to say that his wife has a terrible memory -- she never forgets anything.

  8. Nice idea. I think perfect memory is only desirable when in similar company. (I hasten to add I don't have perfect memory!)


Comments are very welcome.

Spam will be deleted without mercy.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.