Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Division of Labour

My earliest posts saw me romanticising about HGs navigating over wild terrain.  I'd learned to memorise a shuffled pack of cards (still an awesome trick, but one I've not practised for a while), using the 'Journey' method courtesy of Dominic O'Brien where each card position, 1-52, is assigned a position along a familiar route.  The two seemed to be related.

What got me was how easy this trick is - and why did it work so well when done under the framework of a journey?  Why was this geographic angle superior to a method based upon the senses?  It is known that extreme images/scenarios help memory recall as do smells and music, but a journey as outlined above, is by far the most practical approach.

In The Red Queen, Matt Ridley looks at the general differences between men and women when it comes to visuo-spatial tasks.  Putting aside the idea that men have generally superior visuo-spatial skills due to polygamy (a phenomena seen in some mice, so not without precedent), the work of Silverman and Eals suggest that our HG past has left indelible imprints upon the modern self due to a division of labour.  Whereas men looked for food sources that were 'mobile, distant and unpredictable', women foraged closer to home,
  • ...[Silverman and Eals] asked themselves: what special spatial skills would women gatherers need that men would not?  One thing they predicted was that women would need to notice things more- to spot roots, mushrooms, berries, plants - and would need to remember landmarks so as to know where to look.  So Silverman and Eals did a series of experiments that required students to memorise a picture full of objects and then recall them later, or to sit in a room for three minutes, and then recall what objects were where in the room (the students were told they were merely being asked to wait in the room until a different experiment was ready).  On every measure of object memory and location memory, the women students did sixty to seventy per cent better than the men.
Given the evolutionary drivers that must have shaped these behaviours the obvious question is how deep do these differences run physiologically?  I wonder if women would benefit more from a broadly vegetarian diet (still excluding NAD), with some supplemental meat, and men the contrary?  This is just speculation mind.  personally I am still meat-centric with a side order of veg and some starch.  I dial the starch up and down as required and with an eye on season.  If I feel I've put some weight (particularly over summer) I assume that I am doing things right!


Anonymous said...

Just curious... Did you use substitutes for each one of the cards? Or just visualized the exact card in each of the 52 positions? Excellent blog!

Asclepius said...

Back in 2008 I said that I'd actaully write down my method (Mind Matters).

Three years later I guess I should come good on that promise!

To perform the trick you have to do some rote learning to start with.

Each card is personified with a character (usually a famous person), and an action. I also have a journey memorised which has 52 'key' points.

Starting off as the cards are turned over, I begin my 'journey'. The character for each card is placed in its respective position along the journey. So the first card might be the Queen of Clubs (Margaret Thatcher, swinging her handbag), and she would go in to position one on the journey. The second card might be King of Hearts (Elvis Presley singing in that white suit of his), who would go in position two, and so on....

The cool thing about it is that once you can recall the list forwards it is just as easy to recall it backwards.

People thing you are recalling a pack of cards, but you are not. In reality you are going for a walk and meeting famous people!