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Can a human being remember pain ?

tong po tp at gad.zooks.emy
Wed Oct 14 04:54:01 EST 1998

darwin20 at my-dejanews.com wrote:

> Hello,  A friend and I have been debating about whether or not you can
> remember the sensation of pain. My friend says that you can remember
> the
> circumstances that cause pain but not the actual sensation. I think
> that you
> can; if you can remember a taste or a smell, why not pain ? Any
> educated
> answer would be appreciated.  Thank you,  Damon Collingsworth

    I remember in one of Dan Dennett's books, he describes a thought
experiment where he asks you to try to imagine (as vividly as you can)
someone kicking you in the shin, as hard as they can, with a steel-toed
boot.  Although he mentioned that some people find this experiment
unpleasant, the main point of it is that you don't experience anything
like the actual event, no matter how hard you try (at least I don't -
but I've always considered myself to have relatively poor "imagery"
abilities - for ex. I have a hard time coming up with a detailed mental
image of even very familiar people and places).  So basically, I would
say that one can remember pain in much the same way as one can remember
other sensory experiences - that is, you can describe the context, the
events that happened, the affective component ("it hurt like hell, i was
in anguish and frightened and pissed off..."), but you don't actually
re-create the sensory experience.

    On the other hand, "flashbulb" memories can occur, when a traumatic
event results in a much more vivid, detailed memory than "normal"
(familiar examples - what were you doing when you heard about the JFK
assassination, or the Challenger exlplosion, etc).  Painful experiences
seem like good candidates to trigger this type of memory encoding.

Anyway, there's my 2 pesos on the subject....

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