There are times when we go out of the house and ask ourselves: “Did I turn off the cooker?” or “Did I lock the door?” We go back to see if we performed these actions that we suspect we did not, only to usually find that we did. What are the reasons for and mechanism behind this behavior?
The moment of turning off the cooker is a recollection. When we ask ourselves the question, “Did I turn off the cooker?” we ask our memory to play that moment by selecting it among recorded recollections. Our brain scans for the recollection coded as “turning off the cooker” inside the relevant catalogue. However, the brain finds so many results that it is not sure which one to play. This is because we did the same thing in the same way yesterday and the day before that at around the same time. Memory failure leads to anxiety and a lack of trust. The way out of this situation is to help our memory choose the requested recollection among others.
Our memory and recollections can be compared to a database and record lines, respectively. We assign a unique key to each record in order to easily access to a record in the database of a computer. If we assign a key to our recollection of “turning off the cooker”, we call it from our memory by the use of that key, so our memory gives us only one recollection rather than multiple ones. In order to do that, the recollection of turning off the cooker must be associated with another event. For instance, you snap your finger as you turn off the cooker. Then, when you leave the house and remember the cooker, you request your memory to play the recollection of “turning off the cooker as you snap your finger.” As this recollection stands out among others in the memory, it appears right before your eyes smoothly. If you keep using the same key as you turn off the cooker every day, however, your memory will be unable to find the correct, or requested, recollection, which is why you may need to change the key. But, this will entail a new key for every repeated behavior. I can hear you say “The cake’s not worth the candle.” And, unfortunately, there is no practical solution for that.
For a century now, the essence of human lifestyle has been changing dramatically. Particularly after the Industrial Revolution, working people gradually became robots repeating the same tasks every single day. Get up in the morning, get out of the house, get in the car, and go to work. Have lunch at noon. Leave work in the evening, get in the car, go back to the house, have dinner, and hit the bed. In my opinion, we are aquarium fish separated from our natural habitat. An aquarium fish lives peacefully at 26 degrees Celsius because the lake where its ancestors once roamed had the same temperature, and its metabolism has adapted to it. If the temperature of the aquarium is reduced to 22 degrees Celsius, the stress level of the fish will increase first. If no precautions are taken, each will get sick, the weakest one being the first. Some may throw themselves out of the aquarium and die.
Our current lifestyle is one that the genes that have been passed on to us from our ancestors for thousands of years are not accustomed to. I am talking about the ambition for more money to be able to consume more and carrying what we have consumed as medals around our neck. As this lifestyle persistently continues, it is possible that we have mental problems. If such problems reach the point where they negatively impact our lives, we see a psychiatrist, who will probably prescribe an antidepressant as a practical solution. Antidepressants are drugs developed for people to put up with lifestyles that are alien to their natural habitat. Psychiatrists are actually aware of the current despair and helplessness of human beings, but what would you expect them to say? Would you want them to say “We are all hopeless.” or “What’s wrong is not you, but the world.”? They cannot say that.