As some of you may know, I'm currently studying towards a degree in social sciences with the Open University in what I laughingly refer to as my spare time. At the moment, I'm doing a psychology module.
I went to a tutorial last night, in which we discussed (among other things) the fascinating concept of memory: how we store and retrieve memories, and the various things that can go wrong with that process. This reminded me of a really bizarre experience I had with my own memory many years ago, which I'd like to share with you.
Back in the days when I was a student, I spent a pleasant summer holiday travelling through Europe by train. On arrival at the main train station in Budapest, I booked a place to stay at the accommodation office at the train station. They gave me directions to the accommodation, and off I went.
It was a hideously complicated journey. I don't remember the exact details, but it involved several changes of public transport including at least 2 and possibly more modes of transport out of metro lines, buses, and trams, followed by a significant walk from the last public transport stop.
That night, I had a dream. I dreamed that, rather than turning right out of my accommodation and retracing my hideously complicated journey back to the city centre, I turned left out of the accommodation instead, and then a short walk took me to a metro station which was on a direct line back to the city centre, thus giving me a very much shorter journey than I was expecting.
Well, when I woke up, my first thought was how wonderful it was that I'd have such a simple journey, but as my senses gradually returned to me, I realised that it had all been a dream and that in reality, I would have to have all the changes of public transport that I'd had on the way.
But just out of curiosity, I first checked the map.
I was astonished to find that the map exactly matched my dream, right down to the colour of the metro line, and I could indeed have a nice short journey back to the city centre.
Pretty spooky, huh?
Now, this could of course be a massive coincidence, but what I think is a much more plausible explanation is that when I was looking at the map on my way to the accommodation, I had subconsciously taken in far more of the map than I was consciously aware of. Somehow, although I was only consciously aware of looking at the parts of the map on the route I was following, I must have stored more of the map in my memory. I doubt there is any way I could consciously have recalled that information, but somehow my unconscious sleeping mind was able to retrieve the information I needed from the map.
Isn't the human brain an amazing thing? I'm rather enjoying studying psychology.