A. Listen to two true stories. Why were Sarah and Kim annoyed?
Because Rick, her husband, woke her up very early to help find his keys.
Because her sister had promised to bring a cake for their mother’s birthday and had then forgotten to do it.
My husband, Rick, always forgets where he puts things, and last night he came home very late from work and then had to leave very early again this morning, at five, while I was still in bed. I heard him crashing about downstairs getting ready, and then he shouted up the stairs, ‘Sarah, have you seen my car keys?’ So I shouted back, ‘No’, and I tried to go back to sleep, but then he came running up the stairs into the bedroom and said, ‘I can’t find them. I left them on the table when I went to bed last night. You’ve moved them.’ And I said, ‘I didn’t move them; I was in bed when you came home. Have you looked in your coat pocket?’ So he went downstairs again and shouted, ‘They’re not there’. So I got up, in a very bad mood, and went downstairs, and looked in his coat pocket, and – surprise, surprise – there were his car keys. I was really quite angry because by now I was completely awake. But at least he apologized.
It was my mum’s seventieth birthday last week, and I suggested to my sister, Caro, that it would be nice to have a birthday lunch for her. I said I’d organize it because my sister isn’t very good at that kind of thing. She works full time and has a very important job – so she says – but anyway, she said, ‘I want to do something to help. I’ll bring a birthday cake.’ I said, ‘Fine’, even though I quite wanted to make the cake myself. Anyway, on the day, everyone arrived and Mum was really surprised and pleased, and we had lunch, and then I said to my sister, ‘Where’s the cake?’ She went pale, and said, ‘OMG, I completely forgot about it.’ Mum said, ‘Oh, don’t make a fuss, Kim. It’s no problem.’ She thought it was very funny, but I was seriously annoyed.
A. Listen to the first part of a radio programme about Jill Price, a woman with an extraordinary memory. Answer the questions.
1 Complete the name of Jill’s condition: Highly Superior A_______ M_______.
2 How old was Jill when the condition started?
3 How does she feel about her condition?
B. Listen again and answer the questions.
1 What day of the week was each of these dates? What did Jill do on each day?
24th January 1986
29th August 1980
10th January 1981
2 What is Jill’s first memory? How old was she at the time?
3 What two things happened on 1st July 1974?
1 Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory
2 She was 8.
3 It drives her crazy.
1 24th January 1986 was a Friday. She was working in an ice cream shop. She went out that night with friends.
29th August 1980 was a Friday. She went to Palm Springs with friends.
10th January 1981 was a Saturday. It was the third time she drove a car.
2 The traffic in Manhattan and looking out of the window of her parent’s apartment. She was 18 months old.
3 1st July 1974 is the day her family moved to Los Angeles and she began to remember everything.
A = announcer, P = presenter, J = Jill
A Can you remember exactly what you did on any day ten, twenty, or even thirty years ago? Now it’s Mind Matters, and we’re going to hear about a woman who can do just that.
P Ask Jill Price to remember any day in her life, and she can usually come up with an answer. When I met her, she asked for my date of birth, which is the twenty-fourth of January, nineteen eighty-six.
J OK, the twenty-fourth of January, nineteen eighty-six was a Friday. It was four days before the Challenger explosion. I was working in an ice cream shop. I hated my job. That night I went out with some friends, Tim and Candace.
P Jill could also tell me what she ate and what time she got home that evening. I tried another date. What did she do on the twenty ninth of August, nineteen eighty?
J It was also a Friday. I went to Palm Springs with my friends Nina and Michelle and their family.
P Then I asked her, ‘When was the third time you drove a car?’
J That was the tenth of January, nineteen eighty-one. A Saturday.
P Jill Price has HSAM, or ‘Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory’, which means she can remember exactly what happened on most days in her life. She remembers the day of the week for every date since nineteen eighty – what she was doing, who she was with, where she was. She can recall a memory of twenty years ago as easily as a memory of two days ago.
Jill was born on the thirtieth of December, nineteen sixty-five, in New York. Her first memory is when she was eighteen months old and she lived with her parents in an apartment in Manhattan. She remembers the traffic and staring out of the window down Ninth Avenue. When she was five, her family moved to New Jersey, and then when she was eight, they moved to a rented house in Los Angeles. That was the first of July, nineteen seventy-four – and on that day, she says, her ‘brain snapped’, and she began to be able to remember everything that happened to her in great detail. Her memories come without her trying to recall them.
J People have called it a gift, but for me it’s a nightmare. My entire life goes through my head every day – it drives me crazy.
C. Now listen to the second part of the programme. Make notes to answer the questions.
1 How did Dr McGaugh test Jill’s memory?
2 What does she remember happening on 16th August 1977 and 14th October 1977?
3 How was Dr McGaugh able to confirm that Jill’s memories were accurate?
4 According to Dr McGaugh’s research, what are the most memorable experiences?
5 What kinds of things is Jill good at remembering?
6 What kinds of things can’t she remember?
7 How many people are there with HSAM?
8 What does Jill say are the two big problems with her condition?
9 What’s the title of her autobiography?
10 Why hasn’t her brother read it?
1 He asked her questions from a history book.
2 Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby died.
3 He checked with her diary and with her mother.
4 Strong emotional experiences
5 Things that she finds important
6 Facts and figures, numbers
7 Around 60
8 There’s so much information in her head all the time; it’s difficult to forget bad things.
9 The Woman Who Can’t Forget
10 Because there might be things in it that he doesn’t want to know.
P = presenter, D = Dr McGaugh, J = Jill
P So what do we know about how Jill’s superior memory works? Doctor James McGaugh, who is an expert in memory research, met her for the first time in June two thousand. He first tested her memory using a big history book. Jill answered the questions quickly and confidently.
D What happened on the sixteenth of August, nineteen seventy-seven?
J Elvis Presley died in his Graceland bathroom. It was a Tuesday.
D When did Bing Crosby die?
J Friday, the fourteenth of October, nineteen seventy-seven, on a golf course in Spain. I heard it on the radio while my mom was driving me to soccer practice.
P It’s often difficult for scientists to confirm whether autobiographical memories are accurate, but Doctor McGaugh was able to check with Jill’s detailed diary. He also checked Jill’s memories with her mother.
Doctor McGaugh’s research was focused on showing that strong emotional experiences are the most memorable ones, and Jill had the most vivid memories that McGaugh had ever encountered. However, her memory only stores the things that she finds important. When it comes to remembering things that don’t relate to her personally or to her interests, Jill is no better than the average person.
J At school, I couldn’t remember facts and figures, and I can’t memorize a sequence of random numbers.
P McGaugh and other experts have now discovered around sixty people with HSAM. These people often say that there was a specific point in their lives that triggered their ability to remember in such detail. For Jill, it was her family’s stressful move to Los Angeles. Most people would think that having HSAM is an advantage, but Jill says there are two big problems.
J The first is that there’s so much information running through my head all the time, and the second is that I find it difficult to forget unpleasant things. For example, I can remember bad moments from my childhood as if they’d just happened, and they make me feel unhappy all over again.
P No one else in Jill’s family has a memory like hers. She’s published an autobiography, The Woman Who Can’t Forget, but her brother hasn’t read it. He says that there might be things in it that he doesn’t want to know.
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