Jean Paul Sarte – Prisoner of War.

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During my first year on planet earth Jean Paul Sartre was a WWII prisoner of war. I remember reading of his period of enslavement during my freshman year at Phoenix College. He spoke of living in the trenches he helped to dig. It was not so much the agony of the loss of freedom or the pain or the hunger that riveted my attention. It was his complaint of a psychological effect of this kind of degradation. He lost, he said, a significant portion of his spoken vocabulary. I knew that he spoke the truth.

When I was in college a friend offered me some diet pills; his pitch was that cramming for exams that night would be easier if we took a couple of smart pills (dextro-amphetamine). I complied. That evening I whizzed through the text books, talked endlessly to myself and devoured all this knowledge, reducing everything to a couple of dozen key words which I manage to reconstruct as a sentence that only I would ever understand. the downside was that I was up all night. My first class was in behavioral psychology. When the test began I realized that i had forgotten everything I had ingested before dawn. I still had some pills and thinking that my problem was sleepiness I popped a couple into my yawning maw and waited for lucidity to return. Return indeed, the forgotten increments of learning flashed though my consciousness like Jerry Lee Lewis’ fingers on a stolen Steinway. Not only did I ace the exam but during the following week I researched my suspicions about state dependent learning and wrote a paper for extra credit. A generation later a step daughter said “Look Dad” as she handed me her textbook opened to a page that had a quote from that paper I had written so many years before.

State-dependent learning

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State-dependent learning (state-dependent memory) is a notion that learning and recalling are based on the physiological and mental state of the organism.

It has been very clearly demonstrated that things learned in one environment are best recalled when that environment is reinstated; and, moreover, this applies equally well to “internal” environments (or states) as it does to “external” environments.[1]

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