February 11th, 2014


Retention Acknowledgement

Modified only slightly from my reply on the Lotus forum, I was responding to the statement:

Coming from Canada and living in LA and now San Antonio, all you people without snow driving experience are scary drivers...

This brings up something I've been meaning to blog about for months now, and I might as well use this thread as my rough draft, and it has nothing at all to do with an elementary understanding of physics. I like to call it, "Retention Acknowledgement" and I base this hypothesis on my broad and varied experience driving in many different states and many different countries.

I once took my pet cockatiel (long story) with me on a 22-hour drive from Hampton Roads, VA to Boyd, TX. The bird paced the dash for 22-hours. Left to right, then back again, for 22-hours. Unfortunately for my sanity, it was misting out - the entire drive. A fine mist accumulating on the windshield across the full length of three states and into Texas. Ergo, I had my intermittent wipers on. Every 20 or so seconds the wipers would sweep across the windshield, startling the bird, causing him to lift his shoulders and screech. An understandable enough reaction once. However, every 20-seconds for 22-hours the wipers would sweep, and every 20-seconds for 22-hours the bird would raise his shoulders and screech at the startling blades.

Consider the many studies of physiology and psychology where animals are exposed to duress/reward systems in order to study or manipulate their behavior. At some point, the duress becomes commonplace or the subject ceases to cope.


My theory at the time was that the bird's brain was so small, so tiny, so insignificant, that he'd forgotten about the event moments after it happened, causing each subsequent swipe to feel like it was being experienced for the very first time. What else could explain being startled by the 4000th consecutive swipe of the blades as if it were the first time?


I moved to Kansas (where it snows) from Texas and am shocked by how bad these drivers are in the snow. AND IT SNOWS EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.

Pretending just a moment for the sake of argument that each driver in Kansas doesn't have an elementary understanding of physics (which would solve many of the problems I witness), wouldn't any experience gained the previous year(s) undoubtedly apply the next? I'm not talking about retaining highly-technical data, but the stuff your mind automatically remembers to not die; a self-preservation mechanism.

So what does it mean when drivers with snow-driving experience "forget" how to drive in snow every consecutive year it snows, and are they really better than those with no snow-driving experience whatsoever? The jury it would appear, remains out.