17 July 2006

the strength of cognitive associations

I may have made up that term ("cognitive associations"), but I don't have access to my college cognition books to find something similar.

Hearing a loud and long sound of screeching tires just reminded me of how strong certain associations are in one's mind. I had a brilliant professor in college who grew up in Israel. I heard her mention once that even years later, seeing an abandoned backpack or bag laying around made her nervous and jittery. It was because an abandoned bag in her home town meant that there was probably a bomb planted in it. I shared a similar association - the sound of screeching tires in Puerto Rico (when I lived there - 1984 through 1992) usually meant that somebody was about to be held up. see a victim, screech to a halt, jump out with your three partners, wearing eye masks and holding those short-barreled machine guns. get what you want, screech away again. For years and years, I would feel a split second of panic when I heard screeching tires - a panic quite different from the fear that someone was about to get hurt in a car wreck. The difference for me was always basic human error vs. bad intentions.

But just now, hearing the screech of tires from my 10th floor window, I pictured a car plummeting into the James River. a change. I wonder when this happened.
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