Memory Macro

25 Jul, 2005 | Living WorldScience And TechnologyTdp

One of the things I remember reading in one of Cory Doctorow’s short stories was about a ‘bugout’ (that’s an alien) who has a motorised exoskeleton that has macros for doing common tasks, things like opening the car door, starting the engine, that sort thing, rather than telling the motors step-by-step each time. I remember the US Marine Drill Team referring to it as muscle memory; you do something over and over until the muscles remember how to do it on their own. I’m not sure if it’s muscles or some unconscious subroutine in the brain, but I think I’ve got a couple.

The ones I’m aware of (and can remember) relate to typing. As you may have guessed, I do a lot of typing either through writing articles and email or coding sites.

The first one I’ve noticed is ‘site’. I have to be very careful when writing anything about ‘sight’. I don’t know how the process works for most people but, I tend to think of sentences one word after another when I’m typing, like a conversation, as if I was talking out loud, and basically my brain seems to take these words and tell my fingers what to type (as opposed to instructing my mouth and vocal cords to produce the correct sounds). Unfortunately, I think ‘sight’ and my brain doesn’t know the difference, so it goes with the default. As I type ‘site’ far more often (I’m a web junky), that's the default. Only when I see the word on the screen does a little alarm go off.

The same thing happens with ‘email,’ when I’m typing ‘female’ I actually type ‘femail’ (I did it twice then) before my brain sees it and I have to correct it. The problem only happens that way round, not when I just type ‘male’. The only thing I can think is that either the ‘sound’ in my head as I’m thinking the word or the act of typing ‘ema’ triggers an automatic response, or, more likely, a combination of both. Partly this could be down to muscle memory, but as I write the combination of ‘ema’ in other words and I don’t have the same problem, it can’t be that alone.

I have similar problems with colour and centre, but these can be attributed to my coding. HTML and CSS are coded in US English which means I’m used to typing color and center and not all word processing apps are too strict on applying British-specific spelling even when specified in the settings so I have to be careful.

I’m not sure if it extends to more physical activities or if there are any other examples in my routine, I’ll try and keep an eye out. Does anyone else get this?