Spring Break

Rhea R -

Welcome back everyone! This week I wanted to share some intriguing research I’ve encountered during my continued source reading. 

I discovered the source from reaching out to Professor Rob Gray who is researching muscle memory at ASU. It offers a refined view of muscle memory’s many benefits but interestingly also warns against the disadvantages. Author Richard Shusterman also stresses the role of somaesthetics: the living, sentient, purposive, perceptive body that is felt and embodied on the daily. The author takes a stance and identifies ‘soma’ as the real quality commonly deemed “motor memory”. 

The source lists 6 different forms of muscle memory. Below are examples of each:

  1. Identity of oneself- You don’t wake up every morning and feel the need to explicitly remember who you are. This type of muscle memory can easily recall the familiarity and warmth associated with your own perception and body. 
  2. Situational/Location memory – We know when to turn a certain direction at a specific place, and can feel familiarity with places such as coffee shops (due to smell and abstract recognition of the environment). When stepping into your place of work, your body automatically steps into character, tailoring posture, expressions, and concentration levels to that of your usual role. 
  3. Intersomatic memory – Repeated habits such as consecutively sleeping on the right side of the bed, so that shifting to the left feels awkward or even uncomfortable at times. Prejudice when encountering people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds can stem from involuntary instillment of these values by parents when children imitate observed expressions of discomfort.  
  4. Social roles and embodiment of them – A female police officer will not arrive home and reciprocate that same stiffness and stern expressions required to do her job efficiently. Seeing her son or even thinking about him will automatically shift her into assuming a maternal role. 
  5. Procedural/Performative memory – Tasks such as putting on clothes fall into this category. In repeating an involuntary routine, conscious capability can be allocated to other more important tasks, such as writers being able to focus more on their ideas rather than their fingers pressing each computer key. 
  6. Traumatic muscle memory – traumatic memories cannot be registered as clear, conscious, meaningful instances, since the trauma takes over and is now all one can remember. Symptoms felt in those moments may also be muscle memory (such as fatigue, shortness of breath, sweating, etc.). This may also be where PTSD stems from. 

Some disadvantages of somaesthetic pathologies: 

Physical positions in which the body has become accustomed to can prove detrimental to health and comfort. For example, chronic strain of the neck and back associated with working at a desk can become normal for the body, and when a trip to the doctor’s office reveals the abnormality of the position and the subject can feel soft and lazy and unlike themselves when returned to the healthy, relaxed position.

Additionally, humans have the tendency to lean or gravitate to one way or another when talking, watching TV, finding seats in a movie theater, etc. This can prove problematic when while driving one is prone to only wanting to look right when making a move. 

  • Rhea 🙂

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    Hi Rhea! I'd never thought about this, and the Identity of Oneself muscle memory is particularly interesting. Does dance fall under one of these categories as well?

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