Memory recall hysteresis vs marijuana intake

This is nonsense, really, and the semi-medical, research-paper-esque title is just there to annoy Google.


Here’s an observation I’ve had, something I’ve experienced a number of times, which I have developed into a theory, and this has been backed up by friends who have experienced the same thing.

Conversations often work like this:

Other person: [Interesting Story]

Me (thinking): [What I’m going to say next]

Other person: [Interesting Story Continues]

Me (thinking): [Ooh, another thing to say next]

Other person: [Interesting Story Shows No Signs of Stopping]

Me (thinking): [Remember the things… remember the things…]

Other person: [Stops talking]

Me: [Forgets Things]

Other person (thinking): [Idiot]

So, we listen politely to the other person’s story while accumulating a number of points either related to the story, or (more likely) more cool stuff about us. If the other person is a talker, then we start to accumulate talking points, and we start to worry about remembering them all.

The Problem

How do we hold on to this growing list of topics and thoughts in the face of a babbler?

Complicating Factor

Being stoned can negatively impact your short term memory. In fact, quite often, your immediate memory, your ability to stand, and bladder-related functions, depending on the level of intoxication.

The String Analogy

If we imagine our short term memory as a length of string that tails behind us, and represents that period into the past from which we can retrieve current memories (I’m not including when you accidentally ran over the cat while learning to drive and never told anyone) then the amount of marijuana intoxication we are currently experiencing shortens this string considerably.

The Effect

The effect of this problem, manifested in sober people and exacerbated by mind-altering substances (other than my dream drug Modafinil (Provigil) which has been officially deemed safe, that shit is nerd crack (actually my favourite favourite drug is MDMA and that ALSO has been deemed safe, but I am digressing (and becoming trapped in a successively deeper hierarchy of parentheses I now don’t know how to escape (shit it’s not code, I don’t have to close them all, I may just put a reasonable-looking bunch of closing parentheses here and only a complete geek is going to count them and call me out on it)))) is that those cool thoughts and conversation topics evaporate too rapidly from the mind to be recalled by the time the conversation rolls around to you. It may be what has caused the stereotypical image of a marijuana user to be someone drooling in the corner by themselves. They may actually have solved the issues around getting exact eigenvalues from Schroedinger’s wave equation for many-electron systems, but it’s gone completely out of their head, and they’ve diverted all their mental resources to recovering what they know is an earth-shattering idea.

Preventative Technique

I’m not going to argue with you over preventative vs preventive, the second form of the word feels like you’ve been lazy and gotten away with it.

Anyway, here’s my tip on preventing idea loss and keeping the string as long as possible:

Count the number of ideas you have. Use a mnemonic technique if you know one – associate each idea with a body part or finger for example. Repeatedly tell yourself this number, and repeat each number and a summary of it’s associated idea over and over in your head.

It’s a balancing act, because you have to simultaneously focus on the other person, nodding and “wow”-ing at all the right places, without giving away the mental gymnastics you’re performing behind the scenes.

For example (interior monologue):

Three. #1 Thumb (wiggle your thumb) = I did that once and actually got a prize for it… #2 1st Finger (wiggle finger) = We should order pizza soon… #3 2nd Finger (wiggle finger) Where did everyone else go?…

Keep the loop running, and when it’s your turn to speak you basically need to convert each item into a story without a break in concentration (where all the good ideas vaporize and end up wherever odd socks go).

Emergency Recovery Technique

In a situation where you have had a thought that, if expressed, would completely turn the social occasion around and elevate you to the status of “most interesting person here,” but it’s fallen off the string (or the string has become so short it has negative length (sit on that, Schroedinger)) and it’s gone, there is a risky technique you can use to recover it. It’s called re-enactment.

By re-enacting the conversation and your thoughts and physical movements prior to the appearance of the idea, you can hopefully recreate the conditions needed for it to appear in your mind, and get it back. In states of extreme intoxication you may have to do this more than once.


  1. Recall everything that was happening, being said and that you were thinking at the moment right before you had the idea. Or the last moment where you were sure you hadn’t had the idea yet.
  2. Reposition everyone if necessary, and have them discuss the same points, to recreate the scenario (you may have to convince them that this idea, once recovered, is going to be worth the effort)
  3. Continue to provide the same responses and actions you did the first time, in the hopes that the particular train of thought that led to your idea will recur and the idea will re-appear
  4. The moment the idea is recovered, deliver it to your audience immediately, and bask in the gratification of knowing the recovery effort was worth it.


Meh, I can’t be bothered summarising this. I have committed tldr upon myself.


If you have techniques of your own that you use, feel free to add them in the comments.

If you think there’s something wrong with me, you can help by sending me money.

If this article has either made you angry or wasted your time, hey, you didn’t die during it.