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Emily comments on Wait vs Interrupt Culture - Less Wrong

71 Post author: Benquo 27 November 2013 03:38PM

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Comment author: Emily 26 November 2013 04:46:43PM 3 points [-]

This is really interesting, and I'd be interested in hearing more about your experience with aphasia. Would you consider writing a short bit about it?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 26 November 2013 05:00:48PM 14 points [-]

My aphasia was pretty minor; it mostly consisted of difficulty retrieving words, which is technically speaking anomia (though a few times I lost the ability to form sentences altogether, and on one memorable evening I lost the ability to conjugate sentences and proceeded to talk like Captain Caveman for a couple of hours).

The most interesting thing to me about the aphasia itself was how much I "knew" about the word I didn't know. I remember being shown a picture of a whistle and asked what that was called. My reply was something like "It's a perfectly common word. I know it, I just can't retrieve it. It's a device you blow into and there's a little ball in it and it makes a sound. And the name of the sound is the same as the name of the device. And you do it to a happy tune, and you do it while you work."

Along the same lines, I was blocked on the word "wheelchair" for a long time, but whenever I tried to say it I'd get words like "washing machine", "skateboard", "roller skate", "dishwasher"... the word-space of compound-named machines.

I remember having a lot of trouble with years. People were forevermore asking me what the date was, to see if I was oriented in time, and I had to explicitly work out how to name the year each time. "OK... it's the eighth year of the 21st century. How do we say that, again? It's a compound phrase, I remember that much... "eight and twenty-one"? No, that's not right. "Twenty-one and eight"? No, that's not right either." Etc. Getting to "Two thousand and eight" always took some doing.

Comment author: Tyrrell_McAllister 26 November 2013 06:48:02PM *  4 points [-]

I'd get words like "washing machine", "skateboard", "roller skate", "dishwasher"... the word-space of compound-named machines.

... with important rotating components (the drum, the wheels, the wheels, and that spraying-blade thing, respectively).

Comment author: Emily 03 December 2013 11:03:38AM 1 point [-]

Thanks for sharing! Interesting stuff.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 27 November 2013 03:32:25PM 1 point [-]

When I'm trying to remember a word, I get a lot of associated detail, usually including something about the sound of the word. Initial sound, number of syllables, that sort of thing-- did you get something about the sound?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 27 November 2013 06:00:47PM 2 points [-]

Very very rarely. Usually if I could get to a confident feeling about the sound-shape of the word, I had the word.

This contrasts with my normal word-search experience, which is similar to what you describe, and I suspect the exceptions were cases where I would have had trouble finding the word even without the anomia.

Comment author: Armok_GoB 28 November 2013 05:17:37AM *  0 points [-]

The thing I find odd here is that you didn't just draw it in the air with your finger or something, or describe it with a lot of more common words you did know. Plenty of ways to bypass occasional missing words.

(source: habit of learning about something cool in one language, then having to explain it in another)

Comment author: TheOtherDave 28 November 2013 05:46:28AM 4 points [-]

In the whistle case, I was specifically being asked to name the object as part of a lexical inventory to evaluate how much of a deficit I was running; the point was to come up with the word "whistle."
In the wheelchair case, I would generally bang on the wheelchair I was in and say "this thing." The issue wasn't that I was unable to communicate, the issue was that I'd lost access to perfectly common words.
Hope that clarifies matters.

Similarly, people understand me perfectly well when I not conjugate sentence properly, but is still frustrating when I know is wrong but cannot say right.