Memory and conditioning

What separates memory from conditioning?

Every experience in our life leaves an impression on our brains. As we walk down a street, our eyes notice colours, designs and faces. Our unconscious mind continually scans what we see, and directs us towards certain things. That is how we are able to pick out a pretty face, the facade of a beautiful building or oncoming traffic as we walk through a crowded street. An impression is, by definition, an imprint. Our memory is a a collection of these impressions that we can remember.

However, some of these impressions can modify our behaviour. If we fell sick eating the food at a restaurant, we are unlikely to enjoy a meal there ever again. If a certain person wronged us, we are unlikely to trust them again, and by extension, people who remind us of them. Conditioning is that automatic process by which our response to a past event becomes more frequent and predictable. The conditioning from an experience can remain even after its memory has faded, and oftentimes it can lead to biases and prejudice in our judgments.

It is the difference between remembering and response that distinguishes memory from conditioning. If memory is what we take away from our present, conditioning is what our experiences take away from our presence.

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