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Not Liking Uncertainty
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Another Mnemonic Technique
How Associations Wear Out
Familiarity Breeds ContemptWhen I've lived in one place for a long time, I find I become almost unable to see it. I can walk around and look at things, but they're all so familiar that they make almost no impression on me. It always reminds me of that old saying,
Familiarity breeds contempt.
Familiarity may breed contempt, but along the way it also breeds taking for granted, and that's what I'm mainly interested in, here. Consider the familiar example of air (Lord of Light).
“None sing hymns to breath,” said Yama. “But, oh to be without it!”
I may or may not hold air in contempt, but I certainly take it for granted.
So far so good, but what does any of this have to do with association? Well, as I see it, for me to be familiar with a person, place, or thing—with an object, let's say—I must have encountered the object at different times and in different situations, so that the object carries many different associations for me. However, in spite of all those associations, the object makes no impression on me; I take it for granted. In short, the principle “familiarity breeds contempt” is a fact about association, namely, that it stops working when an object has too many associations.
Just for fun, let me put it another way: it's hard to forward-associate from a node with many links. I like this statement both because it brings up the question of whether associative links are symmetrical (I think not), and because the choice of words makes me think of the internet.
As a final thought, let me suggest that it's the same principle of being unable to see familiar things that makes it hard to proofread.
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@ December (2000)