A notable leap forward is produced when the codification of signs (sounds and gestures) begins among the hominids. Later the codified signs are fixed with greater permanence (in engraved signs and symbols). These signs improve the communication that relates individuals amongst themselves, and tells of matters of importance for them regarding the environment they live in. Memory expands and is no longer just genetic transmission and individual memory; but thanks to the encoding of signals, data can be stored and transmitted signically, resulting in the increase of information and social experience.
Subsequently, a second important leap forward takes place: memory data become independent of the genetic apparatus and the individual. Dispersed memory appears, which progresses from the first signs on walls and clay tablets to alphabets that make texts, libraries, teaching centers, etc., possible. The most important aspect that has operated here is that the psychism goes outside itself and shapes itself in the world.
At the same time locomotion expands, thanks to an inventiveness that, on one hand, creates devices not found in nature, and, on the other, domesticates animals and plants, allowing their transport over water, steppe, mountain and forest. From the nomadic populations, to the locomotion and communication that has attained a remarkable degree of development in our times.
Nutrition, is perfected, from primitive gathering, hunting and fishing until the domestication of plants by the early farmers. It continues to develop with the domestication of animals and progressive systems of storage, conservation and synthesis of new foodstuffs and their resulting distribution.
Reproduction organizes the first social groups of the horde, tribe and family, which leads to rudimentary settlements upon their establishment in fixed locations. These later acquire a complex form of social organization, with the concomitant participation of different generations: in one same historical and geographical moment. Reproduction undergoes important transformations up to the present time, when techniques for the production, modification, conservation), and mutation of embryos and genes already loom in the horizon.
The psychism has become more complex while still reflecting its previous stages. The psychism also specializes apparatuses of response, such as the neuro-hormonal centers, which develop from their original vegetative function up to an intellect of increasing complexity. In accordance with the degree of internal and external work, the consciousness has gained levels, from deep sleep to semisleep, and later, an increasingly more lucid level of vigil.
The psychism emerges as the coordinator for the structure ‘living being-environment’—that is, the structure ‘consciousness-world.’ The result of this coordination is the unstable equilibrium within which this structure will work and process. External information will arrive to the specialized apparatus that will work within different ranges of capture. These apparatuses are the external senses. Information from the internal environment, from the intrabody, will reach the capture apparatuses, which are the internal senses The imprints of this internal and external information, as well as the tracks of the operations of the consciousness themselves, in its different levels of work, will be received in the apparatus of memory. Thus, the psychism will coordinate sensorial data and memory recordings.
On the other hand, in this stage of its development the psychism is equipped with apparatuses of response to the world—very elaborate responses and of varied types, as are the intellectual, emotional and motor responses. These apparatuses are the centers. In the vegetative center, the organic bases are found of the vital functions of metabolism, reproduction and locomotion (even though this last has become specialized in the motor center as well as the instincts of conservation), and reproduction. The psychism will coordinate these apparatuses as well as the vital functions and instincts.
Furthermore, in the human being there is a relational system with the environment that cannot be considered an apparatus with neuro-physiological localizations, and which we call “behavior.” A particular case of psychological behavior in the interpersonal and social relationship is the “personality.” The structure of personality serves adaptation, through its continual adjustment to different and variable situations in the interpersonal environment. This capacity for appropriate adaptation requires a complex situational dynamic, which the psychism will also have to coordinate, at the same time maintaining the unity of the entire structure’s unity.
On the other hand, the biological process that a person goes through—from birth and childhood, through adolescence and youth, until maturity and old age—markedly modifies the internal structure, which travels through vital stages with differing needs and environmental relationships (in the beginning there is dependence on the environment; later establishment and expansion within it, the individual tending to preserve their position, until they finally move away). This process likewise needs precise coordination.
For an integrated vision of the human psychism’s work, we will present its different functions, those whose physiological locations are possible to identify.1 We will also take into consideration the system of impulses that has the capacity to generate, transfer and transform information between the apparatuses.
2. Apparatuses of the Psychism2
‘Apparatus’ is understood to mean the sensory and memory specializations that work integratedly in the consciousness, by means of impulses. These, in turn, undergo many transformations, depending the psychic ambit in which they act.
The senses have the function of receiving and sending data to the consciousness and the memory and are organized in different ways, according to the psychism’s needs and tendencies.
The apparatus of the senses has its origin in a primitive tactile sense that progressively becomes more specialized. One can differentiate between external senses that detect information from the external environment, and internal senses, when the information is captured from the interior of the body. According to the type of activity they can be classified as: chemical senses (taste and smell); mechanical senses (the tactile as such and the internal senses of cenesthesia and kinesthesia) and physical senses (hearing and sight). As for the internal senses, the cenesthetic sense provides information on the intrabody. There are chemical receptors, thermoceptors, baroceptors, and others; the detection of pain also plays an important role.
The work of the centers is detected cenesthetically, as are the different levels of work of the consciousness. During vigil, cenesthetic information has a minimum of registers, as this is when the external senses predominate and the entire psychism is moving in relation to the external world. When vigil lowers its potential, the cenesthesia increases the emission of impulses. There is a deformed register of these impulses and they act as the raw material for the translations that will be made in semisleep and sleep. The kinesthetic sense provides data on movement, body posture, physical balance and imbalance.
Common Characteristics of the Senses
a) Each sense performs its own activities of abstraction and structuring of stimuli, according to its respective aptitudes. Perception is produced by the data plus the activity of the sense
b) All are in continual movement, scanning ranges.
c) Each sense works with its own memory, which enables the recognition of the stimulus.
d) Each sense works within a “range,” according to a particular tone that is its own and that must be altered by the stimulus. For this to happen, the stimulus must appear within sensory thresholds (a minimum threshold below which the stimulus is not perceived, and a threshold of maximum tolerance which, when exceeded, produces sensory irritation or saturation). If there is “background noise” (originating from the same sense or from other senses, from the consciousness or from the memory), the stimulus must increase its intensity for it to be registered, without exceeding the maximum threshold so as to avoid saturation and sensory blockage. When this occurs, it is essential to make the background noise disappear so that the signal can arrive to the sense.
e) All the senses work within these thresholds and limits of tolerance, which allow for variations according to their training and metabolic needs (this is where the phylogenetic root of sensory existence is found). This feature of variability is important in order to distinguish sensory errors.
f) All translate the perceptions into one same system of electrochemical impulses, which will be distributed via the nervous system to the brain.
g) All have neuronal localizations (either precise or diffuse), which are always connected to the central and peripheral or autonomous nervous systems, from where the apparatus of coordination operates.
h) All are linked to the organism’s general apparatus of memory.
i) All have their own registers, which are given by the variation of tone when the stimulus appears, and by the fact of perception itself.
j) All can commit errors in the perception. These errors can originate from the blockage. of the sense (due to sensory irritation, for example), or from a failure or deficiency in the sense (myopia, deafness, etc.). They can also occur due to lack of intervention by one or more senses that help provide parameters for the perception (for example, something sounds “distant,” but when it is seen it is “close”). Some errors are artificially created by mechanical conditions, such as the case of “seeing light” when pressure is applied to the eyeballs; or the sensation that the body grows larger when the external temperature is similar to that of the skin. These errors of the senses are generically called “illusion.”
The memory’s function is to record and retain data from the senses and/or the consciousness. It also supplies data to the consciousness when necessary (the act of remembering). The greater the amount of data from memory, the more options there are in the responses. When responses have antecedents, energy is saved and there is a balance left of surplus availability. The memory’s work provides the consciousness with references so that it can be oriented as to its location and can maintain its continuity through time. The rudiments of memory appear in the inertia that is proper to the work of each sense, broadening out to the entire psychism as general memory. The theoretical minimum atom of memory is reminiscence, but what is registerable is that in memory, data from the senses and from the coordinator in the form of structured recordings are received, processed and ordered. The ordering is carried out in ranges or by thematic zones and according to a chronology of its own. From all this it is deduced that the real atom would be: data + activity of the apparatus.
Data are recorded by the memory in different ways: by means of a shock—that is to say, through a stimulus that makes a powerful impression; through the simultaneous input of data from different senses; through the presentation of the same data in different ways; and through repetition. The datum is well recorded when it is in context and also when it stands out due to a lack or a unity of context. The quality of the recording improves when the stimuli are distinguishable, and this is produced by the sharpness of the signals, in the absence of background noise. When there is saturation due to repetition a blockage. is produced; and when the stimuli become habitual, there is a diminution in the recording of the stimulus. When there is an absence of external stimuli, the first stimulus that appears is strongly recorded. Also when the memory is not providing information to the coordinator there is a greater disposition for recording. Data received that is related to the thematic zone where the coordinator is working will be well recorded.
Remembering and Forgetting
Remembering—or more precisely, evocation—arises when the memory delivers already-recorded data to the consciousness. This evocation is produced intentionally by the consciousness, and this differentiates it from another type of remembrance that is imposed on the consciousness. An example is when certain memories invade the consciousness, sometimes coinciding with searches or with psychological contradictions that arise without the coordinator’s participation.
There are degrees of evocation, depending on whether the data was recorded with greater or lesser intensity. When the data passes lightly over the threshold of register, the evocation will also be slight; and there are even cases where the data is not remembered, but when the data is perceived again, it is recognized. From these minimum thresholds of evocation there are more intense gradations until we reach the level of automatic remembering or rapid recognition, as in the case of language, for example. Recognition occurs when data is received and compared to previously recorded data; the data shows up as having been registered before, and is therefore re-cognized. Without recognition, the psychism would experience an always-being-before-the-phenomena-for-the-first time, despite their repetition.
Forgetting is the impossibility of bringing already recorded data to the consciousness. This happens because of a blockage. in reminiscence that impedes the reappearance of the information. There is, on the other hand, a kind of functional forgetting that prevents the continual reappearance of memories, thanks to mechanisms of inter-regulation that inhibit one apparatus while another is working. In this way there is no continuous remembering while the coordinator is perceiving or coordinating responses, or when it is evoking a particular range. The degree of intensity of the recording and of the evocation is linked to the coordinator’s fields of presence and copresence.
Levels of Memory
Different levels arise, based on the permanence and duration of the recordings. In the acquisition of individual memory, the first imprints remain as the substratum for subsequent ones, establishing the ambit in which the new recordings are compared to the first ones. On the other hand, the new recordings are received over the base of the energetic availability and working readiness left by the first recordings, these last being the basis for the recognition. There is a primary level of substratum, or ancient memory, which is gradually enriched over time. There is a second level, or mediate memory, which arises in the dynamic of psychic work, with recent recordings that on occasion go down to the level of ancient memory. There is a third level, or immediate memory, that corresponds to current recordings. It is a level of work that is constantly open to the arrival of information. At this level there is data selection, discarding and storage.
Memory and Learning
Emotion plays a very important role in recording and memorization of the mnemic imprint. Obviously it is easier to memorize and evoke in a friendly and agreeable atmosphere, and this characteristic is definitive in the tasks of learning and teaching, when data are related to an emotion al situational context.
The incoming paths of the mnemic impulses are the internal senses, the external senses, and the activities of the coordinator. Along these paths, impulses travel which comprise the registerable information that goes on to memory for storage. The arriving stimuli follow a double path: one leads to the coordinator, and the other to the memory. It is enough for the stimuli to lightly exceed the sensory thresholds for them to be registerable, and a minimal amount of activity in the different levels of consciousness is sufficient for recording to take place.
Relationship between Memory and Coordinator
In the circuit between senses and coordinator, the memory acts as a connective, as a bridge, occasionally compensating the lack of sensorial data, whether through evocation or through involuntary remembering (as though it were “metabolizing” reserves). In the case of deep sleep, where there is no input of external data, cenesthetic data combined with memory data arrive to the consciousness. In this way the mnemic data do not appear through intentional evocation, but the coordinator is still performing a task: it is putting data in order, it is analyzing, it is carrying out operations with the participation of memory. In the level of deep sleep there is a re-ordering of raw material from vigil (immediate, recent or ancient) that has arrived to the memory in a disorderly way. In the level of vigil, the coordinator may direct itself to the memory through evocation (reversibility mechanisms), formalizing objects in the consciousness that do not enter through the senses at that moment, though they may have done so previously. From the above it is inferred that the memory can supply data at the coordinator’s request, or stimulate it without its participation, as, for example, when there is a lack of sensory stimuli.
The most common error is false recognition, which arises when a new datum is incorrectly related to a previous one. A variant (or an erroneous remembrance) is the replacement of a datum with another that does not appear in memory. Amnesias are registered as a total impossibility of evoking data or complete data sequences. Inversely, in hypermnesia there is an overabundance of memories. On the other hand, every recording is associated to others that are contiguous to it. Hence, there are no isolated memories; rather the coordinator selects, among all the memories, only the ones that it needs. Thus, another case of error is one that is produced when contiguous memories are located as central ones. Memory data that do not pass through the coordinator can directly influence behavior, motivating conducts that are inadequate for a situation even though there may be a register of the inadequate behaviors. Another case of error is that of “déjà vu,” when in an entirely new situation, one has a feeling of having already experienced it before.