05-26-2013 | Sunday Sermon

If memories are stored in individual animals’ brains, then anything an animal learns is confined to its own brain. When it dies the memory is extinguished. But if memory is a resonant phenomenon through which organisms specifically resonate with themselves in the past, individual memory and collective memory are different aspects of the same phenomenon; they differ in degree not in kind.

This hypothesis is testable. If rats learn a new trick in one place, then rats all over the world should be able to learn the same trick quicker. The more rats that learn it, the easier it should become everywhere else.

There is already evidence from one of the longest series of experiments in the history of psychology that rats do indeed seem to learn quicker what other rats have already learned. The more that learned to escape from a water maze, the easier it became for others to do so. These experiments, conducted first at Harvard, then at Edinburgh and Melbourne universities, showed that the Scottish and Australian rats took up more or less where the Harvard rats had left off, and their descendants learned even faster. Some got it right first time with no need for learning at all. In the experiment at Melbourne University, a line of control rats, whose parents had never been trained, showed the same pattern of improvement as rats descended from trained parents, showing that this effect was not passed through the genes, or through epigenetic modifications of genes. All similar rats learned quicker, just as the hypothesis of morphic resonance would predict.

Likewise, humans should be able to learn more easily what others have already learned. New skills like snowboarding and playing computer games should become easier to learn, on average. Of course there will always be faster and slower learners, but the general tendency should be towards quicker learning.

-- Rupert Sheldrake

1 comment:

  1. Come to think of it, this also seems an obvious explanation of overall improvements on IQ tests. The rats are getting better at that trick...