Association as in ‘the mental connection between things’ not the group of people.

I’m looking at the word pair list of the memory test within the Stanley Milgram experiment. 25 word pairs, adjectives and nouns.

Blue Girl, Nice Day, Fat Neck.

I’m fascinated with this list of words. It reads naive, strange, beautiful, it’s context is disturbing at least and there is an absurdity to it that I’m drawn too. The list is simple, a reduction – its context is complex, debated over decades, and incomprehensible to some extend. What does a Blue Girl, Nice Day, Fat Neck do in the walls of an obedience experiment where 2 man stand on the power side of a one way mirror and another person on the mirror side, playing pre-recorded electro-shock sounds?

I’ve read this list at least a hundred times by now, every time I’ve read the list I’ve read it not for the mere purpose of remembering it but to look for associations, to collect images, to check pronunciations, to test the level of my voice (louder), to test the light of my camera, to see how my mouth moves when I say these words. Repeating over and over words, makes you remember things ( and/or forget it’s meaning). In a couple of days I’m sure I remember them by heart.

‘By heart’ is an expression that I remember learning for the first time when I was in my early twenties and I recall finding it peculiar. The surprise of discovering word in a language that you already are fluent in – in English people remember things with their heart then? In German you’d lern auswending which means something like ‘inside-out’. In Japanese 暗記する you remember in the dark, makes sense, looks also good. By heart. How cute, lovely, romantic all these things – how do you learn something by heart that is terrible or worse completely dry: all the digits of π,  the name of all dictators in human history, the cheapest way to order new bags for Henry the hoover – do you need your heart for that or can you take some other bodypart – something between your head and your heart, the side of your tounge, a tooth, muscles of your chin, your cornea.