A couple of months ago I was passing through the Santiago de Chile airport and while I was waiting for my flight, sitting in the departure lounge, I noticed that someone in the distance was holding my hand. I didn't know who it was but out of courtesy I responded by also raising my hand while putting on a face of "nice to see you", which must have looked more like "who are you !?"
I spent the entire flight back to Guayaquil trying to discover the identity of the character. The most mortifying thing was that the face became familiar to me.
Since I was making a stopover (in transit) on a flight from Buenos Aires, I began to consider the possibility of having met him in that city, but I did not remember anything that would allow me to discover his identity.
It is worth mentioning that it is not common, at least for me, to meet an acquaintance in an airport in a distant city so it occurred to me that maybe I met him on the outbound flight, but again I could not relate the face with no memory.
I suppose that many have had that feeling of having a name on the tip of their tongues ... Well, that's how I walked during the days after the trip, until I suppose that unconsciously I decided to give up and leave this matter to "unsolved mysteries." A friend once told me that in these situations it was better not to try to remember and that the brainhopefully he takes care of sorting things out himself. I was never convinced by that theory but I ended up thinking it was the best thing in this situation. Why give more thought to the matter.
It will have been at least four weeks, when one afternoon I left my house and saw my neighbor (who lives 3 houses from mine) getting into his vehicle. I immediately recognized him, he was the guy from the airport, my neighbor! How could I be so stupid not to have recognized him at the airport!
After the joy of having finally solved the riddle, I began to feel somewhat sorry for having greeted him somewhat coldly at the airport. Not that we were friends for a lifetime, but at least I greeted him warmly every time I saw him and we had briefly chatted on occasion.
This whole situation led me to reflect on the way our mind works when it tries to recognize an object or a character. It seems correct to assume that the conclusions our brain reaches depend on the context in which we find ourselves. This is how I was able to recognize my neighbor almost immediately when I saw him in my neighborhood, but it was very difficult for me to recognize him at the Santiago airport.
I remember some time ago reading in a magazine about a speech recognition algorithm that used a similar technique to increase its effectiveness. The algorithm in question tried to relate a conversation to a topic, depending on the words used in the conversation. Previously, the algorithm had "learned" the probability of finding a certain word in a conversation depending on the topic.
For example, we are more likely to hear the word "altar" if we are in a church than if we are in the stadium watching a football game.
In general it seems to be a clever tactic of our brain, but it was clear to me that it does not always help.