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Premise

I am designing a kind of eternal corridor whereby healthy people are thrown into to spend ages there. Bodily functions/subsistence needs are nullified: they don't feel hungry or anything. Basically, they are just alone with their thoughts. If inside long enough, I want the outcome to be that they forget their name.

The only rules are we cannot force them to forget their name: not coerced and especially not physically -- like hit their heads until they get amnesia. By not coerced, I mean not brainwashing them explicitly, like a loudspeaker that repeats the same thing over and over. As stated above, bodily functions are a non-factor, so we cannot rely on decay of brain matter to induce amnesia. In other words, they should forget their identities despite being perfectly healthy otherwise.

I want to supply this eternal corridor with the right ingredients to make this outcome as likely as possible. Much like we might include oxygen and fresh water in a world where we want to improve the odds of life emerging. In order to do that, I want to understand more about the neuroscience/psychology behind how one forgets who they are on their own initiative, not by force but by time alone (in my eternal corridor). My searches thus far seem to suggest that amnesia tends to come about from brain trauma, cell decay and vitamin deficiency -- all of which are non-factors in my hypothetical realm.

Question

Without overt trauma or cell decay, using a neuroscience/psychology framework, would time alone be sufficient to make one disassociate from an identity he/she has had all his/her life, namely one's name? How or why not?

Further clarifications:

  • Degree of societal isolation is configurable
  • I would prefer answers not to incorporate environmental stimuli, but can assume roughly the same as former life if you must
  • All physical ailments are null, want to focus on brain/psychology only for the moment
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    $\begingroup$ By leaving them alone with their thoughts do you mean literally leaving them completely alone? How exactly are their bodies preserved? Also how much stimuli is there available in this place? Cause if there's little to no stimulus, they're left completely alone and only their dietary needs are covered they'll suffer much greater problems than just forgetting their identity, and likely won't last more a week in such a confinement before becoming depressed, most likely going insane and suffering physically. $\endgroup$ Jan 13 at 3:03
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    $\begingroup$ Funny enough loneliness can increase the risk of Alzheimers (in fact it increases the risk of many physical issues, such as high stress levels and sleep related issues), but the victims of your crimes against humanity will likely snap and become insane long before they have a chance to completely forget everything about who they were. Other methods of inducing amnesia might be more worthwhile if you want more mentally stable subjects. It's interesting to see how poorly social creatures can deal with feeling alone, even if they're not truly isolated from others in a physical sense. $\endgroup$ Jan 13 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ I spent 3 weeks alone in a quarantine hotel in November. It was a bit stressful, but I still know that my name is....... Oh wait, I need to go check my passport. $\endgroup$ Jan 13 at 11:45
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To forget the old, they will live the new.

https://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/ift/ift01.htm

"The creatures of the forest scented me and knew I was alone. They stole with silken pad behind my back and snarled when I faced them; the long, grey wolves with hanging tongues and staring eyes chased me to my cleft rock; there was no creature so weak but it might hunt me, there was no creature so timid but it might outface me. And so I lived for two tens of years and two years, until I knew all that a beast surmises and had forgotten all that a man had known.

Your eternal corridor is a new life. Your eternals are immersed in the new life. They hunt, and sleep, and fear, and love. They mate and with their mates raise their young, and see their young off into the world. They grow old and they sicken and they die. And they are reborn, and they do it again, and again. Not a human word is spoken. There are no humans or human things to remind them. There is a new world - maybe of birds, or fish, or deer, or wolves. Your eternals are so immersed in the fullness of their new world that their old world is buried and withers away. Withers except for an occasional fleeting memory, that the eternal ever was other than they have now become.

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    $\begingroup$ Reminds me of how Gandalf wrestled with the Balrog until he forgot he was once called "Gandalf the Gray" $\endgroup$ Jan 13 at 4:12
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Trick them into believing they already forgot a few chunks of their life.

Like I said in my comment, if you want a person to forget their name and identity, leaving them alone in a space is not a good way to do it. In a best case scenario they'll be constantly looking for something to keep them occupied at first, be it exercising, talking to themselves or looking around, but eventually they'll most likely end up having severe psychological issues, suffering hallucinations, becoming increasingly agitated and potentially even paranoid, suicidal or both.

Again, humans are highly intelligent social creatures, and intelligent social creatures forced to be isolated tend to go insane long before forgetting their names and identities, especially if they aren't stimulated properly. So if by "with time alone" you mean leaving them alone to think until they forget, the answer is no, you most likely won't get an individual who doesn't remember who they are, you're much more likely to end with an unstable individual who's still very aware of who they are, but much more stressed paranoid and dissociated from reality.

What you need is something closer to a proper environment where the person in question, rather than being left on their own until they start to add fake memories to their already existing ones, is encouraged to believe their memories about their identity are but a product of their imagination. How this is done will vary depending on why you want them to forget to begin with. Do you want them to assume a new identity? Another reason? That determines what you do now depending on the desired outcome. If the outcome is to simply get them out of the picture forever because they know something problematic, just leave them in solitary confinement with essentially no stimuli for the equivalent of a few years. They'll simply go insane beyond recovery and become harmless in terms of their knowledge being useful.

Assuming you just want them to become someone else. The best course of action is convincing them it was the product of a dream or delusion, ideally product of a "coma" state induced after an accident. Assign them a new identity, give them a new name and birthday date. Give them a loving, structured family that supports them in positive and healthy decisions while criticizing both unwise decisions and attempts to treat their true memories as more than "the fantasy it is". Show them old fabricated pictures in which they appear in, talk about old, already fragmented memories that tap into their actual experiences while changing some of the story to match the narrative. Implant new memories that further strengthen the idea that their current life is the life they always had. The longer they exist within a reality where, for all intents and purposes, their life was little more than the product of comatose dream about a distorted version of their "actual" life, the more likely they are to believe that their previous memories were but the product of a hyper realistic fantasy and accept the new, "true" reality.

If everything goes well, rather than a confused individual aware that they're likely missing memories, but unable to recall them and suffering from such inability, you'll have a chance of getting a potentially content and healthy individual who lost some of their memories and had some crazy realistic dream as the result of an unfortunate accident. You will however need to make sure that, wherever they spend their lives, they're to receive as little positive reassurance about their previous memories being actually real as possible, lest they'll most likely be at risk of having some serious psychological issues regarding finding out what is and isn't the truth.

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I literally forget my own name from time to time and I'm not immortal, I have been alive only 23 years as matter of fact.

Why does it happen to me? Probably because I never use my name,I never meet new people and no one ever calls me by name.

I guess it's just normal to forget useless things, you don't need trauma to forget.

I might say psychological trauma makes every memory more vivid, and physical trauma to the brain is often unpredictable since even people with half a brain can remember everything, your memories can easily be stored in another place if part of your brain is destroyed.

A brain is like an arm, if you lose your main arm you don't forget how to write, you learn how to write with the other arm.

Oh sometime I forget my own birthday and it takes me a while to remember it, since I only celebrated it once, when I was 6.

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You talk about brain trauma (as in physical damage, I assume), but what about psychological trauma or dissociation? Your question isn't clear on whether or not a human inside these tunnels would be literally alone or isolated from the outside world. In that case, examining the psychological effects of something like solitary confinement could help. (The physical effects may be a moot point, if anyone within the tunnel isn't literally confined.)

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