Distortions of memory


Memory as a constructive process

Frederick Bartlett (1932) Schemas: mental structures (ideas) that shape how information is encoded and recalled. Our memories can be reformed to fit our expectations, rather than reality. Participant's memory was examined for a story. It was found that their recall of the details was shaped by their own experiences - they reconstructed the story so it made sense to them.

Memory is not simply a faithful recording of the environment and events, it is malleable

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Explaining memory distortions

Relatedness effect (Underwood, 1965): false memories are the result of associative processes during encoding. Strength of associations predicts false recall. Cabeza et al (2001): similar activation for true items and false but related items

Parallel distributed processing model, built upon Hebb's theory: cognitive processes can be explained by activation flowing through networks that link together nodes. New events change the strength of connections among relevant units by altering the connection weights. Memories are patterns of activity; false memories occur when something mimics these patterns of activity

Interference: post event (mis)information. Loftus & Palmer (1974): depending on which verb was used when describing how a car accident happened, estimations for speed that the car was going increased or decreased.

Social factors: conformity. When a confederate in a study deviates from the norm even if participants know what they just saw, they will align their answer to that of the confederate's

Individual differences: age and cognitive factors

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Why are distortions important?

False imprisonment: in the US, around 200 people have been shown to be innocent by DNA tests. Importantly, 75% were convicted on the basis of mistaken eye-witness identification. Charles Chatman was convicted of **** and sentenced to 99 years in prison. The victim identified him in a line-up. He spent 27 years in prison before being released in 2008 based on DNA evidence.

False accusations: Nadean Cool - following treatment by a psychiatrist she became convinced she had repressed memories of being in a satanic cult, engaging in beastiality, and being ****d. It appears that these memories were implanted there by the therapist.

Fallibilty of memory: shows that distortions of memory aren't limited to patients with brain damage, we are all vulnerable to them

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