Loftus and Palmer - Reconstruction of automobile destruction


The Cognitive Area

Cognitive psychology is the processes which happen in the brain. These are mental processes such as memory, thinking, reasoning, problem solving and language are important features influencing human behaviour. It is interested how the brain processes information and respond to it.

The Cognitive area is unique as it is more likely to use self report as it is needed to know how people are thinking to access how a variable changed their thoughts.                                   ________________________________________________________________________________

One key theme in the cognitive area is memory. This is the ability to store and recall information.

Reconstructive memory - How a memory can be altered by other external factors such as post event information. 

Context-dependence - Memory is improved if the environment that the learning takes place is in the same environment that the memory is recalled.

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Loftus and Palmer (1974)

Reconstructive of Automobile Destruction

Background and Context 

-Loftus firstly took an experiment to see effects of stress and ability to recall facts. She saw two factors that affect our memory of an event.                

1) Infromation gained during an event

2) Infromation gained after an event

Key terms and Definitions

Response Bias - The wording of the question caused the participant to alter their answer from what they actually believed.

Memory Alteration -  The effect of the leading questions causes a change in the participants memory of events.

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Loftus and Palmer (1974)

Aims and Hypotheses

- To investiage the effects of language on memory                            

- An expectation that information recieved after an event in the form of a leading question would be intergrated into a persons memory.

Research Methods

Experiment - Lab                                                                                                



The experiment was done in a labortory and the infromation from the experiment was found by a self-report questionnaire.

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Loftus and Palmer (1974) - Experiment 1

Experimental Design - A laboratory experiment

Sample - Forty five students spilt into 5 groups

Independent Variables - The verb added to a question                                                           - Contacted  -Smashed  -Hit  -Bumped  -Collided 

Dependent Variable - The speed estimate of the accident in MPH

Procedure - All participants were shown 7 film clips of staged crashes which lasted between 5-30 seconds. They were then given a citical question about the crash, including the speed estimate. The 5 different groups had slightly different questions on the speed estimate, the verb used varied per group.

Data Collected - Self report - questionnaire

Controls - The film clips between groups   -Same groups   - All same questions other than the critical question  

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Loftus and Palmer (1974) - Experiment 1

Results                                                                                                                               Comparison of speed estimates between each verb condition .

Type of Data - Quantitative

Conclusions - The participants showed people were not good at judging spped.                      -That the intensity of the verb affected the speed guessed, higher intensity, higher speed guess.

Explanations of results - The wording affected the participants because of repsonse bias. If a person cannot interpret between 30 or 40MPH, the word smashed may cue a response of 40.     - The memory is alerted due to the leading questions (memory alteration)

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Loftus and Palmer (1974) - Experiment 2

Experimental Design - A labortory experiment

Sample - 150 students split into 3 groups of 50

Independent Variable - The verbs used                                                                                 -Smahsed   -Hit   -Control group

Dependent Variable - If they saw broken glass or not. Yes or No

Procedure - Participants saw a single clip of car crashes. They were given a self report questionnaire with a critical question on speed. Hit and Smashed were used as verbs in their cirtical questions. The control group was not asked the critcal question.

A week later all the participants came back and were asked another critical question of 'Did you see any broken glass'. There was no broken glass in the footage shown to them.

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Loftus and Palmer (1974) - Experiment 2

Data collected - Self report - questionnaire

Controls -

-The people experimented on (participants)                                                            

-The verbs used in the groups                                                                                                

-The film clips shown

Results - 


Type of Data - Nominal quantitative data

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Loftus and Palmer (1974) - Experiment 2

Conclusions - The questions asked can reconstruct a memory. The verb used can affect the speed estimate and whether they recall broken glass.

Explanation of Results - The experiment / verbs also affected the likelyness of participants thinking they had seen broken glass. Loftus and Palmer suggested the participants combined original information and information given after the event. We are inclined to make our memories make sense, so thought / recalled that broken glass was present.

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Loftus and Palmer (1974) - Evaluation

Ethics upheld - Responsibility was upholded due to being protected from harm.                         -Respect, as the participants had the choice to withdraw and kept the peoples details safe and secure (confidentual).

Ethics broken - Integrity, as they did decieve the participants by not revealing the full hypothesis. However this was necessary to ensure that demand characteristics did not affect the findings.

Internal Reliability - The procedure was standardised and replicable as it meets important criteria for scientiftic research. The DV is objective so it should not matter who recorded the results.

External Reliability - The sample was large enough to suggest a consistent effect. Humans have not changed since 1974 so results will be similar.

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Loftus and Palmer (1974) - Evaluation

Internal Validity - The participants could have guessed the aim of the experiment. It was standardised but the participants were in a study so may feel pressured to answer a certain question in a certain way.

External Validity - The experiment did not resemble a real-life situation as only clips were shown and they knew the experiment was on memory so may have tried harder and paid more attention to remember information.

Ethnocentrism - It was one sample of Americans however the process of memory is a world wide construct. 

Link to the cognitive area - The study investigates the process of memory, in particular the reconstructive nature of memory showing that post event information influences eye witnesses memories.

Link to the key theme of memory - The study provides scientifically based data into the effects of information recieved after an event on recall of the event. In particular the reconstructive nature of memory.

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Loftus and Palmer (1974) - Evaluation

Links to Debates 

Usefulness - The validity / usefulness of memory in courts based on how eye witnesses may remember a criminal event.                                                                                                     -How leading questions can alter memory so may affect answers from people.

Psychology as a Science - The experiment was replicable, had an objective and was the conclusions were based of scientific data.

Ethical Considerations - There was deception of the participants of what the experiment was about, however this did not cause them harm.

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