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PSY102 - Chapter 7 (Memory)

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PSY 102
John Turtle

Chapter 7 – Memory Overview  “Common Sense” Models of Memory o To identify their shortcomings  The Cognitive Model of Memory o Processes, stages and application to eyewitness memory  Improving Memory o No easy fixes, but effort pays off Our Assignment  Now due on Nov. 21 through our Blackboard site o “Assignment” link in main menu…  is integrated into Blackboard, so your submission will generate an “originality report” o Actually just an “overlap report” o Emphasis is on informing you about your paper, and deterring plagiarism, not to target people doing their own work o “Is ___% too much?!” “Common Sense” Models of Memory  Discussion of common assumptions/misconceptions about memory – NOT “teaching” these as accurate o Our goal is to examine the shortcomings of these models o And set up our discussion of what psychology has to offer now about how memory works  So why bother? o Because which “common sense” model you currently hold, if any, has implications for what you are likely to believe about memory o Especially in consequential situations like being a juror in a case where memory is involved  “Common sense” models of memory differ primarily on one question o “Is memory a permanent thing?”  Proponents of one model over another often have strong opinions on what they think is the right answer… o “There‟s no way you could still remember that!” versus o “No one could ever forget something like that!”  So what are the typical ways people view memory 1A. The Freudian Model of Memory  An idea from about 1895 – 1915 that has remained a part of Western culture, although not a major part of modern psychology  Suggests that all memories, especially for “traumatic” events, remain intact (with all the original detail from the event) forever o But are often inaccessible (“repressed”) under normal conditions o So a special strategy must be used to gain access, such as hypnosis, dream interpretation, word association, or so-called “truth serum”  The modern, mainstream psychology view is that there is no scientifically-acceptable evidence to support the Freudian model as the way that memories are stored o Although it‟s still popular in dramatic portrayals of memory phenomena o And some therapists hold this view, especially concerning alleged repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse as an explanation for adult problems like anorexia, failed relationships, depression, etc  With potentially tragic consequences 1B. The “Videotape Model” of Memory  An updated version of the “Freudian model”  Assumes that at least some memories remain perfectly intact for a very long time, possibly forever o Like a videotape of the event that can be played at will  But this view has the same limitations as the Freudian model – No supporting evidence, and lots of contradictory evidence o We‟ll see that the current, mainstream “cognitive” view of memory views all memories as vulnerable to forgetting, distortion and inaccuracy  “But what about „photographic memories‟!?” So, How Do You Account For “Photographic Memory” Then?!  Certainly, some people show better memory than others, and most people use imagery as part of their memory  But there is no credible evidence to suggest that there has ever been a person with a “photographic memory,” if you interpret “photographic” to mean o Genetic, instant, passive/effortless, exhaustive o Anders Ericson video clip, including Rajan (discussed on page 285) B. The “Videotape Model” of Memory  There are a few people with outstanding memory abilities that still challenge our understanding of how memory works o A.J. (actually Jill Price) described on page 284 o Stephen Wiltshire (Can draw entire city scenery having seen it for about 20 minutes) o George Finn, Kim Peek (“Rain Men?”) o Daniel Tammet (Known Pi up to 50,000 digits) 1C. The “Simple Biological Model”  Acknowledges that memories are stored in the brain… o And that the brain is composed of cells… o And cells are known to die off at an apparently alarming rate  So memories must necessarily decay over time, right? o Which means that really old memories can no longer exist, right? o And no retrieval strategy can access the, right?  No, that‟s not right  Research findings suggest that complex memories are NOT stored in single cells o And are therefore not necessarily susceptible to “decay” over time just because some brain cells die off o Although new research suggests more of a role for individual cells than was previously believed (Eg. The “Halle Berry neuron” described on page 308)  Which means that it‟s possible, although not guaranteed, for memories to exist for long periods of time o Especially if they are repeatedly reactivated through recall o Even if we acknowledge the biological limitations of the brain The Cognitive Model of Memory  Takes good stuff from the “common sense” models of memory… o From the Freudian model, we recognize that there might be information in memory that is difficult to access o From the Videotape model, we borrow phrases familiar to most people to help them recall (Eg. “Slow motion, fast forward”) o From the simple biological model, we acknowledge the biological basis of memory (Eg. Processing limitations, disabilities, injuries)  … and adds more good stuff o An emphasis on practical problems, such as police procedures, instead of on just laboratory studies  Recognizes examples of dramatic memory performance and failure that need to be accounted for  Recognizes the crucial role of brain physiology, as well as non-memory factors such as motivation to remember 2A. Memory As A Reconstructive Process  There is no brain cell for a particular complex memory, or a categorized videotape-like file to access o So events aren‟t “reproduced” when they‟re remembered – they are reconstructed  The current view is that memories are the result of reactivating the pattern of connections among brain cells that were made when something was first experienced or learned  So, a memory is represented by the reactivation of a unique pattern of neural activity  Loss of some cells over time, and overlap with similar patterns, means that some accurate information will typically be lost and some inaccurate information will be added  A central theme here is the notion of a memory “schema” o A cognitively economical strategy for combining similar events and information into a common pattern of neuron connections o Especially detailed schemas are sometimes called “Scripts,” like a restaurant script, first-date script, etc  Schemas allow us to retrieve examples, make inferences, and draw conclusions from memory that are mostly accurate o But we don‟t necessarily have all the details of the individual events and original information available, so mistakes are possible B. Memory Processes and Stages  “Stimuli” (Things we can see, hear, taste, smell, or touch) have to go through many stages of processing by our body and brain if they are to be remembered later  Information can be lost at each of these stages o Some loss is beyond our control o Some loss we can do something about The Cogni
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