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Lecture

PSYC 2650 Lecture Notes - Autobiographical Memory, Egg Salad, Cognitive Psychology


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYC 2650
Professor
Anneke Olthof

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Cognitive Psychology: Chapter 7
Introduction
- In this chapter we consider some of the errors that can arise when people try to remember episodes that are
related to other things they know and have experienced
- We also consider some of the factors that are directly pertinent to memory as it functions in day- to-day life.
Memory Errors
- An example of a memory error:
Researchers interviewed nearly 200 people in Amsterdam several months after a plane crash in the city
When asked if they had seen footage of the plane crash on television, over half of the participants
reported that they had
• However, no such film exists
• In later follow-ups, many participants confidently provided details about the crash
- Similar effects are observed under experimental conditions
- Brewer & Treyens (1981) found that participants who had been asked to wait in an office (for roughly 35s) recalled
seeing books and other items typical of an office, even though these items had not been present
- A hypothesis regarding memory errors:
• Memory connections link each bit of knowledge in memory to other bits of knowledge
• There are no clear boundaries separating the contents of one memory from others
• This organization plays a helpful role during memory retrieval
• However, it can be difficult to separate memory for a particular episode with associated knowledge in
memory
- The observation of intrusion errors – errors in which other knowledge intrudes into the remembered event
supports this hypothesis
- As an example of intrusion errors, when reading a story we may believe that propositions we inferred while
reading the story were actually presented in the story itself (Owens et al., 1979)
Participants asked to read a story. Some participants were given a prologue that offered more
understanding as they read the story (theme condition). In the other condition, participants read the story
without the prologue
People who read the prologue were able to recall more things that actually happened in the story
However, they also had 4x more errors of stating that inferred propositions were actually in the story
- The Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) procedure is also used to demonstrate intrusion errors
• If a list such as “bed, rest, awake, tired, dream, wake, snooze…” is presented, participants are very likely
to recall having studied the word “sleep,” even though it was not on the list
List itself establishes connections, which helps memory with these words, but leads to
intrusion errors
- Other intrusions are due to schematic knowledge
- A schema (pl: schemata) refers to knowledge that describes what is typical or frequent in a given situation
- Schemata can help us when remembering an event
• For instance, remember the last time you went to a restaurant
• Your schema of a restaurant includes the script of events that typically occur, e.g., being given a menu
• This general knowledge may be helpful in reconstructing your memory of this particular event
Will most often be correct
- However, schemata can also cause us to make errors when remembering an event
• For instance, imagine that you visit a dentist’s office where there are no magazines in the waiting area
• Your schema of a dentist office probably does include a waiting room with magazines
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• This general knowledge may cause you to regularize your memory of this particular event and
“remember” magazines that were not there
- A classic demonstration of the effects of schemata on memory was provided by Frederick Bartlett (1932)
• Stories taken from Native American folklore were presented to British participants
• The gists of the stories were recalled correctly, but details were altered in memory
• Details that did not make sense from the British perspective were left out or supplemented to make the
story fit better with the participants’ background knowledge
Their schemata were interfering with what they actually heard
- The regularization of memories by schemata may explain the other memory errors we have discussed
• Books are remembered in an office because books are part of our schematic knowledge of offices
• Footage of a plane crash is remembered because major news events are learned about through such
footage on television
- Another line of research has investigated the misinformation effect
• The participant experiences an event and is exposed to misleading information about how it unfolded
• Some time is allowed to pass
• On a later memory test, a substantial number of participants have incorporated the misleading
information into their memory
Questioning can influence your perception of a crime
- In one study, participants viewed a series of slides depicting a car accident (Loftus & Palmer, 1974)
- Some participants were asked, “How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?” and others were asked
“How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?”
- Other studies have shown that false autobiographical memories can be implanted, such as participants believing
they had become ill eating egg salad as children
- In certain cases, entire events can be planted into someone’s memory, so that the person recalls – confidently and
in detail – an event that never took place
Having been hospitalized overnight for a high fever
Having spilled a bowl of punch at a wedding
Having been lost in a shopping mall
Having taken a hot-air balloon ride
Having been attacked by a vicious animal
-- By the third time, they go along with the memory (“Yeah, that totally happened to me!”), and
even supplied additional details
Avoiding Memory Errors
- Other studies have demonstrated cases in which memories were surprisingly accurate
- What factors determine whether a memory will be accurate or subject to errors?
Generic knowledge, misinformation received after the event, repeated exposure
- A major factor is the retention interval – the amount of time that elapsed between initial learning and
subsequent retrieval
• With an increased retention interval, more of the original event is forgotten and has to be reconstructed
with schematic knowledge
As time goes by, more gaps. Generic knowledge fills in the gaps
• This creates problems of source monitoring – which parts of the memory actually occurred and which
parts are associated knowledge
- Three hypotheses for why memories weaken with time:
Decay – memories may fade or erode
Not inevitable, some memories keep kicking around
Interference – newer learning may disrupt older memories
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