Chapter 8: Everyday Memory and Memory Errors
Studying the errors we make when remembering leads to the conclusion that what we remember is
determined by creative mental processes. This creativity is a gift that helps us determine what happened
when we have incomplete information, but it can also affect the accuracy of our memory.
Autobiographical Memory: What Has Happened in my Life
Autobiographical memory: recollected events that belong to a person‟s past
Autobiographical memories can contain semantic components along with episodic memories.
One of the factors that determine the relative proportions of episodic and semantic components in AM is
how long ago the event to be remembered occurred. Memories of recent events that are rich in perceptual
details and emotional content are dominated by episodic memory.
Memories for more distant events become more semantic as episodic memories fade.
We can define AM as episodic memory for events in our lives plus personal semantic memories of facts
about our lives.
The Multidimensional Nature of AM
Autobiographical memories are multidimensional because they consist of spatial, emotional, and sensory
Visual experience plays an important role in forming autobiographical memories.
Memory Over the Life Span
Events that become significant parts of a person‟s life tend to be remembered well.
Transition points in people‟s lives appear to be particularly memorable (ex: change between middle
school and high school & change between high school and college).
Reminiscence bump: enhanced memory for adolescence and young adulthood (between 10 and 30 years
of age) for people over 40
1) Self-image hypothesis: proposes that memory is enhanced for events that occur as a person‟s self-
image or life identity is being formed
2) Cognitive hypothesis: proposes that periods of rapid change that are followed by stability cause
stronger encoding of memories
3) Cultural life script hypothesis: distinguishes between a person‟s life story, which is all of the
events that have occurred in a person‟s life, and a cultural life script, which are culturally
expected events that occur at a particular time in the life span
a. Events in a person‟s life story become easier to recall when they fit the cultural life script
for that person‟s culture. Memory for “Exceptional” Events
A characteristic of most memorable events is that they are significant and important to the person and, in
many cases, are associated with emotions.
Memory and Emotion
Personal events (beginning/ending relationships), or events experienced by many simultaneously (9/11),
seem to be remembered more easily and vividly than less emotionally charged events.
Amygdala: brain structured activated by emotional words/experiences/memories
Emotions may trigger mechanisms in the amygdala that help us remember events that are associated with
Flashbulb memory: a person‟s memory for circumstances surrounding hearing about shocking, highly
charged events (how a person heard as opposed to the event itself)
Repeated recall: the technique of comparing later memories to memories collected immediately after an
event (used to determine whether memory changes over time)
People‟s memories for how they heard about flashbulb events change over time – they are often
inaccurate or lacking in detail.
People often mistake the location of where they first heard about a dramatic event for seeing it on TV –
this is because television reports become more memorable through repetition and TV is a major source of
news (or was until the Internet).
Flashbulb memories fade like regular memories, making researchers wonder if the two are different after
The idea that flashbulb memories are special appears to be based at least partially on the fact that people
think the memories are stronger and more accurate; however, in reality there is little or no difference
between flashbulb and everyday memories in terms of amount and accuracy of what is remembered.
Better memory for flashbulb events may be due to…
1)…intense emotions associated with the event.
2)…added rehearsal of the event after it occurs (narrative rehearsal hypothesis)
The Constructive Nature of Memory
Constructive nature of memory: what people report as memories are constructed by the person based on
what actually happened plus additional factors, such as the person‟s knowledge, experiences, and
Bartlett’s “War of the Ghosts” Experiment Participants read a story from Canadian Indian Folklore. After, Bartlett asked them to recall it as
accurately as possible.
Repeated reproduction: technique used in which the same participants came back a number of times to try
to remember the story at longer and longer intervals after they first read it
At longer times after reading the story, participants forgot much of the information in the story; the
reproductions were shorter than the original, contained omissions and inaccuracies, and tended to reflect
the participant‟s own culture
Source Monitoring and Source Monitoring Errors
Source monitoring: the process of determining the origins of our memories, knowledge, or beliefs
Source monitoring error (source misattributions): misidentifying the source of a memory
Cryptomnesia: unconscious plagiarism of the work of others
The primary source of information for memory is information from the actual event, including perceptual
experiences, emotions, and thoughts that were occurring at the time. Additional sources of information
that influence memory include people‟s knowledge of the world, and things that happened before or after
the event that might become confused with the event.
The “Becoming Famous Overnight” Experiment: Source Monitoring and Familiarity
Acquisition (Read non-famous names) Immediate test (read non-famous names from acquisition plus
new non-famous names and new famous names; Q: Which are famous? Result: Most non-famous names
correctly identified as non-famous) Delayed test (24 hrs. later) (Same as immediate test; Result: Some
non-famous names misidentified as famous)
In the delayed test, some of the participants decided that the familiarity was caused by fame (vs. reading
the names the day before), so the non-famous names became famous overnight!
Remembering Who Said What: Source Monitoring and Gender Stereotypes
When in doubt about what we remember, we often make use of what we know about the world, and often
we do this unconsciously.
People‟s performance on a source monitoring task can be influenced by gender stereotypes.
“I like baseball.” Chris (Read statement and source) Break (puzzle) Chris is male. Pat is female.
(Gender is revealed) “I like baseball.” Source? (Source monitoring task)
Gender labels affected the participants‟ memory judgements.
If participants didn‟t have a strong memory for who made a particular statement, their memory retrieval
was biased by their knowledge of what “typical” males and females would say.
How Real-World Knowledge Affects Memory Making inferences
o Memory reports can be influenced by inferences that people make based on their
experiences and knowledge
o Pragmatic inference: occurs when reading a sentence leads a person to expect something
that is not explicitly stated or necessarily implied by the sentence
o Ex: inferring that the word „hammer‟ was present in a sentence after being presented with