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Psychology Memory

In: Philosophy and Psychology

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Eye witness testimony is the ability of people remembering the details of events, such as accidents and crimes which they themselves have observed. The accuracy of eye witness testimony can be affected by factors such as misleading information, leading questions, post-event discussion and anxiety.
Loftus and Palmer investigated how the language (leading questions) used in eyewitness testimony can alter memory. 45 students were shown 7 films of different traffic accidents. After each film the participants were given a questionnaire which asked them to describe the accident and then answer a series of specific questions about it. There was one critical. This question was ‘About how fast were the cars going when they hit each other?’ One group of participants were given this question. The other five groups were given the verbs smashed, collided, bumped or contacted in place of the word hit. The mean speed estimate was calculated for each group. The group given the word ‘smashed’ estimated a higher speed than the other groups (about 41 mph). The group given the word ‘contacted’ estimated the lowest speed (about 30 mph). This suggests that memory is easily distorted by questioning technique and information acquired after the event can merge with original memory causing inaccurate memory. This may not be valid because the participants may not have taken the task seriously as they knew it was not real (lacks ecological validity) and there was little to no consent given by participants to watch clips on car crashes so could cause psychological harm. However since it was a lab experiment it is easy to replicate as it’s controlled.
Loftus and Palmer also conducted another study in which participants were shown a series of slides of a customer in a restaurant. In one version the customer was holding a gun, in the other the same customer held a checkbook. Participants who saw the gun version tended to focus on the gun. As a result they were less likely to identify the customer in an identity parade those who had seen the checkbook version.
Johnson and Scott investigated the effect on the accuracy of recall as weapons create anxiety. They led participants to believe that they were going to take part in a lab study. In the ‘no-weapon’ condition’, participants overheard a conversation in the laboratory about equipment failure. Thereafter an individual (the target) left the laboratory and walked passed the participant holding a pen, with his hands covered in grease. In the ‘weapon’ condition, participants overheard a heated exchange and the sound of breaking glass and crashing chairs. This was followed by an individual (the target) running into the reception area, holding a bloodied letter opener.
Both groups were then shown 50 photographs and asked to identify the person who had left the laboratory. The participants were informed that the suspect may, or may not be present in the photograph. Those who had witness the man holding a pen correctly identified the target 49% of the time, compared to those who had witness the man holding a knife, who correctly identified the target 33% of the time
This experiment has been criticised for lacking ecological validity as although participants were waiting in the reception area outside the lab, they were anticipated that something was going to happen, affecting the accuracy of their judgements. Furthermore, numerous ethical guidelines were broken. Participants were deceived about the nature of the experiment and were not protected from harm as some participants were exposed to man holding bloodied knife which could have caused extreme feelings of anxiety.

The Cognitive Interview was developed by Geiselman et al which is a retrieval technique to elicit more accurate information from witnesses. They are asked to report everything even if details seem irrelevant at the time because these may trigger other memories. Reinstate context by returning to the original scene in their mind and involving all senses, emotions and environment. Reversing order to trigger the memory and prevent people reporting their expectations of what happened/harder to produce dishonest account. Changing perspective describes the episode from different people’s viewpoints, who were still involved in the situation. These four techniques, with prompts and a lack of interruption, allow the witness to freely revisit the environment in which the event occurred and freely describe every detail remembered, no matter how irrelevant.
Fisher et al conducted a study of real life cognitive interview performance. Researchers trained police detectives to use the cognitive interview and compared them before and after training. After training detectives gained 47% more useful information from witnesses to real crimes compared to when they had been using the standard interview. It has high ecological validity as it was conducted with real eyewitnesses.
Children find it difficult to understand the complicated instructions of changing perspective and reversing the order so are only asked to report everything and reinstate context. This has shown to reduce the accuracy of children’s eyewitness testimony.
Most police offers do not receive adequate training on how to carry out cognitive interviews and do not have the time to conduct them fully during investigation so this also reduced the effectiveness of the technique as this will not lead to significant increased in the amount of information of information elicited from eyewitnesses.
Less effective at enhancing recall when used at longer intervals of time after the event.
Other factors such as individual differences may affect how much information is recalled

Describe and Compare two explanations of Forgetting
The first explanation of forgetting is the Cue-dependant theory which applies only to long-term memory. Memory depends on Cues available, which are additional pieces of information that help us find the information we need. If we do not have the right cues or if they are absent, we forget. There are two types of cues, Context-Dependent and State-dependant cues.
Context-dependant cues are to do with the environments we are in such as sights, sounds, smells and etc. State-dependant cues are mainly to do with our internal feelings for example, mood, emotion, alcohol and etc. We forget things if the context cues are not present or we are not in the same state at recall as the state we were at learning.
The second theory of forgetting is the Interference theory which is also focused on the long-term memory store. There are two types of interference which are Proactive and Retroactive. Proactive interference is when previous information interferes with information which is trying to be learnt at present. On the other hand, Retroactive interference is when new information interferes with old information. For example, if you are revising for two similar subjects like sociology and psychology. If you revise for sociology after psychology, and when learning information for psychology stops for remembering the meaning for the same thing in sociology, it is known as Retroactive Interference. Whereas, if your knowledge from sociology interferes with your ability to learn for psychology, it is known as Proactive Interference.
Cue-dependant theory suggested by Tulving, states that forgetting occurs if the right cues are not available at memory retrieval, then the information cannot be accessed. Such information is said to be available but not accessible. An example of this is if you forget something about your childhood and you visit your old school/house it may help you remember by acting as a cue.
On the other hand, Interference theory suggests that information cannot be retrieved at that moment in time. For example, what we are currently learning can be disrupted either by what we have previously learned or by subsequent learning. Forgetting also occurs when information to be stored is similar to information already in long-term memory so memories get muddled up because of the similarities between the information. For example, like in sociology and psychology, some words might be the sane but have different meanings for each subject. If you learn the meanings one after the other, you will get muddled up between them and forget.
Both of these theories have studies supporting them, for example, they are both supported by lab studies.

Goodwin et al investigated the effect of alcohol on state-dependent retrieval. They used alcoholics who hid money while they were drunk who were then asked to find the money once sober. Then who hid money when they were sober who were then asked to find it once drunk. Many were unable to find the money while sober. However, once drunk again, they often discovered the hiding place. They found that when people encoded information while drunk, they were more likely going to recall it in the same state. People tend to remember material better when there is a match between their mood at learning and at retrieval. The effects are stronger when the participants are in a positive mood than a negative mood.

Effects are also stronger when participants try to remember events having personal relevance. Baddeley investigated the importance of setting on retrieval. Deep-sea divers were asked to memorize a list of words. One group did this on the beach and the other group underwater. When they were asked to remember the words half of the beach learners remained on the beach, the rest had to recall underwater. Half of the underwater group remained there and the others had to recall on the beach. The results show that those who had recalled in the same environment (i.e. context) which that had learned recalled 40% more words than those recalling in a different environment. This suggests that the retrieval of information is improved if it occurs in the context in which it was learned. Postman investigated how retroactive interference affects learning. A lab experiment was used where participants were split into two groups (experimental and control). Both groups had to remember a list of paired words – e.g. cat - tree, jelly - moss, book - tractor. The experimental group also had to learn another list of words where the second paired word if different – e.g. cat – glass, jelly- time, book – revolver. The control group were not given the second list. All participants were asked to recall the words on the first list. The recall of the control group was more accurate than that of the experimental group. This suggests that learning items in the second list interfered with participants’ ability to recall the list. This is an example of retroactive interference.

Short term memory: 7+/-2, 30 seconds without rehearsal.

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