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Posts Tagged ‘Autobiographical Memory’

The Barnum effect- Your horoscope just came in: There really is a sucker born every minute!

April 24th, 2018 No comments

In case there was any confusion…

Hello, and welcome to your reading! While you may have come here looking for some interesting cognitive facts or tidbits, what you’re really in for is a personality profile created specifically for YOU. Through our unique system of assessment, here are your results…

-You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage.

Was it accurate? Do you feel as though you can suddenly trust the powerful abilities of this post to predict your innermost emotions and traits? If you answered yes or felt that the reading uniquely matched you, then you’ve fallen victim to the Barnum effect. Named after the infamous showman P.T. Barnum, this effect refers to the tendency for people to give high accuracy ratings to personality descriptions that, although said to be unique, can apply to the general population. Barnum famously said that there is a sucker born every minute, and this tendency may explain why those “suckers” seem so gullible. From fortune cookies to the Long Island Medium to Buzzfeed personality tests, this effect explains why people are so eager to accept general profiles that have no veridical backing as the truth.

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Suggestibility’s Strong Influence on Behavior

November 27th, 2013 7 comments

How reliable are your memories?  Before I took Cognitive Psych, I never considered this question.  In fact, I assumed that most of what I remembered was true, even things from my early childhood.  Now that I know about suggestibility, I have begun to second-guess what I know about many of my past experiences.  Suggestibility occurs when, without realizing it, we include information from others in our memories.  This can lead to changes in memories, and sometimes the creation of non- experienced, or “false” memories.

There are two basic types of suggestions.  A personalized suggestion is one that indicates that something may have happened specifically to you in the past.  General suggestions, on the other hand, suggest that something happened to many people in the past.  For example, a personalized suggestion could involve your grandmother saying, “you always used to wear those green overalls when you came to visit me,” while a generalized suggestion may involve reading a magazine article that says green overalls were very popular among children in the late 1990s.  Research has shown that personalized suggestions create false autobiographical memories, which can affect behavior.  Memories are very important in guiding our behavior.  For example, if you remember a negative event associated with a certain place, you are more likely to avoid that place in the future.  Generalized suggestions guide behavior as well, but not through false memories.  In this case, a person may hear that something happened to others in the past and adjust their behavior to avoid experiencing it.  For example, if you learned that many people got sick from eating raw cookie dough, you might avoid sampling the batter when making cookies so as not to get sick yourself.

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