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Posts Tagged ‘Eyewitness Testimony’

How reliable was that awesome memory anyways? False memories and how they happen.

April 27th, 2018 3 comments

Have your friends ever enthusiastically asked you if you remembered that time they hit that home run in the bottom of the 9th or told that killer joke in class? Chances are once they’re done describing the event you can totally remember it as well and even remember how much you cheered or how you couldn’t stop laughing. The event feels so real to you now and you can’t believe how you didn’t immediately remember it before, but even though you both remember it so vividly that’s no guarantee that it happened the way you remember.

Do you remember the time you went to college? Do you really?

Hold on one second though, there’s no way your friend didn’t hit that home run to win your baseball game; you can clearly remember how happy you were and how the whole team stormed the plate to congratulate him. This is a great example of a false memory. A false memory is simply a memory that did not actually happen, or happened in a way very differently than remembered. Our memories are not nearly as a accurate as we make them out to be, and unfortunately it is far too easy to misremember an event, or remember something that never happened in this first place.

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Here’s a Suggestion: Don’t Trust Your (False) Memory

April 26th, 2018 2 comments

I want you to think back to a childhood memory. Maybe it’s your third birthday party, the first day of kindergarten, or learning how to ride a bike. Can you remember any details? What you were wearing, who you were with, or how you felt? Now, how accurate do you think those details are? If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard different versions of the same story about that day a thousands times by your parents, siblings, or friends. There may also be tons of pictures from the event that you look at from time to time, even now. So that means my memory of the event is pretty accurate, right? Interestingly enough, cognitive psychology tells us that the opposite is true–there are many things that can alter your memory (we’ll get to one of those things in just a bit). This can mean changing minor details, or even creating large portions of a memory that just didn’t happen. This extreme divergence from the truth is called a false memory.

That’s quite the false memory

A false memory is a recollection of an event that is either highly distorted or a complete (unintentional) fabrication. This isn’t about simply forgetting what happened. People with false memories believe that their misconstrued ideas of what occurred are accurate—and often with high confidence, too. So why do we have false memories? How does our brain allow us to have such confidence in the authenticity of events that never actually happened? Despite what you might be thinking, it is not the result of some mind control or hypnotism. So let’s look into how memory works to find out exactly what it is. Read more…

Are you SURE that happened or was that that just a (false) memory?

April 26th, 2018 3 comments

Imagine this. You’re in a convenience store and are getting ready to pay for some delicious Toll-House cookie dough (YUM). Suddenly, a man runs in wearing a mask and brandishing what appears to be a gun, so you decide to quickly hide near the front of the store behind some of the shelves. He demands for the cash in the register and the terrified workers quickly hand over the cash. You are so well hidden that the robber does not realize that there is anybody else in the store, and so as he is on his way out, he quickly removes his mask so that he can better see to escape. For a brief, fleeting couple of seconds, you get a perfect view of the man’s face. A few days later, the cops bring in some pictures of potential suspects to identify, and you are adamant that it was definitely a certain man in the pictures. However, the cops later realize that the man has an air-tight alibi from that day, which means that your identification of the criminal was incorrect. How could this happen?

This would’ve been a less scary robber to identify.

Well, thanks to cognitive psychology, we know that this misidentification probably happened due to the phenomenon called false memory. A false memory is when somebody has either a recollection of an event that did not actually occur, or when somebody remembers an event very differently from how it actually occurred. Essentially, no matter how sure you are that you remembered something correctly, there is a still a chance that you could be wrong. Crazy, right? So, next time you’re promising someone you are remembering some event correctly – just think and wonder how solid this promise actually is! Read more…

There is a monster under your bed, and I have evidence to confirm it.

April 24th, 2018 2 comments

Not all princesses need saving, it has been confirmed. (Image 1)

You are a hero, off on an adventure. Riding on horseback, glorious as you are, you see a dragon in the distance. It is wrapped around a twisting tower and a fair maiden gazes down from the window up above. This is your chance, you know she needs saving, so you ride closer to get a better look. Exactly as you thought, the maiden looks sad, almost wistful, and you know she is dreaming of escaping this terrible beast. With a flash of your sword and the pure strength of your muscles to climb the tower, you kill the beast and finally reach the princess. To your surprise, she does not look pleased. You explain that you have saved her from the terrible dragon which kept her imprisoned, as if this really requires explaining. Astonishingly, she admonishes you! She tells you with great anger that the dragon was her beloved pet and she did not need saving. You look back on the events which occurred and explain to her that she did, in fact, need saving, because she looked so sad and wistful in the tower, clearly longing for sweet escape. Yet, as she soon points out, she was not sad due to imprisonment, but because her “Do Not Feed The Dragon” sign had fell from the castle wall, which you could now clearly see was laying on the lawn in visible sight the entire time. Yet even after she points out this contradictory information, you stick to your guns and tell her she must be delusional from the time she has spent in the tower, and saving her was the only option. So, what caused you to vindicate your decision by addressing only the evidence which made you believe the princess needed rescuing while completely disregarding the clear information which demonstrated otherwise? It is the real monster that needs slaying, and its name is Confirmation Bias. Confirmation bias affects our decision making by facilitating our attentional resources towards evidence confirming what we already believe to be true. When one demonstrates prejudice towards a certain outcome or decision prior to gathering all of the information available on this topic, one is inclined to only address the information which confirms their predictions while ignoring conflicting evidence which may hold more gravity. Therefore, confirmation bias results in a disregard for contradictory evidence and reasoning (Jonas et al., 2001). Read more…

Can Sleepiness Affect Your Eyewitness Memory?

November 23rd, 2015 No comments

It’s a given that as college students, we all feel tired from time to time. Well, maybe more than from time to time. Walking across campus, have you ever heard people saying things like “I got two hours of sleep last night,” “I slept terribly last night,” “I’m going to pass out right now,” or something along those lines? I’m sure you have at some point. sleepiness 1

We have all heard that it’s important to get our sleep. This is partly because there has been a lot of research showing that our episodic memory, or memory for specific details and events, is better after a period of sleep. For example, if you were to go out on the town and attend a show, your memory for the details and events of that show would be better the next day if you got eight hours of sleep, as opposed to staying out in the city all night. One reason for this phenomenon is that a function of sleep is consolidation (Diekelmann & Born, 2010), or the neural process by which memories are strengthened and more permanently stored. The more sleep you get, the more consolidation occurs, and the better your memories become.

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Is Recalling Always Good?–The Possible Dangers of Recalling

November 23rd, 2014 3 comments

memory_misconception_survey

The act of recalling–we do it so casually and frequently without much thought; whether it’s recalling questions from an exam when you are discussing with friends questions you couldn’t figure out, or subconsciously remembering what the acquaintance was like while hearing rumors about him/her. Recalling might not be all so good–at least not as much as we might think it is. We don’t usually question the accuracy of the information we take in. However, it turns out to be that the accuracy of information becomes important, especially after the act of recalling (retrieving any information from memory). Through recalling an event, we enhance our ability to take in new information relevant to the event; if the new information is an accurate account of the event, our accuracy on the memory of the event is enhanced, but if the information is misleading or wrong, we take in the misleading information into our memory as well as we do of an accurate event. In the case of discussing an exam question with a friend, if the friend gives you inaccurate information, your possibly accurate prior memory could be “overwritten” with the wrong information your friend just provided. And in the case of hearing a rumor about an acquaintance, you could have a positive memory about the person before, but because of the rumor, which might be right or wrong, your memory could paint a new picture of him/her over the positive image that you used to have. Without being aware, we are making ourselves susceptible to taking in misinformation through just a simple act of recall. This could become very problematic at times; especially in eyewitness testimonies where their account makes a huge impact on what could be decided in court.

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Are Eyewitness Accounts Trustworthy?!

May 2nd, 2014 3 comments

EyewitnessBBC

Ever wonder how accurate eyewitness accounts actually are?  Picture yourself sitting in a room conversing with police officers about a crime that you witnessed earlier that day.  Will you be able to remember every detail of the event and people involved?  Was all of your attention focused on the crime and no other factors?  How can we be sure that every memory of the event is even true?  Eyewitness accounts in general have been a topic of concern for these very reasons.  Many defendants are proven guilty based on eyewitness accounts; some of which consist of distorted/untrue statements.  To read more about this topic, click here.   Due to these issues, there is a growing interest in researching eyewitness testimonies in psychology, especially in the cognitive field. Read more…

Do You Remember What Happened? The Power of Memory Distortion

May 1st, 2014 2 comments

A memory is an event we remember from our past. We have memories of the first time we rode a bike, the time we graduated high school, our first boyfriend/girlfriend and even memories of where we were on 9/11. We believe that our memories are true recollections of what happened, and that what we remember is accurate. However, this isn’t always true; memories are fallible even under the best conditions. In fact, false memories, implanted memories and misinformation are very likely to distort our memory.

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Your Eyes Can Give You Away

May 1st, 2014 7 comments

eyes

That face. I know that face. How do I know that face? Do I wave? Do I know them that well? Everyone has had that experience where they recognize someone’s face, and you may know absolutely nothing about the person, but you know you’ve seen their face before.

How can we recognize people’s faces so easily? Facial recognition is a highly specialized process, and is incredibly accurate. Facial features such as the eyes, nose, mouth, the distance between features, and the shapes of features help us to identity a person’s face.  But when we are in a very emotional situation, are we still as good at facial recognition as we are in regular situations? Read more…

How to steal exit signs and escape being identified by eyewitnesses (A Satirical Post)

December 7th, 2013 4 comments

steal-signMany say that college is the time to relax and make memories before the work begins and the soul dies. However, the average and uncreative college student will spend these precious four years binge drinking cheap beer and making a mockery out of the fine sport that is Ping-Pong. I say, why aim for a hangover that will eventually leave you when you can have a stolen exit sign from the Alfond Complex that will be your lifetime companion? Yes, fellow Colby students, it’s about time that we bring it up a notch and follow the philosophy of Nate Ruess from the indie band Fun, which encourages youth to “set the world on fire.” While you “set the world on fire,” it is best not to be seen by others. However, that is a hard feat to accomplish, as dorms are usually high traffic areas. It is best to expect the presence of witnesses to the crime and take the proper precautions. This how-to article will teach you the proper ways to steal exit signs while decreasing the chances of being identified by eyewitnesses.

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