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Posts Tagged ‘False Memory’

Did fake news really help Trump win the election?

December 3rd, 2019 No comments

As the 2016 election drew closer, headlines such as “Pope Francis shocks world, endorses Trump as president” or “WikiLeaks confirms Hillary sold weapons to ISIS…Then 

drops another bombshell”. There was even a scandal insinuating that in Hillary’s leaked email, “pizza” was just a cover up for a possible human trafficking scheme or child sex abuse ring. In actuality, these events never took place, and several reputable news sources, such as the New York Times and Fox News debunked any criminal activity involving “pizza”. So why did so many people believe the headlines? And is there a possibility that this helped Trump win the election?

Memory is a system that is extremely important in our day to day lives. Without it we wouldn’t know where to go for food or water and we would have to learn basic tasks, like how to drive, every day. Memory is made of three processes: encoding, storage, and retrieval. Encoding allows us to take in information from our environment, for example, sound waves that are produced by our friend talking. Storage is the process of storing the information, in either our short term memory or long term memory. However, before something can enter our short term memory, it is first stored in our sensory memory. Retrieval is how we re access information stored in our long term memory. Take the example of seeing a red light. First, we recognize the light is red when it’s encoded into our sensory memory. Then, we retrieve the memory of the law that we must stop at red lights. Your body begins the automatic process (a process in which requires no cognitive practice as its been performed many times) of stepping on the brake.  Retrieval is how we access information stored in our long term memory. 

While it is widely believed that our memories are perfect, the fact of the matter is that they are far from it. In 2002, Daniel Schacter developed the seven sins of memory. The first three are sins of omission, or forgetting. Transience is just plain old forgetting of information. Over time, we naturally forget information that no longer has a use, such as a childhood friend’s landline number. The second sin of omission is absentmindness, which is a failure to pay attention during the encoding process. This decreases our ability to properly retrieve information. The third and final sin of omission is blocking, in which you know that you have the information but cannot retrieve it. One example is the tip of the tongue state. The other sins of memory are sins of commission in which precious memories are altered due to new information being presented. The first two are the sins of source misattribution in which you believe you had an

idea first but in reality you heard from someone else first. The second sin of commission is persistence in which your mind focuses on certain memories and plays over and over. PTSD is an example of persistence. The two sins of commission that I would like to focus on are suggestibility and bias. 

Suggestibility occurs when other’s suggestions and ideas can influence how memory of an event to fit their suggestions. Can alter old memories or create new, false ones. Hearing about and imagining an event multiple times can create a memory for the event that seem real to us as something we experienced. Bias occurs when current experiences are affected by our memories of past experiences. For example, if you break up with someone you may remember a positive event being more negative than it actually was. Can happen when our impressions of a person change. 

A study done by Brainerd et al. focused on how word connotations affected people’s memory of those words. They found that as the word connotations became more negative, false memories increased and true memories decreased. 

A study done by Porter et al. focused on scenes rather than words. However, they found very similar results. Memory distortion was found to be significantly affected by negative emotions surrounding the scene. In fact, 80% of participants that were in the negative emotion condition falsey remembered a major detail, while only 40% in the neutral and positive misled groups falsely remembered the same one. This shows that while it never took place, less people in the groups that were misleadingly told about the detail remembered it than participants who were never told about it remembered it, just because there was negative emotion surrounding the scene. 

During the election, there were big supporters of trump who wanted to lock up Hillary and there were big supporters of Hillary who believed Trump would be the downfall of our country. There were negative emotions surrounding both candidates almost all the time. It is not surprising that when these fake news stories emerged, it altered peoples’ memories so that they felt more negative about Trump/Hillary. The majority of these news stories put Trump in a positive light, and Hillary in a negative one. Because of this, people started to remember Trump as a person who would make America great again, and Hillary as a person who was crooked and belonged behind bars. 

References:

 

Brainerd, C. J., & Bookbinder, S. H. (2019). The semantics of emotion in false memory. Emotion, 19(1), 146–159. https://doi-org.colby.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/emo0000431

 

Porter, S., Spencer, L., & Birt, A. R. (2003). Blinded by emotion? Effect of the emotionality of a scene on susceptibility to false memories. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue Canadienne Des Sciences Du Comportement, 35(3), 165–175. https://doi-org.colby.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/h0087198

 

McBride, D., Cutting, J., (2016). Cognitive Psychology: Theory, Processes, and Methodology., Sage Publications. 

 

Silverman, Craig. “Here Are 50 Of The Biggest Fake News Hits On Facebook From 2016.” BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed News, 30 Dec. 2016, www.buzzfeednews.com/article/craigsilverman/top-fake-news-of-2016.

 

“Emotion Affects Memory’s Reliability.” NSF, www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=117140.

 

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Did you really know it all along??

November 26th, 2019 No comments

Your sibling’s face…
https://gfycat.com/artisticmeatyfennecfox-matt-leblanc

“I KNEW IT!!!!!” your sibling gleefully exclaims after the clock hits 0:00 and your favorite team has just lost to your least favorite team. You start thinking, how could they possibly know that team was going to win? The teams had similar records with equally talented players and you are left glumly wishing you hadn’t bet $10 on the game. This kind of scenario happens all the time and is pretty hard to avoid.  For instance, you may be amazed that your friend who walks carelessly across the ice is surprised when she falls. Of course she was going to fall! The key pattern in these instances is that the feelings of frustration or foreknowledge occur after the event. Often times, we believe that we knew something would happen because we assess the situation after it occurs and reflect upon it with information we did not previously have. This common phenomenon is known as the hindsight bias. Read more…

“I totally nailed it and I am pretty sure I did better than most people”- The Pitfall of Overconfidence

November 26th, 2019 No comments

Have you ever been disappointed by your exam score when you thought you actually did pretty well on it? Or have you ever overestimated how sufficiently you have prepared for a test and panicked as you read through the actual exam and find questions more difficult than expected? If you have had these experiences, you have been a victim of overconfidence effect.

Although we hardly realize such errors or often feel reluctant to admit them, we are all familiar with the mismatch between self-evaluation and actual outcomes. This phenomenon is called the overconfidence effect, a cognitive bias that occurs when people inaccurately evaluate their own performance as above average or higher in accuracy or quality than it actually is.

Overestimation of Capacity                    [https://advanced-hindsight.com/blog/b-e-dogs-overconfidence/]

People have faith in their erroneous self-evaluation about a variety of targets, including but not limited to application of factual knowledge, as in a college exam scenario. Psychologists have found that people tend to position themselves above others when assessing their own capacity. Overplacement is explicit not only in self-estimation about skills like safe driving but also in self-positioning within a community when participants see themselves as more popular and sociable than their friends (Svenson, 1981; Zuckerman & Jost, 2001).     Read more…

Confabulations: I am honestly (not) lying to you

November 26th, 2019 No comments

Have you ever told someone a story about something that happened in your life only for them to reply with, “That didn’t happen”? Now, have you ever asked someone a question only to be answered with a story that didn’t quite add up? In those instances, did you swear you were telling the truth? Did they? Maybe you both were but somewhere along the way, a couple details drifted away from actuality and you honestly didn’t know it. Maybe you were confabulating.

Confabulations occur when a person presents memories that contain false or changed information without the conscious awareness that their memories did not actually happen. Sometimes these errors in memory are mistaken for lies, but it is important to note that there is a difference. Lies are intentional and often used to fool others, while confabulations are completely unintentional as the person themselves believe their memory to be true. Read more…

Who Needs a Crystal Ball to See the Future When Hindsight Bias Makes You Feel as if You Knew it All Along

November 25th, 2019 1 comment

“I just can’t stand it anymore!” For the last two weeks, this has been Katie’s way of announcing to her mother that she is home from school. Why is Katie so upset? I’ll give you a hint- it’s March of her senior year and she is waiting on something…

You’re probably thinking, oh college decisions! That must be what she is waiting for.

Good guess, but this is something much more nerve-wracking.

She’s waiting for her crush to ask her to the senior prom.

“What happened today, sweetheart?,” her mom asked. “Ok, so it was during lunch and I was standing in front of Drew in the sandwich line. I totally saw him checking me out, so I thought, ‘might as well flash a smile his way’, so I smiled AND said hi to him. And you know what he did back? NOTHING. He pretended like I didn’t exist! Can you believe him?!”

“Well, maybe he didn’t see you Katie. I wouldn’t worry about it; I’ve seen the way he looks at you. Drew clearly likes you.” Katie groaned. “Sorry mom, but I think you’re wrong on this one. I’m just going to accept the fact that he NEVER is going to ask me out.”

“Just wait it out Katie; you always try to control the situation, but sometimes matters like this need time to work themselves out.” Katie rolled her eyes. “No, I think I’m just destined to live alone my whole life with only cats to keep me company. The sooner I accept reality the better.”

*One Week Later, Katie’s on the phone while walking into the house*

“Brittany, I know, what can I say, it was only a matter of time before he was going to ask me. Have you noticed the way he looks at me? I’ve known he was going to ask me the whole time.”

Katie may feel as if she knew it all along but she’s not fooling us…

“Katie, is that you? Did I just hear you say Drew finally asked you to the prom? This is so exciting! I told you not to worry.”

“Brittany, give me a second my mom is talking to me. What do you mean, worry? I’ve known he was going to ask me all along.”

*Katie leaves the room*

“Knew it all along huh?” Katie’s mom picked up an advertisement addressed to Katie from the counter. “I guess she won’t be needing this cat poster of the month subscription anymore”.

Like Katie’s mom, you may be confused as to why Katie suddenly feels as if she knew Drew was going to ask her all along when it’s evident she didn’t.

One possible explanation is hindsight bias.

Read more…

Life was Never that Rosy

November 22nd, 2019 No comments

If you’ve ever watched Disney’s Pixar movie Up (and if you haven’t, beware of spoilers), you might remember Carl and his late wife Ellie’s adventure book called ‘Stuff I’m Going to Do’. The movie shows Carl remembering happy memories as he flips through the book, such as when he and Ellie got married and when they went on a picnic. But where are the flashbacks of the time their house partially got destroyed by a fallen tree or when Ellie had an unfortunate miscarriage? Well, the obvious reason is because it’s a movie by Disney and Pixar, so it can’t be too sad for children watching. The less obvious reason is that Carl fell victim to rosy retrospection!

Scene of Carl Fredericksen reminiscing memories of his late wife Ellie from Up by Disney’s Pixar.

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“I Swear It Happened!” But It Never Did…

April 27th, 2018 2 comments

Image 1- Ok, Gerard… 

Has someone ever told you a tale that made you think, “That just can’t be true!”. Well, you may be right. Here’s the thing, you may fondly remember your eighth birthday party at a local barn with a bunch of cute animals. You and your friends rode the horses, brushed the horses, and you even remember feeding the horses straight from your hand. Oh, and the cake! Your mother ordered a special strawberry shortcake for your birthday party. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day, and you remember that party like it was yesterday. But the even more important thing is, none of this really happened.

In reality, you have never ridden a horse in your life and you are allergic to strawberries… Even when a childhood friend of yours gently reminds you that that never really happened, you still firmly believe (and can even remember specific details!) that your eighth birthday party happened exactly that way (Pederson, 2018). Your friend softly says to you, “You have created a confabulation”, to which you respond, “I’ve created a WHAT?!”

Image 2– Maybe… 

Confabulation is a memory disturbance that results in people reporting memories of events in their own personal history that actually never happened. Confabulations can take the form of small inaccuracies, such as simply filling in gaps in one’s memory with false details, or they can be large events, such as the horseback riding birthday party described earlier. Regardless of the magnitude of the memory, it is difficult to convince the person that their “memories” are false.

It is sometimes difficult to identify a confabulation because the person reporting the memory could seem very convincing and in touch with reality, but really the story is untrue (Shingaki et al., 2016). People who confabulate confidently describe imagined scenarios and present them as being completely true (Pederson, 2018). Another difficulty in identifying a confabulation is that a person’s autobiographical memory is generally quite difficult to study because if we did not experience the event with the person telling the story, then we can never really know if it actually happened or not. Even if we can’t thoroughly study someone’s episodic history, we can at least know that the person who experiences these confabulations is not purposefully deceiving you with inaccurate information. In fact, they wholeheartedly believe that what they are saying is the truth (Nall, 2017).
Read more…

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.

Read more…

Take off the rose-tinted glasses: Rosy retrospection and the fallibility of memory

April 26th, 2018 8 comments

If you’ve ever binge-watched The Office, you probably remember the moment in the series finale when Andy Bernard reflects on his days at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Thinking back on his past – on the friends he made and the fun times he had – he says, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” Is he right? At the moment he said it, was Andy living in the “good old days?” Why will he be able to think back on that moment as if it were the “good old days” if he can’t see it right now? Five years from now, will we be looking back on 2018 like it was the “good old days?” Cognitive psychology has an answer: yes.

Allow me to explain: we often tend to remember and recollect past events in a more favorable light than when they actually occur. This is called rosy retrospection – have you ever heard of the idiom “to see through rose-tinted glasses?” It refers to the tendency to see something in a positive light, often better than it actually is. This memory bias applies to all of us – and it explains why we often recall the past much more fondly than the present. More generally, rosy retrospection represents one example of the way memory is not as accurate or reliable as we would like to believe. Memory is surprisingly fallible.
Read more…

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…