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Posts Tagged ‘False Memory’

Did fake news really help Trump win the election?

December 3rd, 2019 2 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 

Fig 1. An example of a fake news headline

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 how did so many people fall victim to the headlines and why were these false memories so wide spread? Is there a possibility they could have helped Trump win the election?

Memory is a system that is important to our day to day lives. Without it we wouldn’t know where to go for food or water and we have to relearn basic tasks, like driving, every day. If memory is so important, how could our brains twists our memories, falsify them, and change our truths? 

Memory is made up of three processes: encoding, storage, and retrieval. Encoding allows us to take in sensory information from our environment before we store it in our short term or long term memory during the process of storage. Retrieval is then where we go to reassess that information. One example could be as simple memorizing vocabulary words for an exam. When you first learn the words, your auditory processes recognize the words, where they are stored into your short term memory. When you study those words at home, they are then stored into your long term memory. During the actual exam, the words are retrieved from your long term memory in order to ace the exam. While our memories decay over time, most false memories are a product of failure to encode or a failure to store information properly.

 

 

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Categories: Memory Tags: ,

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

November 26th, 2019 1 comment

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 found 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 topics, 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. Overconfidence 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; Sanbonmatsu et al., 2016; Zuckerman & Jost, 2001).     Read more…

I’m a Little Confused on How You Got Here

November 26th, 2019 No comments

Where did I see that from?

One day, a psychologist was brought into the police office and was told being accused of rape. Little did he know that the woman who accused him of rape saw him on television prior to being raped. The woman had confused his face with the face of her attacker. The woman’s memory had failed at being able to differentiate where she saw the two faces. She wasn’t able to distinguish whether she had seen the psychologist face on television or as the attacker (Schacter, 1999). This is an example of a cognitive bias called misattribution of memory.

Let’s take the phrase “misattribution of memory” apart. Misattribute means to incorrectly assign the origin, cause, or source of something. For instance, you remember that someone made great coffee for you. You thought that it was your friend Amy so, you ask her to make it for you again.  However, it turned out that it was actually your friend, Sam. If you add the word memory to it, then misattribution of memory is when one incorrectly assigns the origin, cause or source of a memory. Misattribution of memory is a cognitive bias in which, people can remember what took place or the piece of information. However, they can’t remember where this information came from.

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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… Quit lying”? 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 describes or talks about their 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 retelling their memory, believes that their memory is true.
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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.

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Life was Never that Rosy, but Look Up

November 22nd, 2019 2 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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Categories: Cognitive Bias, Memory Tags:

“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).
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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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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.
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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…