How to store our memories


One of the leading researchers in the field of memory — Elizabeth Loftus of the University of Washington found that any event that brings to mind is restored accurately. That which we call a memory in relation to any event, in fact, is its reconstruction. Loftus studies have shown that when you play memory uses a new and previously-existing information to fill in the gaps in our memories.

Memories are not as stable as we are accustomed to thinking: over time, they can change. This was confirmed by a series of experiments.

The experiment was the first

150 students in small groups watched a movie about a car accident in which one after another encounter 5 cars. The accident occurred because the driver ignored a stop signal and drove onto a busy road. The event itself lasted only 4 seconds, the film — about a minute. After watching the subjects were asked questionnaires containing 10 questions. In the first half of the subjects was question"How fast moving machine A (the same one who first broke the rules) when she drove through a stop signal?" The other half of the subjects question was worded differently: "How fast was driving machine And when she turned to the right?" The other questions are not of interest to the researcher, with the exception of the final is the same for both groups: "Did you see the stop signal to the machine eh?"

In the first group, 53% of the subjects claimed to have seen it, and the second — only 35%. The difference was statistically significant.

Experiment second

Loftus asked to research the delayed memories. She gave the students view a three-minute excerpt from the film "Diary of a student revolution." It was shown in a cool room, which is crushing eight demonstrators. When finished viewing it issued questionnaires with 20 questions relating to this fragment. For half of the subjects of the questions was worded as follows: "Was the leader of the four protesters who broke into the classroom, man? '. To other"Was the leader of the twelve protesters who broke into the classroom, man? '.

A week after the interview subjects were asked to fill out questionnaires again with the same issues. In the group with the initial premise of 12 demonstrators were named to the average number of 8, 85. In the other group, with information on four demonstrators had a different number on average 6.40. Some of the subjects recalled the correct number — 8.

This experiment showed that a change in verbal formulation is only one question changed the memories of subjects on the main characteristics of the event, which they were witnesses.

Experiment third

This experiment was carried out to show how the presence of a false premise in matters converts eyewitness accounts of the event and may result in the inclusion of objects, which there never was.

150 subjects were shown a short film about the accident that happened with a white sports car, and then answer the ten questions on the content of the movie. In the first group of questions was included this: "How quickly moved along a country road white sports car when she drove past the barn?" The other half of the subjects were asked question"How fast was driving a white sports car on a country road?"

As in previous experiments, a week was necessary to re-answer questions. The key issue of the experiment was: "Did you see a barn?". 13 subjects (17.3%) out of the group, where the word "barn" was present in the subject. For comparison, only two (2.7%) of other groups, de word "barn" was absent, said the same.

In light of these data, Loftus drew attention to the features of the witnesses in the investigation of crimes. She pointed out that there are often multiple polls: can interrogate witnesses at the scene, they may ask questions on the case of a lawyer, a poll may be witnesses in court. It is unacceptable that in this series of polls would be introduced a false premise.

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