Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tufts University psychology research tackles problem of "false memories"

25.07.2003


As an eyewitness sits on the stand in a courtroom recalling details of an incident, how much of what he or she remembers actually happened?



False memories are a common occurrence in the courtroom and in everyday life, and have long been considered by psychologists as a side effect of efforts to boost memory. New research from Tufts University has answered the question of how to increase memory, without also increasing corresponding false memories.

"The better we understand false memory, the more we will be able to explain the factors that lead to the problem in the laboratory and real world situations," explained Tufts University psychologist Salvatore Soraci, whose research is published in July’s issue of Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition. "Generative learning holds the promise of immunizing people against the pitfalls of false memory."


Previous research has focused on how to improve memory using "generative learning" -- the concept that individuals remember things better when actively involved in forming an idea. For example, if an individual is given a clue and asked to provide a one-word answer, he or she will remember that word better than if simply given the word and told to memorize it.

Funded by a $654,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Soraci and Tufts assistant professor of psychology Michael Carlin set out to determine what effect generative learning had on the formation of false memories.

According to Soraci, test participants were given a list of words to memorize – some of the words were complete, and others were missing one letter. The complete words fit within subject categories (for instance, "queen," "moat," "knight," etc.), while the incomplete words were in different subject categories (for instance, furniture such as "t_ble" and "cha_r"). After a three-minute period, during which participants were given a "distracting" math quiz, they were then presented with a list of words. This list included some words that had not been included in the original list but were related to the subject categories, and the participants were then asked if the words were among those that had been shown earlier.

"The incomplete words led to generative learning, since the participants had to determine the words on their own," Soraci said. "People were far more likely to falsely remember words from the list of complete words - such as mistakenly believing that ’king’ had been on the list - than they were to falsely identify a word from the generative learning list."

In a similar experiment, test participants were not provided with the second list, and instead asked to write down all the words they could remember seeing. The experiment showed the same advantage for generative learning.

In yet another experiment, Soraci determined what kind of cues would help people to remember words without increasing false memories. Participants were given a list of words that were missing one letter and could be either of two words, depending on what letter filled in the blank. For example, one of the words on the list was "s_eaker," which could be "speaker" or "sneaker." Some of the participants were given a positive clue, such as "a tennis shoe," and asked to fill in the blank. Others were given a negative clue, such as "not part of a stereo." Soraci found that people were more likely to remember words when given a negative clue than a positive one, and were also less likely to falsely remember a word.

"This method of learning using negative cues is similar to how we find our way when we’re driving our cars and looking for a new location," explained Soraci. "If we make a wrong turn, we’re much more likely to remember the correct route next time by remembering that we shouldn’t go the wrong way again."

Soraci’s cognitive psychology research also includes his highly regarded work examining the enhancement of memory as a result of sudden realizations, or "eureka" moments. Other Soraci research focuses on the relationship between cognitive and perceptual variables -- that is, how what we see influences what we think, and conversely how our thought processes influence our concept of what we see. Soraci has worked collaboratively on several NIH research grants with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, including a recent two-year $140,000 NIH grant to continue his research on generative learning and false memory on individuals who are mentally retarded.

His research also reflects Tufts’ growing expertise in the field of cognitive psychology, ranging from the impact of music on the brain to the subconscious influences of stigma and stereotyping on human behavior.

"We’ve got a brand new psychology building outfitted with state-of-the-art labs, and Sal and his colleagues are now extending their scholarship in some innovative collaborations across the University," said Jamshed Bharucha, provost and senior vice president, who also has a cognitive psychology lab in the new facility.

Contact: Craig LeMoult, craig.lemoult@tufts.edu, phone: +1-617-627-4317

Craig LeMoult | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tufts.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Amputees can learn to control a robotic arm with their minds
28.11.2017 | University of Chicago Medical Center

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

Im Focus: A transistor of graphene nanoribbons

Transistors based on carbon nanostructures: what sounds like a futuristic dream could be reality in just a few years' time. An international research team working with Empa has now succeeded in producing nanotransistors from graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, as reported in the current issue of the trade journal "Nature Communications."

Graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, so-called graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

Blockchain is becoming more important in the energy market

05.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Making fuel out of thick air

08.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Rules for superconductivity mirrored in 'excitonic insulator'

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

Smartphone case offers blood glucose monitoring on the go

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>