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 Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>