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False Memory

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286258.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 6:04 am Reply with quote

Mat wrote:

There have been experiments carried out within the law enforcement world, haven’t there, to show how utterly useless eye-witness evidence is, and how it should never be used in court - despite the instinctive feeling by jurors that it is the best sort of evidence. Does that ring a bell with anyone?

here is a good study that you might find interesting Mat:

Elizabeth Loftus performed experiments in the mid-seventies demonstrating the effect of a third party’s introducing false facts into memory.4 Subjects were shown a slide of a car at an intersection with either a yield sign or a stop sign. Experimenters asked participants questions, falsely introducing the term "stop sign" into the question instead of referring to the yield sign participants had actually seen. Similarly, experimenters falsely substituted the term "yield sign" in questions directed to participants who had actually seen the stop sign slide. The results indicated that subjects remembered seeing the false image.

And loads more, but it finishes with this:

As shown by recent studies, this weight must be balanced by an awareness that it is not necessary for a witness to lie or be coaxed by prosecutorial error to inaccurately state the facts—the mere fault of being human results in distorted memory and inaccurate testimony.


Frederick The Monk
286343.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 6:57 am Reply with quote

I've been having a go at giving myself false memories this year for an article in the Idler, after reading about Elizabeth Loftus's techniques.

She famously played a false memory trick on the actor Alan Alda for a TV show he was making. During a picnic lunch, she offered him a hard-boiled egg. He turned it down, explaining that as a child he had made himself sick eating too many eggs. In fact, this had never happened and the egg incident was a false memory planted by Loftus.

Before the visit, she sent Alda a questionnaire about his food preferences and personality. She later told him that a computer analysis of his answers had revealed some facts about his childhood, including that he once made himself sick eating too many eggs. There was no such analysis but it was enough to convince Alda.

Now I haven't managed to persuade myself that there's a surfeit of eggs hiding in my past but I have used the the Deese-Roediger-McDermott paradigm which we could do in the studio.

Shall we have a go now?

Read these two lists of words and pause for a few minutes before reading the next post.

List 1
apple, vegetable, orange, kiwi, citrus, ripe, pear, banana, berry, cherry, basket, juice, salad, bowl, cocktail”

List 2
web, insect, bug, fright, fly, arachnid, crawl, tarantula, poison, bite, creepy, animal, ugly, feelers, small

(Now wait a few minutes - you could sing the national anthem of Greece, if you like, which has 158 verses)”

Frederick The Monk
286344.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 6:59 am Reply with quote

Time passes..........

Frederick The Monk
286348.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:00 am Reply with quote

Splendid. Now, without referring back to those first two lists read 'List 3' and tick words in it that you remember from the first two lists.

List 3
happy, woman, winter, circus, spider, feather, citrus, ugly, robber, piano, goat, ground, cherry, bitter, insect, fruit, suburb, kiwi, quick, mouse, pile, fish

Frederick The Monk
286350.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:00 am Reply with quote


Frederick The Monk
286352.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:01 am Reply with quote


286355.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:02 am Reply with quote

Ok, done it and haven't checked back so honest answer here: just 'kiwi'. Not at all sure, though.

286358.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:04 am Reply with quote

I got "citrus" and "insect". I wrongly identified "spider", and missed "cherry" and "kiwi".

286360.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:04 am Reply with quote

Does that mean I was abused as a child? I feel that it might.

Frederick The Monk
286366.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:06 am Reply with quote

Very interesting - you're in the minority. I'll let a few other have a go before explaining.

Are you frightened of spiders?

286377.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:13 am Reply with quote

I thought that:

spider, ugly, cherry, insect, fruit and kiwi

were in there, but I'm still a bit jet-lagged, and definitely scared of spiders (in fact, all animals)

286378.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:14 am Reply with quote

Frederick The Monk wrote:
Are you frightened of spiders?

No. I just don't want to go back in the hole.

Frederick The Monk
286380.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:16 am Reply with quote


Well, Flash simply couldn't remember very much but that's probably his age. He did not fall for the 'false memory' however.

Bob fell for one false memory - spider.

Egg fell for both - but he's jetlagged

Lists 1 and 2 are designed to associate your thoughts with certain things without naming them, hence list 1 is about fruit and list 2 is about spiders although neither word is mentioned.

'Spider' and 'fruit' are mentioned in list 3 however and around 60 - 80 percent of those tested are positive that one or both of these words were in the first lists. The strong associations encourage your brain to create a memory of them being in the first lists.

286384.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:23 am Reply with quote

Very good. I wonder if we could do that on-air? Stephen reads out each list at the beginning of the show and then the 3rd one at the end?

Might be difficult to edit around if it doesn't work, though.

Frederick The Monk
286390.  Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:26 am Reply with quote

Well if it doesn't work we just edit out both bits. Out of 4 guests I;d expect at least 2 to fall for it though.

Personally I think perhaps we should contact Loftus and see if she can plant a false memory like Alan Alda's in Alan Davis before the show. If it doesn't work no-one will know and if it does we can let Stephen have fun explaining to Alan that we've been tinkering with his mind without him knowing.


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