Research and Theories on Memory Recall

29 Mar 2018

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Stages of memory

Stage 1 Encoding

The first stage of memory is encoding. When we are exposed to information of any kind, we take the information and begin processing it. This means that we take information in either as a picture or a sound, or that we will give the information meaning. One way to understand encoding is to think of it as the method that you use to lay the groundwork for remembering information. Let's look at an example. (http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/three-stages-of-memory-in-psychology-explanation-lesson-quiz.html)

You look at your professor's phone number on the syllabus because you have a question about an assignment. As you look at the number, you are using visual coding. If you say the number to yourself a couple of times, as you reach for the phone, you are coding acoustically as well. You might notice that the phone number is just one digit off from an old number your parents used to have when you were younger, and you think about how slim the odds are of something like this happening. The words that you use in your self-talk give meaning to the number, so you have also used semantic coding. The groundwork for remembering your professor’s phone number is in place.

Stage 2 Storing information

Storing information is about keeping the information available so that it can be recalled at a later point. There are two main types of memory, short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM).

Short-term memory is sometimes referred to as active memory. Information that is in STM lasts only up to 30 seconds, and most adults can store 5-9 items in STM. If the information is attended to in some way, it can become part of long-term memory. Information in LTM can last for years, or even a lifetime. The information in LTM can be recalled as needed.

Stage 3 Memory Retrieval

This refers to getting information out storage. If we can’t remember something, it may be because we are unable to retrieve it. When we are asked to retrieve something from memory, the differences between STM and LTM become very clear.

STM is stored and retrieved sequentially. For example, if a group of participants are given a list of words to remember, and then asked to recall the fourth word on the list, participants go through the list in the order they heard it in order to retrieve the information.

Cognitive Psychology theories.

LTM is stored and retrieved by association. This is why you can remember what you went upstairs for if you go back to the room where you first thought about it.

Organizing information can help aid retrieval. You can organize information in sequences (such as alphabetically, by size or by time). Imagine a patient being discharged from hospital whose treatment involved taking various pills at various times, changing dressing and doing exercises. If the doctor gives these instructions in the order they must be carried out throughout the day (i.e. in sequence of time), this will help the patient remember them.

There are lots of things that can effect witness testimony of an event.

Things like weapon focus where due to the suspect having a weapon the person focuses on it due to fear or worry and don’t notice things outside of the person and the weapon.

PTSD which is due to the massive amount of stress from the situation the person or people may try to shy away from the memory due to emotional distress or may miss vital information due to the high emotions during that time, some people may even try to repress the memories or go into severe mood swings triggered by objects or people connected to the memories of the event.

Minority/Majority effect

Minority effect is the process where by a small group of people influence a bigger group into doing something, e.g. a jury even when the majority of them believe the person to be guilty if a few regardless of protest say innocent eventually some of the majority will change their opinion to innocent.

This was expressed in a study by Moscovici in this study he had a group of men and women being told it was an optical study showing slides that where totally blue and had the group say what the colour was. But Moscovici had had 3 people in there who knew about the study say the slide was green, by doing this with the first group for every slide 8% of the group ended up agreeing every time but each time it was different people with 32% of the group agreed at some point.

The second group had the knowing participants only say it was green occasionally when doing it this way only 1.25% said it was green. This showed that even a small group shouting loud enough can influence the larger group.

Majority effect is the process by which the smaller group agree with the bigger group to stop themselves from being ostracised from the group. This was shown in Asch’s study of majority conformity in which Asch had a group of 7 people one being the real participant the rest all-knowing what’s going on they were then shown a line of a certain length and had to find the line the same length in a set of three the 6 knowing participants said an obviously wrong answer and then tried to convince the unknowing participant that there wrong and the person would either stick to there answer or agree with the group.

In the end Asch measured the number of times each participant conformed to the majority view. About one third 32% of the participants who were placed in this situation went along and conformed to the clearly incorrect majority on the critical trials.

Over the 12 critical trials about 75% of participants conformed at least once and 25% of participant never conformed. In the control group, with no pressure to conform to confederates, less than 1% of participants gave the wrong answer.

In conclusion the interviewer after the test asked the participant why they conformed, most of them said that they did not really believe their conforming answers, but had gone along with the group for fear of being ridiculed or thought "peculiar". A few of them said that they really did believe the group's answers were correct.

Apparently, people conform for two main reasons: because they want to fit in with the group (normative influence) and because they believe the group is better informed than they are (informational influence).

This test did have some biases the students where all who all belonged to the same age group. This means that study lacks population validity and that the results cannot be generalized to females or older groups of people.

Influence and conformity that are applied to or influence a jury’s, decision making process

The social impact theory says that three factors influence the extent to which we conform to group norms: personal importance, immediacy, and size. As the group becomes more important to a person, physically closer to him/her, and larger in number, Social Impact Theory says that conformity to group norms will increase. However, the size of the group only affects conformity to an extent. as a group expands past 3-5 members, the effect levels off.

Unanimity, when a group is unanimous in its support of a norm, an individual feels greater pressure to follow suit. However, even a small break in unanimity can lead to decrease in the power of such normative influence. This is basically Asch’s study in a much broader way but results in the same result.

Private vs. public, when actions are done in public, the pressure to bend to normative influence increases, on the other hand when this pressure decreases for actions done in private. In another variation of the Asch study, the researchers allowed the participant to privately write down his/her answer after all of the confederates had publicly stated theirs, this variation reduced the level of conformity among participants. In addition, the control condition of the Asch study revealed that participants were almost perfectly accurate when answering independently.

These are just few of the influential theories that can be applied to the jury-decision making process.

To stop these effecting the decision of the jury, an impartial party will talk to some of the jury and ask them why they believe the person is guilty of innocent so that the person has to convince the impartial member that they actually believe what they’re saying and aren’t just saying it to fit in with the group.

Cognitive interview

A cognitive interview would be used to try and mentally reinstate the environment and context of the event for the witness. This would be done by asking about the witness’s general activities and feelings on the day, they would be asked about things they remember seeing, hearing, feeling even the weather during or before the event occurred.

The witness would be asked to report the incident from different perspectives, describe what they think other witnesses involved may have seen or things they recall the victim doing themselves and things they may have seen.

The witness would also be asked to recall the incident in a different order, this was proposed due to the recency effect, this states that people recall things that happened more recently; more clearly than others. The witness is encouraged to work backwards from the end of seeing the victim to the first moment she saw the victim or came into the area she saw the witness.

The witness would be asked to report every detail of the incident and time before it even things they think completely trivial, in this way minor details/apparently unimportant details may act as a trigger for key information about the event.

It is believed that the change of narrative order and change of perspective, techniques aid recall because they reduce the witnesses use of prior knowledge expectations of schemas.

The questions asked may be along the lines of.

Do you recall the victim walking past anybody that may have seen her after she left your sight?

Did you see anybody walk with Joanna or walking the same direction as her?

How where you feeling that day?

Do you recall seeing anything interesting that day?

What did you have to eat that day?

Pros and cons of Memory research

Memory research has strengths and weaknesses. In this case I will be showing the strengths and weaknesses of Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) Multi-storage model of memory.

Firstly the positives, many memory studies provide evidence to support the distinction between STM and LTM (short term and long term memory). This model also accounts for primacy & recency effects. The model is influential as it has generated a lot of research into memory.

The model is supported by studies of amnesiacs: For example the HM cases study (Henry Molaison is a man who lost his memory after an operation in a hospital in Hartford, in August 1953.) HM is still alive but has marked problems in long-term memory after brain surgery. He has remembered little of personal (death of mother and father) or public events (Watergate, Vietnam War) that have occurred over the last 45 years. However his short-term memory remains intact. This gives a lot of evidence that LTM and STM are two distinctly different parts of the memory system and in Atkinson and Shiffrin they believe that in HM he loses the STM when they’re transferred to the LTM which HM lacks or his mind can’t recall or retrieve.

The weaknesses of Atkinson and Shiffrin are that the model is oversimplified, in particular when it suggests that both short-term and long-term memory each operate in a single, uniform fashion. Which we now know through more recent discoveries to not the case.

It has now become apparent that both short-term and long-term memory is more complicated than previously thought. For example, the Working Model of Memory proposed by Baddeley and Hitch (1974) showed that short term memory is more than just one simple unitary store and comprises different components (e.g. visual, emotional, smell and feel.)

In the case of long-term memory, it is unlikely that different kinds of knowledge, such as remembering how to play a computer game, the rules of subtraction and remembering what we did yesterday are all stored within a single, long-term memory store. Indeed different types of long-term memory have been identified, namely episodic (memories of events), procedural (knowledge of how to do things) and semantic (general knowledge).

There model also suggests rehearsal helps to transfer information into LTM but this is not essential. Why do we able to recall information which we did not rehearse (e.g. swimming) yet unable to recall information which we have rehearsed (e.g. reading your notes while revising). Therefore, the role of rehearsal as a means of transferring from STM to LTM is much less important than Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) claimed in their model.

However, the models main emphasis was on structure and tends to neglect the process elements of memory due to it only focuses on attention and rehearsal rather than more important parts of memory such as episodic, procedural or semantic memory .

The multi store model has been criticized for being linear model that is passive and more of a stepping stone for other theories such as the more recent Baddeley and Hitch (1974) which while still criticized is better-rounded on memory and is referenced in other theories and is widely accepted by the psychological community.

(Bibliography; http://www.simplypsychology.org/multi-store.html)

Social influence on Jury and conformity

A jury can have a lot of factors influencing there decision not only the evidence presented to them but also the other jurors will try and convince others of their opinion to make that the resulting verdict. This goes towards Asch’s theory of conformity, which says that in a group if the majority say one answer and the minority think the other some of that minority will say the same answer as the majority, even if the person doesn’t believe the answer that the majority of the group are saying this is believed to be a social mechanism to stop from being alienated from the group or seen as ‘strange’ by the group it also showed that men where more easily led then women who didn’t change their choice regardless of what the majority said.

This could come into play in a jury, since in the end Tabak went to trail and had a guilty verdict of 10-2, meaning that possibly some of the people who believed him to be innocent said guilty to fit in the with majority.

There is another theory that could come into play which is the Milgram experiment, this theory was to see the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts conflicting with their personal conscience in the test it was to electrocute another student in the adjacent room, in the test the results showed that 26 of 40 administer the lethal 450 volt shock, though many were very uncomfortable doing so.

All of them did at some point paused and questioned the experiment. Some said they would refund the money they were paid for participating in the experiment. Throughout the experiment, subjects displayed varying degrees of tension and stress. Subjects were sweating, trembling, stuttering, biting their lips, groaning even digging their fingernails into their skin but the majority even by a small margin where influenced to administer the deadly 450 volt shock. All of them did this in the end because a person they saw as an authority figure or of a higher status then themselves said to do it.

This could be related to the Tabak case because if a certain jury member was a doctor or seen by others as an authority figure of higher socially. That person could have influenced the other jurors into agreeing with him simply because he’s seen as above them this influence on them wouldn’t cause the amount of stress Milgram’s experiment did. But the authority figure would influence them to do what he wants even if they disagreed.

Social research

Social research has a lot of value and gives a lot to in the criminal justice system, but it also has its limitations such as Asch’s conformity experiment even though it showed that a single person will agree to a incorrect answer made by the majority to avoid being seen as strange or not normal, it only had male participants therefore women where an unknown in the conformity test which when it was done by other social scientists they included women and they rejected other peoples opinion and kept with there (correct) answer.

Milgrams experiment on obedience and authority figures showed that people will do things they disagree with even things that go against their morals or beliefs but because an authority figure is saying it they do the action because of their belief that the authority figure knows better than them. But on the negative side Milgram has been accused of changing the results of the test because subjects asked to swap places with the learner, this shows that while the result may be quite expressive of human nature the results must be questioned until another test can be done without the possibility of result tampering.

In conclusion while Social research is very worthwhile and works well on a whole and has revealed things that could not be known without the tests being done, gender biased, result tampering and ethnicity will always play a part on a person and until all those can be taken into account no social research test will be totally accurate.



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