Compare and contrast the two types of amnesiaDiscuss the unreliability of eyewitness testimonyDiscuss encoding failureDiscuss the various memory errorsCompare and contrast the two types of interference

You may pride you yourself on her amazing capacity to remember the birthdates and also ages of all of your friends and family members, or you may be maybe recall lively details the your 5th birthday party at lining E. Cheese’s. However, every one of us have at times felt frustrated, and even embarrassed, as soon as our memories have actually failed us. There are several reasons why this happens.

You are watching: People may not intend to distort facts, but ________.


Amnesia is the ns of long-term memory that occurs together the result of disease, physical trauma, or emotional trauma. Psychologist Endel Tulving (2002) and also his partner at the college of Toronto studied patience K. C. For years. K. C. Suffered a traumatic head injury in a motorcycle accident and then had severe amnesia. Tulving writes,

the outstanding fact around K.C.’s mental make-up is his utter i can not qualify to remember any type of events, circumstances, or instances from his own life. His episodic amnesia consist of his totality life, from bear to the present. The only exemption is the experiences that, at any type of time, he has had actually in the last minute or two. (Tulving, 2002, p. 14)

Anterograde Amnesia

There space two common varieties of amnesia: anterograde amnesia and retrograde amnesia. Anterograde amnesia is commonly caused by mind trauma, such as a blow to the head. With anterograde amnesia, you cannot remember brand-new information, return you have the right to remember information and events that taken place prior to your injury. The hippocampus is usually influenced (McLeod, 2011). This suggests that damage to the mind has resulted in the i can not qualify to transfer details from short-term to permanent memory; the is, the i can not qualify to consolidate memories.

Many world with this form of amnesia are unable to kind new episodic or semantic memories, but are quiet able to form new procedural memories (Bayley & Squire, 2002). This to be true the H. M., i beg your pardon was discussed earlier. The mind damage led to by his surgery led to anterograde amnesia. H. M. Would check out the very same magazine over and over, having actually no memory of ever before reading it—it was always brand-new to him. He likewise could no remember human being he had met ~ his surgery. If you were presented to H. M. And also then friend left the room for a couple of minutes, he would certainly not recognize you upon your return and also would introduce himself come you again. However, once presented the same puzzle number of days in a row, although the did not remember having seen the puzzle before, his speed at addressing it came to be faster every day (because of relearning) (Corkin, 1965, 1968).

Figure 8.08. This diagram illustrates the timeline of retrograde and also anterograde amnesia. Memory problems that extend ago in time before the injury and also prevent retrieval of info previously save on computer in long-term memory are well-known as retrograde amnesia. Vice versa, memory difficulties that expand forward over time from the suggest of injury and prevent the development of new memories are dubbed anterograde amnesia.

Retrograde Amnesia

Retrograde amnesia is ns of memory for events that developed prior to the trauma. World with retrograde amnesia can not remember part or even all of their past. Castle have difficulty remembering episodic memories. What if you woke up in the hospital one day and also there were civilization surrounding your bed claiming to be your spouse, her children, and your parents? The problem is you nothing recognize any type of of them. You were in a car accident, endured a head injury, and also now have actually retrograde amnesia. You nothing remember anything around your life prior to waking up in the hospital. This may sound prefer the ingredient of Hollywood movies, and Hollywood has actually been fascinated through the amnesia plot for practically a century, going every the method back to the film Garden of Lies from 1915 to more recent movies such as the Jason Bourne spy thrillers. However, because that real-life sufferers the retrograde amnesia, like former NFL football player Scott Bolzan, the story is no a Hollywood movie. Bolzan fell, struggle his head, and deleted 46 year of his life in one instant. That is currently living with one of the many extreme instances of retrograde amnesia on record.


The formulation of brand-new memories is sometimes called construction, and also the procedure of bringing increase old memory is called reconstruction. Yet as we retrieve ours memories, we also tend to alter and also modify them. A memory pulled from long-term storage right into short-term memory is flexible. New events deserve to be added and us can change what us think we remember about past events, causing inaccuracies and also distortions. World may no intend to distort facts, yet it can happen in the procedure of retrieving old memories and combining castle with new memories (Roediger & DeSoto, 2015).


When someone witnesses a crime, that person’s memory of the details the the crime is an extremely important in catching the suspect. Because memory is for this reason fragile, witnesses have the right to be quickly (and regularly accidentally) misled as result of the trouble of suggestibility. Suggestibility describes the impacts of misinformation from external sources the leads to the development of false memories.

In the autumn of 2002, a sniper in the DC area shot civilization at a gas station, leaving home Depot, and also walking down the street. These strikes went ~ above in a selection of areas for over three weeks and resulted in the deaths that ten people. During this time, together you have the right to imagine, people were terrified to leaving their homes, walk shopping, or even walk v their neighborhoods. Police officers and the FBI operated frantically to resolve the crimes, and a tip hotline was set up. Regulation enforcement got over 140,000 tips, which result in about 35,000 feasible suspects.

Most that the tips to be dead ends, until a white van was spotted at the site of one of the shootings. The police chief walk on national television v a snapshot of the white van. ~ the news conference, several various other eyewitnesses called to say that they too had actually seen a white van fleeing from the scene of the shooting. At the time, over there were an ext than 70,000 white vans in the area. Police officers, and also the general public, focused virtually exclusively on white vans because they thought the eyewitnesses. Other tips to be ignored. Once the suspects were finally caught, they to be driving a blue sedan.

As shown by this example, us are fragile to the strength of suggestion, simply based on something we check out on the news. Or us can case to psychic something that in truth is just a suggestion someone made. The is the ide that is the reason of the false memory.

Eyewitness Misidentification

Even though memory and the process of reconstruction deserve to be fragile, police officers, prosecutors, and also the courts often rely on eyewitness identification and also testimony in the prosecution of criminals. However, faulty eyewitness identification and testimony can lead come wrongful convictions.

Figure 8.09. In studying situations where DNA proof has exonerated human being from crimes, the Innocence Project discovered the eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions (Benjamin N. Cardozo institution of Law, Yeshiva University, 2009).

just how does this happen? In 1984, Jennifer Thompson, then a 22-year-old college college student in north Carolina, was brutally struck at knifepoint. Throughout her attack, she tried come memorize every detail of her rapist’s face and also physical characteristics, vowing the if she survived, she would help get that convicted. After the police to be contacted, a composite map out was made of the suspect, and also Jennifer was presented six photos. She chose two, among which to be of Ronald Cotton. After ~ looking in ~ the photos because that 4–5 minutes, she said, “Yeah. This is the one,” and then she added, “I think this is the guy.” once questioned around this by the detective that asked, “You’re sure? Positive?” She said that it was him. Climate she inquiry the detective if she go OK, and also he reinforced her choice by informing her she go great. These kinds of unintended cues and suggestions by police officers can lead witnesses to identify the wrong suspect. The district attorney to be concerned around her absence of certainty the very first time, so she perceived a lineup of seven men. She stated she to be trying to decide in between numbers 4 and also 5, finally deciding the Cotton, number 5, “Looks many like him.” He was 22 years old.

By the time the trial began, Jennifer Thompson had absolutely no doubt the her attacker to be Ronald Cotton. She testified at the court hearing, and her testimony was compelling sufficient that it assisted convict him. Just how did she walk from, “I think it’s the guy” and also it “Looks most like him,” to together certainty? Gary Wells and Deah Quinlivan (2009) assert the suggestive police identification procedures, such together stacking lineups to make the defendant stand out, informing the evil which human to identify, and confirming witnesses options by telling them “Good choice,” or “You choose the guy.”

After cotton was convicted of the rape, he was sent out to prison for life to add 50 years. After 4 year in prison, he to be able to gain a brand-new trial. Jennifer Thompson when again testified against him. This time Ronald noodle was offered two life sentences. After offer 11 year in prison, DNA evidence finally demonstrated the Ronald noodle did not commit the rape, to be innocent, and also had served over a te in jail for a crime he did no commit.

To learn much more about Ronald Cotton and the fallibility that memory, watch this terrific video by 60 Minutes.


comparison the Cotton instance with what occurred in the Elizabeth Smart case. As soon as Elizabeth was 14 year old and also fast sleep in she bed at home, she to be abducted in ~ knifepoint. Her nine-year-old sister, mary Katherine, was resting in the same bed and watched, terrified, together her beloved enlarge sister was abducted. Mar Katherine was the single eyewitness to this crime and was really fearful. In the comes weeks, the Salt Lake City police and also the FBI proceeded with caution v Mary Katherine. They did not desire to implant any false storage or mislead she in any way. They walk not present her police line-ups or push her to do a composite sketch of the abductor. Castle knew if lock corrupted her memory, Elizabeth might never be found. For number of months, there was small or no progress on the case. Then, around 4 months after the kidnapping, mary Katherine an initial recalled that she had heard the abductor’s voice before that night (he had functioned one time as a handyman in ~ the family’s home) and also then she was able to name the human whose voice that was. The family contacted the press and also others well-known him—after a total of nine months, the doubt was caught and also Elizabeth clever was returned to her family.

The Misinformation Effect

Cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has performed extensive research on memory. She has studied false memories as well as recovered memory of childhood sex-related abuse. Loftus additionally developed the misinformation effect paradigm, which holds the after exposure come incorrect information, a human being may misremember the original event.

According to Loftus, one eyewitness’s memory of an event is an extremely flexible as result of the misinformation effect. To check this theory, Loftus and John Palmer (1974) request 45 U.S. University students to calculation the rate of cars using various forms that questions. The attendees were presented films the car crashes and were asked to play the function of the eyewitness and also describe what happened. They were asked, “About how fast were the car going when they (smashed, collided, bumped, hit, contacted) every other?” The participants approximated the rate of the cars based on the verb used.

Participants that heard words “smashed” estimated that the cars to be traveling at a much higher speed 보다 participants who heard the word “contacted.” The include information around speed, based upon the verb lock heard, had actually an result on the participants’ storage of the accident. In a follow-up one mainly later, participants were asked if they saw any kind of broken glass (none was displayed in the accident pictures). Participants who had remained in the “smashed” group were more than twice as most likely to show that they did remember see glass. Loftus and Palmer demonstrated that a leading question encouraged them to not only remember the cars were going faster, yet to additionally falsely remember that they saw damaged glass.


Figure 8.10. When people are asked leading questions about an event, their memory that the event may be altered. (credit a: alteration of occupational by rob Young)

Controversies end Repressed and also Recovered Memories

other researchers have explained how entirety events, not simply words, can be falsely recalled, also when castle did no happen. The idea the memories the traumatic events can be repressed has actually been a layout in the field of psychology, start with Sigmund Freud, and the controversy surrounding the idea continues today. Provided what you have actually learned today, carry out you think that is possible for false memory to it is in planted? What around in a psychotherapy setting?

Some treatments space grounded in the concept that individuals have the right to repress memory of traumatic events from childhood, including sexual abuse, and also then recuperate those memories years later on through therapeutic techniques such together hypnosis, guided visualization, and also age regression. Using these methods, the therapist help the customer recall a “memory” the the abuse that has been repressed.

On the other hand, Loftus concerns whether or not those memories room accurate, and is cynical of the questioning procedure used to access these memories, provided that also the slightest pointer from the therapist can lead to misinformation effects. Because that example, researcher Stephen Ceci and Maggie Brucks (1993, 1995) inquiry three-year-old kids to use an anatomically exactly doll to display where your pediatricians had actually touched them throughout an exam. Fifty-five percent of the youngsters pointed to the genital/anal area on the dolls, also when they had not obtained any type of genital exam.

Ever because Loftus released her an initial studies top top the suggestibility of eyewitness testimony in the 1970s, society scientists, police officers, therapists, and legal practitioners have actually been conscious of the flaws in interview practices. Consequently, steps have been taken to decrease suggestibility of witnesses. One way is come modify exactly how witnesses room questioned. When interviewers usage neutral and less top language, children much more accurately recall what happened and who was affiliated (Goodman, 2006; Pipe, 1996; Pipe, Lamb, Orbach, & Esplin, 2004). Another adjust is in just how police lineups space conducted. The recommended that a blind photograph lineup it is in used. This way the human administering the lineup doesn’t understand which photo belongs come the suspect, minimizing the opportunity of giving leading cues. Additionally, judges in some says now inform jurors about the possibility of misidentification. Judges can also suppress eyewitness testimony if they deem the unreliable.


“I’ve a cool memory because that forgetting,” quipped Robert luigi Stevenson. Forgetting refers come loss of details from long-term memory. Us all forget things, like a love one’s birthday, someone’s name, or where we put our car keys. Together you’ve pertained to see, memory is fragile, and also forgetting can be frustrating and also even embarrassing. But why execute we forget? come answer this question, we will certainly look at numerous perspectives top top forgetting.

Encoding Failure

Sometimes storage loss happens prior to the actual memory process begins, i beg your pardon is encoding failure. We can’t remember something if we never ever stored the in our storage in the first place. This would be favor trying to find a book on your e-reader that you never ever actually purchased and also downloaded. Often, in order come remember something, we need to pay fist to the details and proactively work to process the details (effortful encoding). Several times us don’t perform this. Because that instance, think the how numerous times in her life you’ve viewed a penny. Have the right to you correctly recall what the former of a U.S. Coin looks like? when researchers Raymond Nickerson and also Marilyn Adams (1979) asked this question, they discovered that most Americans don’t recognize which one the is. The reason is most most likely encoding failure. Most of us never ever encode the details that the penny. We just encode sufficient information to have the ability to distinguish the from other coins. If we don’t encode the information, then it’s not in our permanent memory, therefore we will certainly not be able to remember it.

Do you ever wonder why you can’t psychic the name of the girl you sat beside briefly in that one class? It might be since that details was not understood less important than other information and therefore forgotten. Rather of committing useless info into lengthy term memory, we just forget what we don’t need to remember. This website native Oregon State University gives a brief explanation of the memory process in “four fantastic nutshells”.

Can you tell i m sorry coin, (a), (b), (c), or (d) is the accurate depiction of a us nickel? The exactly answer is (c).

Memory Errors

Psychologist Daniel Schacter (2001), a popular memory researcher, uses seven ways our memories fail us. He calls castle the 7 sins of memory and also categorizes them into three groups: forgetting, distortion, and also intrusion.

Schacter’s seven Sins of MemorySinTypeDescriptionExample
TransienceForgettingAccessibility of storage decreases over timeForget events that developed long ago
absentmindednessForgettingForgetting led to by lapses in attentionForget whereby your phone is
BlockingForgettingAccessibility of info is in the interim blockedTip that the tongue
MisattributionDistortionSource of memory is confusedRecalling a dream memory as a waking memory
SuggestibilityDistortionFalse memoriesResult from leading questions
BiasDistortionMemories distorted through current belief systemAlign memories to present beliefs
PersistenceIntrusionInability come forget undesirable memoriesTraumatic events

let’s look in ~ the first sin the the forget errors: transience, which way that memories deserve to fade end time. Here’s an instance of just how this happens. Nathan’s English teacher has actually assigned his student to read the novel To kill a Mockingbird. Nathan comes residence from school and also tells his mom he needs to read this publication for class. “Oh, ns loved the book!” she says. Nathan asks her what the publication is about, and after some suspicion she says, “Well . . . I understand I check out the publication in high school, and I mental that among the main personalities is named Scout, and also her father is one attorney, but I honestly don’t remember noþeles else.” Nathan marvels if his mom actually check out the book, and his mommy is surprised she can’t recall the plot. What is going on below is storage decay: unused info tends to fade with the i of time.

In 1885, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus analyzed the procedure of memorization. First, that memorized list of rash syllables. Climate he measured how much he learned (retained) once he attempted come relearn each list. The tested himself over different periods the time indigenous 20 minutes later on to 30 job later. The an outcome is his well known forgetting curve. Because of storage decay, an average human being will shed 50% that the memorized details after 20 minutes and 70% the the details after 24 hours (Ebbinghaus, 1885/1964). Your memory for brand-new information decays quickly and then ultimately levels out.

Figure 8.11. The Ebbinghaus forget curve reflects how conveniently memory for new information decays.

space you constantly shedding your cell phone? have you ever driven earlier home come make certain you turned off the stove? have actually you ever walked right into a room for something, yet forgotten what the was? You more than likely answered yes to at least one, if no all, of these examples—but don’t worry, you room not alone. We room all susceptible to committing the memory error recognized as absentmindedness. These lapses in storage are brought about by breaks in attention or our focus being somewhere else.

Cynthia, a psychologist, recalls a time as soon as she freshly committed the memory error of absentmindedness.

When ns was perfect court-ordered psychological evaluations, each time I saw the court, ns was approve a temporary identification card through a magnetic strip which would open up otherwise locked doors. Together you can imagine, in a courtroom, this to know is an useful and important and also no one wanted it come be shed or be choose up by a criminal. In ~ the end of the day, I would hand in my short-lived identification. One day, once I was almost done v an evaluation, my daughter’s day care called and also said she to be sick and also needed come be choose up. It was flu season, ns didn’t know just how sick she was, and I to be concerned. Ns finished up the evaluation in the following ten minutes, packed up mine tools, and rushed to drive to my daughter’s job care. After i picked up my daughter, I might not mental if I had actually handed ago my to know or if I had left the sitting the end on a table. I immediately called the court to check. That turned the end that I had handed back my identification. Why might I no remember that? (personal communication, September 5, 2013)

When have actually you knowledgeable absentmindedness?

“I just went and saw this movie called Oblivion, and also it had actually that famed actor in it. Oh, those his name? He’s to be in all of those movies, like The Shawshank Redemption and The Dark Knight trilogy. I think he’s even won an Oscar. Oh gosh, ns can picture his face in my mind, and also hear his distinctive voice, yet I simply can’t think that his name! This is walking to an insect me until I have the right to remember it!” This particular error can be so frustrating since you have actually the info right top top the tip of your tongue. Have you ever experienced this? If so, did you do it committed the error recognized as blocking: friend can’t access stored information.

Blocking is additionally known as tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) phenomenon. The storage is appropriate there, but you can’t seem to recall it, as with not being able come remember the surname of that very famous actor, Morgan Freeman. (credit: modification of occupational by D. Miller)

currently let’s take a look at the 3 errors that distortion: misattribution, suggestibility, and bias. Misattribution happens as soon as you confuse the resource of your information. Let’s say Alejandro was date Lucia and also they saw the first Hobbit movie together. Climate they broke up and Alejandro observed the 2nd Hobbit movie v someone else. Later that year, Alejandro and Lucia get back together. One day, they room discussing how the Hobbit books and also movies are different and Alejandro states to Lucia, “I loved watching the 2nd movie v you and seeing girlfriend jump out of her seat throughout that at sight scary part.” as soon as Lucia responded v a puzzled and also then angry look, Alejandro realized he’d committed the error of misattribution.

What if who is a survivor of sexual assault shortly ~ watching a tv program? Is it feasible that the victim can actually reprimand the attack on the human she saw on television since of misattribution? This is specifically what happened to Donald Thomson.

Australian eyewitness expert Donald Thomson showed up on a live TV discussion around the unreliability that eyewitness memory. That was later arrested, put in a lineup and identified by a victim as the male who had actually raped her. The police charged Thomson although the rape had occurred at the moment he was on TV. Lock dismissed his alibi that he to be in plain view of a TV audience and also in the company of the various other discussants, including an assistant commissioner the police. . . . Eventually, the investigators discovered that the rapist had attacked the woman together she was watching TV—the very program on which Thomson had appeared. Authorities ultimately cleared Thomson. The mrs had puzzled the rapist’s face with the face that she had seen top top TV. (Baddeley, 2004, p. 133)

The second distortion error is suggestibility. Suggestibility is similar to misattribution, due to the fact that it additionally involves false memories, however it’s different. Through misattribution you create the false memory totally on your own, which is what the victim did in the Donald Thomson situation above. V suggestibility, it comes from someone else, such as a therapist or police interviewer questioning leading questions of a witness during an interview.

Memories can additionally be influenced by bias, which is the final distortion error. Schacter (2001) says that your feelings and also view of the human being can in reality distort your memory of previous events. There are several varieties of bias:

Stereotypical predisposition involves racial and also gender biases. For example, when oriental American and also European American study participants to be presented v a list of names, they much more frequently wrongly remembered typical African American name such together Jamal and also Tyrone to be linked with the occupation basketball player, and they an ext frequently mistakenly remembered common White surname such as Greg and also Howard to be linked with the occupation the politician (Payne, Jacoby, & Lambert, 2004).Egocentric bias involves improving our memory of the previous (Payne et al., 2004). Walk you yes, really score the winning score in that large soccer match, or walk you just assist?Hindsight predisposition happens as soon as we think an outcome was inescapable after the fact. This is the “I knew it every along” phenomenon. The rebuild nature of storage contributes to hindsight prejudice (Carli, 1999). Us remember untrue occasions that seem to confirm that we knew the outcome all along.

Have you ever before had a track play over and also over in her head? How around a storage of a traumatic event, something friend really do not desire to think about? when you store remembering something, to the allude where you can not “get it out of your head” and also it interferes with your capacity to concentration on various other things, that is called persistence. The Schacter’s seventh and also last storage error. It’s in reality a fail of our storage system due to the fact that we involuntarily recall undesirable memories, particularly unpleasant ones. Because that instance, girlfriend witness a horrific car accident ~ above the way to work-related one morning, and you can’t concentrate on work due to the fact that you keep remembering the scene.

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Many veterans the military disputes involuntarily remind unwanted, uncomfortable memories. (credit: room of Defense picture by U.S. Air pressure Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)


Sometimes info is save in our memory, but for some reason it is inaccessible. This is well-known as interference, and also there room two types: proactive interference and retroactive interference. Have you ever before gotten a new phone number or relocated to a new address, but right after girlfriend tell human being the old (and wrong) call number or address? when the new year starts, carry out you find you accidentally compose the previous year? this are examples of proactive interference: when old info hinders the recall of freshly learned information. Retroactive interference happens when details learned much more recently hinders the recall of enlarge information. For example, this week you are studying about Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory. Next week you examine the humanistic perspective of Maslow and also Rogers. Thereafter, you have trouble psychic Freud’s Psychosexual step of breakthrough because you have the right to only remember Maslow’s pecking order of Needs.