Constructive Memory: Part 2 of 2

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Even if you can recall only a few major details of some past event, you can often fill in or construct details you can’t recall on the bas of your knowledge of redundancy In her book Eyewitness Testimony, Elizabeth Loftus (1979) considers how witnesses recall a crime or accident. In one experiment all subjects were shown a filmed auto accident Half of the subjects were then asked How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other? The other subjects were asked. How fast were the cars going when they hit each other? The smashed into phrasing elicited much higher speed   estimates than the hit phrasing. Furthermore, this effect on tile subjects memories was still indent a week later when they were asked (among other questions), “Did you see am broken glass?” Almost twice as many of the smashed into subjects remembered broken glass, even though no broken glass was shown in the film. It was as if the verbs in the original question colored their reconstruction of the event, with smashed into evoking a memory of a more violent accident than hit.

One interesting aspect of constructive processes in memos is the difficulty they produce In Interpreted the recall of dreams suppose you are trying to recall a dream you had the night before You remember dreaming you were sitting in your kitchen and then a short while later driving your car. Now in the real world it would be impossible to get from your kitchen to your car without leaving the house and walking to your car. In other words the two events you do remember sitting in your kitchen and driving a car are almost perfectly correlated with the intermediate event of moving from the kitchen to the car (they are among the scripts that you have for traveling).

If you were recalling these events from real life instead of from a dreams you would be quite safe in assuming you had moved from the kitchen to the car. In fact you might find it hard to tell whether you really remember walking to the car or have simply inferred it from events you do recall. You probably make such automatic inferences during your attempts to recall dreams but in the dream world events aren’t constrained by the rules of physical reality, Therefore we have no way of determining how much people really remember about their dreams and how much they automatically infer during reconstruction on the basis of inappropriate physical laws.

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