August 5, 2011

Memory: Not as Reliable as You Think?

(Ivanhoe Newswire)--Memory may not be as powerful as many people believe. A recent study reveals the many people in the United States think that memory is more powerful, objective, and reliable than it actually is. A survey was conducted to measure individuals' ideas of how the memory works. Daniel Simons, a University of Illinois psychology professor and leader of the study along with Christopher Chabris, Union College psychology professor, was quoted stating, "Our book highlight ways in which our intuitions about the mind are mistaken and one of the most compelling examples comes from the beliefs about memory: People tend to place greater faith in the accuracy, completeness and vividness of their memories than they probably should."

The telephone survey was carried out by the opinion research company SurveryUSA, who asked 1,500 people whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about memory. About two thirds of those who responded related human memory to a video camera that precisely records information for later use. About half believed that once experiences are encoded into the memory they will not change. Nearly 40 percent felt that the testimony of a confident eyewitness should be enough evidence to convict someone of a crime.

Although studies have shown, for example, that confident eyewitnesses are likely to be accurate in their statements, Chabris was quoted saying, "Even confident witnesses are wrong about 30 percent of the time." According to Simons, we have known for decades that memories can become distorted over time. Chabris was quoted stating, "The fallibility of memory is well established in the scientific literature, but mistaken intuitions about memory persist. The extent of these disbeliefs helps explain why so many people assume that politicians who may simply be remembering things wrong must be deliberately lying." The findings concluded from this study may also offer important implications for proceedings in legal cases.

SOURCE: PLoS ONE, August 5, 2011