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Elizabeth Loftus is widely known as one of the leading experts in the field of false memories, especially regarding childhood sexual abuse. However, this particular topic is deeply controversial, with many experts divided over whether these memories are truly false, or if they are instead repressed to protect the individual from reliving further trauma. Loftus is most famous for her theory of the misinformation effect, which refers to the phenomenon in which exposure to incorrect information between the encoding of a memory and its later recall causes impairment to the memory. That is to say, if you witnessed a hit-and-run car accident, and heard a radio commercial for Ford before giving your testimony to the police, you might incorrectly recall that the offending vehicle was a Ford, even if it was not. Loftus' research has been used in many cases of eyewitness testimony in high-profile court cases to demonstrate the malleability of the human memory.
To test this theory, researchers in New York City set up a "crime" for participants to "witness" (unbeknownst to them). 175 local female college students were recruited to participate in a study about memory, and were directed to complete some computer tasks involving word and picture recall in a room overlooking an alley. While completing the computer tasks, participants witnessed a young woman being "mugged" by a young man in the alley outside the lab—both individuals were confederates of the researchers. After reporting the "crime" to the researchers, participants were escorted out of the lab and told that this crime would be reported to the local police, and that they might be called back in to give a testimony. For half of the participants, a research confederate acting as a custodial worker was present as they were being escorted out. For the other half, no decoys were present. Participants were randomly assigned to either the decoy or control group. Participants who did not report the "crime" to the researchers were excluded from the study (25 women were excluded).
One week later, participants were called back to the lab to give their testimony to a police officer – another confederate. Participants were told that the police had several leads on who the mugger might be, and were asked to pick out the suspect from five different photo options. Included in the photo set were photos of the mugger, the custodial worker, and three neutral faces chosen to be similar to the two experimental faces. After recalling the event to the police officer and choosing a face, participants were debriefed (they were told that the mugging was fake) and awarded course credit for their participation. The results of this study are summarized in Table 1.
Table 1 Number of positive identifications in photo line-up
1. What conclusions can be drawn from the data presented in Table 1?
2. What part of the brain is most associated with the formation of long-term memories?
3. The inability to form new memories is called:
4. Suppose that after selecting someone from the photo line-up, all of the subjects in the control group watched a ten-minute film presentation in which a "police officer" provided additional evidence about why the custodial worker (whom the control subjects never met) was suspected to be the culprit responsible for the mugging. Half of the control subjects had a "very handsome" police officer presenting the information, and the other half had an "unattractive" police officer presenting the same information. 85% of the control subjects who watched the video with the handsome police officer either changed their answer to the custodial worker (or if they had initially selected the custodial worker, confirmed that selection). 45% of the control subjects who watched the video with the unattractive police officer either changed their answer to the custodial worker (or if they had initially selected the custodial worker, confirmed that selection). The elaboration likelihood model suggests tha
5. What type of memory is used in a multiple-choice test, such as this one?
6. What are the three main stages of memory, according to the information processing perspective?
7. What part of the brain is responsible for procedural memories for skills?
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