We are learning something new every day, and we have been doing that since the day we were born, but learning would be useless if we did not have a way to remember and store all that new information. Memory does exactly that. Before we can start to find out if memory is reliable or not, we need to define it. Memory is, according to The Free Dictionary: ”the mental faculty that enables one to retain and recall previously experienced sensations, impressions, information, and ideas. The ability of the brain to retain and to use knowledge gained from past experience is essential to the process of learning. Although the exact way in which the brain remembers is not completely understood, it is believed that a portion of the temporal lobe of the brain, lying in part under the temples, acts as a kind of memory center, drawing on memories stored in other parts of the brain.” "Memory (redirected from Memory (psychology))." TheFreeDictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2013.
How accurate are your memories, and are they actually reliable?
Memory allows us to process information, store information, and then access it later if, or when, we would need to. Atkinson and Shiffrin came up with a model, The Multi Store Model, in 1968. They said that memory consisted of three different stages, sensory store, short-term store and long-term store. The sensory store is the first stage, and the memory only stays there for a short period of time. For information to pass into the short-term store it has to be visual. You normally remember 7 +/- 2 items in chunks for around 15-30 seconds unless it is repeated several times and rehearsed. For memory to pass into the long-term store it has to be rehearsed a lot of times. The capacity of the long-term store is unlimited and memories may stay with you for a lifetime. However, information may be forgotten because memory can decay. "Multi Store Model of Memory - Atkinson and Shiffrin, 1968." Atkinson and Shiffrin. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.
Eyewitness Testimony is a study done by Loftus and Palmer in 1974. Their aim was to see if misleading questions would affect the answers in eyewitness testimonies. They had participants watching a video of a car accident and asked questions afterwards. Two different questions were asked depending on what group they were in, they were asked how fast the cars were going when they hit each other or smashed into each other. There was a control group and they were not asked about speed at all. A week later all the three groups were asked if they had seen any broken glass.
The group that were asked about the speed when the cars “smashed” into each other estimated an average speed of 42mph and 32% said that there were broken glass, when in the actual video there was no broken glass at all. The group that were asked about the speed when they “hit” each other said an average speed of 34mph and 14% said that there had been broken glass. In the control group there were only 12% that said they had seen broken glass.
The study showed that misleading questions affect eyewitness testimonies and therefore how unreliable they can be. The word smash were part of a more brutal and violent schema than the word hit, and that was reflected in the results. "Loftus and Palmer." - Simply Psychology. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.
Loftus and Ketcham thought that it would be interesting to see if they could make people have a memory of an event that did not happen, and they tested their theory on a few individuals. Loftus and her student Jacqueline Pickrell were the first to use the theory in a formal study, and they did so in 1995. The study was called Lost In a Shopping Mall. They had 24 participants and they were given four short narratives describing childhood events. Then they were asked to tell as much as they remembered about the four events. But what they did not know was that one of the narratives was false, it never happened to them.