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← 4 Things Most People Get Wrong About Memory

4 Things Most People Get Wrong About Memory - Comments

zengardener's Avatar Comment 1 by zengardener

I think I have read this article before.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 01:56:59 UTC | #858047

The Truth, the light's Avatar Comment 2 by The Truth, the light

I think I've seen this article before as well, but I really can't remember ;)

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 02:00:47 UTC | #858048

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 3 by Neodarwinian

Damasio has a contextual take on memory that involves the bodily reenactment in certain areas of the brain. Hardly taped memory.

I have never seen the basketball and gorilla video. I feel so deprived!

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 02:08:16 UTC | #858049

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 4 by ZenDruid

Neo, here you go.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 02:26:35 UTC | #858058

Pete H's Avatar Comment 5 by Pete H

I highly recommend the book these guys wrote: 'The Invisible Gorilla'.

It's crucially important for anyone without adequate life insurance and who regularly rides a bicycle that's not equipped with a powerful mobile phone radio signal jammer and an automatic ejection seat.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 02:44:29 UTC | #858061

dandelion fluff's Avatar Comment 6 by dandelion fluff

I was watching the gorilla video, and even though I saw the gorilla because I knew he would be there, I can see how I may have missed him if I hadn't known ahead of time. I was trying to count the passes by the players in white as the instructions requested. So I was selectively attending to the white-shirted people and tuning out the dark-shirted people -- who closely matched the color of the gorilla. (which is of course what the instructions get you to do: the video is labelled "The original selective attention task".)

So I wonder how the experiment would have gone if you were supposed to count passes from the people whose shirts did match the gorilla who walked through? Quite differently, I expect.

And I wonder how either would compare to the way your attention is (generally more loosely) focussed on the daily business you're going about at the time a crime is committed?

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 03:06:25 UTC | #858068

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 7 by Neodarwinian

Thank you ZenDruid.

I think the gorilla pounding his chest would grab your attention, but apparently not as many missed it.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 03:37:01 UTC | #858075

Robert Howard's Avatar Comment 8 by Robert Howard

The second comment on the full-article page says that the gorilla is the masot ot the basketball team in question. I'm not a sports aficionado myself but aren't the fans accustomed to tuning out these costumed characters?

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 03:42:04 UTC | #858076

Stevezar's Avatar Comment 9 by Stevezar

Good article - this topic came up recently on the UFO thread. I think its important for rationalists and skeptics to realize how fragile memories are and how poor eyewitness testimony can be. Of course, it is important for non-skeptics too, but they are usually hopeless about these things anyway!

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 05:38:37 UTC | #858087

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 10 by Schrodinger's Cat

Memories can be inaccurate.......but they can also be surprisingly accurate too. I recently visited a place I had not seen for 40 years, and was pleased at just how much detail I accurately remembered. I think that where memories are inaccurate, and I can think of a few examples myself, is where not enough detail is recorded in the first place. On retrieval, the brain then tends to fill in the gaps.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 06:47:14 UTC | #858099

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 11 by Vorlund

The implications for our legal system are immense. A serious and extended study is required and used to revise the legal system. The degree of confidence placed on eyewitness testimony cannot be justified but what does that mean? How many people have been incorrectly convicted of crimes on eyewitness testimony and how do we deal with that? Also would it result in more CCTV cameras and infringement of privacy and civil liberty?

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 07:27:12 UTC | #858108

keddaw's Avatar Comment 12 by keddaw

Vorlund, an important point but one that may mean we have implants that record the signals from our eyes and so would be available to us at will and the police with a court order.

I can't wait, but we'll first need to implant a calculator because I'm fed up with all those maths geniuses who can do complicated sums in their head.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 10:19:59 UTC | #858139

JustLikeMyPops's Avatar Comment 13 by JustLikeMyPops

I’ve seen that gorilla video before and was utterly fooled by it at the time.

I was thinking about memory and how we experience it recently after reading a post on here I think it was, not sure, but I tried to describe to myself how I experienced my own memories. When I tried to recall a long held memory of when I witnessed a friend falling and hitting his head (he temporarily lost his memory funnily enough), I saw very short clips of what I thought was my point of view, but as I tried to remember more details the viewpoint in my mind changed with subsequent attempts to recall more. I started to think that I wasn’t recalling what I had actually witnessed at the time but that my brain was making a 3D environment that I was just kind of moving about it in, so not really an accurate memory but more of a simulation? I also struggled to recall strong colour in my memories, even recent memories like closing my eyes and recalling the details out of the window.

This is probably not that interesting and I even decided not to post this little experiment the last time because I imagine to some people this must seem either so basic as to not warrant any interest or proven to be a false evaluation of my experiences, which is probably the most likely scenario, but I am posting now as it seems mildly on topic for a change =)

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 10:53:57 UTC | #858145

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 14 by DavidMcC

I don't think this is really about memory, as such. I see it as more about how we can be distracted from one detail of an image or video by being asked to concentrate hard on something else. The visual cortex is more than just a memory. We only get a chance to remember what we have noticed in the first place, and, in this case, we don't notice the gorilla in the first place.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 12:52:33 UTC | #858171

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 15 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 11 by Vorlund

The degree of confidence placed on eyewitness testimony cannot be justified but what does that mean? How many people have been incorrectly convicted of crimes on eyewitness testimony and how do we deal with that?

I think one has to take a sensible approach to the whole thing. Clearly, people do have a lot of memories that are accurate.........the world would otherwise not be able to function ! If we had to question our every memory all the time....we'd never get beyond putting on our socks in the morning.

So, simply pointing out that memories 'can be' inaccurate and even totally farbricated should not be a cause to throw the baby out with the bath water.

When it comes to court cases...I'd place far less credence on someone who 'accurately' identified in a line-up some total stranger they'd seen for a total of 2 seconds..............than someone who said 'Yup, that's my neighbour Fred who I've known for 30 years'. One would hope that court cases take all the relevant factors into account.

Incidentally, one thing that I think is an absolute scandal is the way police 'line ups' have been used. The proper purpose of such an activity should be to eliminate any potential suspect from proceedings.......and nothing more. What is referred to as 'positive identification'.......the 'Yup....number 8 is the criminal' type thing......should not be considered evidence at all. In a line-up of 10 people, there's a 1 in 10 chance that an innocent person could be identified as the criminal. That is a complete farce for a legal system requiring evidence 'beyond all reasonable doubt'.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 13:04:56 UTC | #858173

MilitantNonStampCollector's Avatar Comment 16 by MilitantNonStampCollector

Memories are no doubt faulty at times. I would imagine there is an evolutionary explanation for this. Stay away from crocodiles would be a useful memory of course, as that is such an emotionally loaded memory, it would have a better chance of recall.

When we imagine events, we create vivid images that are easily recalled from memory. We remember what is common and usually discard the rest. This is the availability heuristic. And as SC says, using the police line-up for the purpose of fingering the bad guy seems very ropy. As people can go with what feels right: without realising it, they will unconsciously tie in their own common experience to the police line-up.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 13:44:08 UTC | #858185

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 17 by DavidMcC

Comment 16 by Derek M

Memories are no doubt faulty at times.

I don't think we were "forgetting" the gorilla, because we never knew he was there in the first place if we were sufficiently distracted by the ball game-related task we were set. It was as if we never saw the gorilla, because of the way the eye-brain system works - the visual cortex has to identify "known" objects in the visual field, but it can only cope with so much work load at once, and it is kept very busy watching the players in this test.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 14:04:41 UTC | #858194

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 18 by DavidMcC

... I suspect that the gorilla's blackness is also key to his invisibility in this test, as we are asked to watch lots of people in white, and have to ignore anything that's black if we are to stand any chance of succeeding in the test. An image of the ape-man rarely enters the yellow spot of our eyes, because our eyes are too busy darting around, checking on the players in white. Thus, if the gorilla had been white, we might have noticed him.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 14:18:12 UTC | #858199

RJMoore's Avatar Comment 19 by RJMoore

Wouldnt the rejection of eye witness testimony have very grave implications in cases of rape or sexual assault, cases where the nature of the offence means that there is likely to be only the perp and victim present? Maybe this a cause of the already very low conviction rate.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 14:20:51 UTC | #858200

RH's Avatar Comment 20 by RH

People who pay attention to cognition and memory studies have been told for decades that memory doesn't operate like the "video recorder" many of us assume. Which is fair enough.

But then I have to wonder how people with hyperthymesia fit into this assertion. These are those select people who do indeed seem to remember as if their brains were automatically recording everything they've done, like an automated video recorder. People who have been studied, like Jill Price, have shown their memory to be incredibly accurate. And when asked how they recall they say their brain "just does"

A researcher who studied Jill said: "Her recollections were quick and seemed to be automatic. When asked how she knew an answer, she said she just knew; she can see the event in her mind and relive it, like she is watching a movie."

Obviously these people are an anomaly, but surely they also give some insight into memory in general, and it does suggest some sort of "recording" goes on.

RH

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 15:59:40 UTC | #858241

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 21 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 20 by RH

Obviously these people are an anomaly, but surely they also give some insight into memory in general, and it does suggest some sort of "recording" goes on.

I don't think there's a contradiction at all. I suspect that memory is 'recorded'.....but that there can be situations ( like witnessing a crime ) where the memory is peripheral and incomplete. I think that what then happens is that when that memory is retrieved, the brain does not like 'incomplete' memories and fills in the gaps with the best available guesstimate.

Something that may have been incredibly useful from an evolutionary standpoint, helping us fill in the blanks to compare situations......then ends up getting the wrong person convicted for a crime.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 16:12:58 UTC | #858252

zengardener's Avatar Comment 22 by zengardener

My Five year old son spotted the Gorilla immediately.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 16:13:42 UTC | #858253

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 23 by DavidMcC

A good point, RH. I wonder if Jill ever did the test in the OP. That would be revealing.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 16:18:15 UTC | #858254

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 24 by DavidMcC

Comment 22 by zengardener :

My Five year old son spotted the Gorilla immediately.

But how did he score on the test itself? If you don't pay attention to the test, you will have plenty of time to notice the rampant gorilla!

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 16:20:05 UTC | #858257

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 25 by DavidMcC

I suspect that everyone would have a good chance of noticing an albino gorilla, because he would be like the players in white.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 16:36:11 UTC | #858268

Stevezar's Avatar Comment 26 by Stevezar

Comment 24 by DavidMcC :

Comment 22 by zengardener :

My Five year old son spotted the Gorilla immediately.

But how did he score on the test itself? If you don't pay attention to the test, you will have plenty of time to notice the rampant gorilla!

My six year old spotted the gorrilla and came within one on the number of passes.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 18:37:05 UTC | #858323

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 27 by Steven Mading

Comment 14 by DavidMcC :

I don't think this is really about memory, as such. I see it as more about how we can be distracted from one detail of an image or video by being asked to concentrate hard on something else. The visual cortex is more than just a memory. We only get a chance to remember what we have noticed in the first place, and, in this case, we don't notice the gorilla in the first place.

That's just what I was thinking.

If you never noticed the gorilla the first time, then the statement "I never noticed any goriila, what are you talking about?" is not chalked up to a faulty memory. The error occurred somewhere between your eyeball and your conscious mind, where your mental directive "don't pay attention to anything other than the white-shirted players" was in effect. Your visual processing software obliiged that command and filtered out the gorilla from the image that reached your conscious mind. Your memory was not in error. It accurately recorded the image you were consciously experiencing. It accurately recorded the lack of a gorilla in your thoughts.

You can't "forget" something that never entered your conscious mind in the first place.

Perception failures should NOT be identified as memory failures, as this article tries to do.

Fri, 05 Aug 2011 19:00:00 UTC | #858331

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 28 by DavidMcC

Comment 26 by Stevezar :

Comment 24 by DavidMcC :

Comment 22 by zengardener : My Five year old son spotted the Gorilla immediately.

But how did he score on the test itself? If you don't pay attention to the test, you will have plenty of time to notice the rampant gorilla!

My six year old spotted the gorrilla and came within one on the number of passes.

He did very well, then, because there is pribably an inverse correlation between score on the test and your chances of spotting the gorilla, right?

Sat, 06 Aug 2011 11:31:22 UTC | #858587

Moderator's Avatar Comment 29 by Moderator

Note re formatting

We have edited comment 28 to correct the formatting problem which had led to text straying far beyond the right hand edge of the text panel.

It seems to be a problem that creeps in quite regularly when quoting other people's posts. Sorry about that - it's being investigated and we'll try to get it put right quickly. In the meantime, if it happens to you, you can correct it by editing your post (you have approx 10 minutes after posting in which to do this) and removing any spaces and/or tabs that have been inserted at the start of lines.

Thanks. The Mods

Sat, 06 Aug 2011 11:44:01 UTC | #858589

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 30 by DavidMcC

Comment 29 by Moderator :

Note re formattingWe have edited comment 28 to correct the formatting problem which had led to text straying far beyond the right hand edge of the text panel.It seems to be a problem that creeps in quite regularly when quoting other people's posts. Sorry about that - it's being investigated and we'll try to get it put right quickly. In the meantime, if it happens to you, you can correct it by editing your post (you have approx 10 minutes after posting in which to do this) and removing any spaces and/or tabs that have been inserted at the start of lines.Thanks.The Mods

It might help you to know that I only get this problem when using my windows 7 system. I don't get it with windows XP any more. (I had to edit this reply, because I used windows 7.)

Sat, 06 Aug 2011 13:21:23 UTC | #858621