Long Term Memory

1492 Words 6 Pages
Many people believe that their memory is infallible, that the way they remember an event is exactly as it happened. In truth, memory is flexible and can be influenced by a variety of factors such as use of language – for example, in the use of leading questions -, emotions and mental illness. This means that what a person believes to be true may not be true at all, and could in fact be a reconstruction based on their brains attempts to make sense of a scene that it does not understand. Due to this, eyewitness reports can be notoriously unreliable as a person may try to 'fill in the gaps ' with information that they believe makes sense, but that in practice is inaccurate and should not be used in a police investigation. A key example of this …show more content…
There is evidence to suggest that emotion can both enhance and detract from the accuracy of a memory. One such study was conducted by Quas et al. (2001, in Edelstein, Alexander, Goodman, & Newton, 2004) where children who had testified in court were asked 13 years later to recall their experience of the courtroom. Those who had been rated as being more distressed when originally testifying were shown to remember more accurately what their experience had been like, including details about their own original testimony. Clearly, in this case the negative emotions that come with being distressed had positively influenced memory retention, however there are cases which show the opposite. An example of this is a study by Payne et al. (2002, in Edelstein et al., 2004) which had a group of people giving a speech before memorising lists of words. Those who had been asked to give a speech – which they believed would be graded – tended to have more 'false alarm ' responses where they would recognise words which were semantically similar to words on the list but that had never actually been on the list, whereas the ones which did not have to give a speech, and so had not experienced any stress, were less likely to falsely identify semantically similar words. It is still unclear the effect emotion has on accurate retrieval of memory, however what is clear is that it does have an effect. Whether negative or positive, the emotion felt at the time a person witnesses something may interfere with how they remember the event, and so may cause their eyewitness report to be

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