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Is it possible for memory retrieval to be unreliable? Why or

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Is it possible for memory retrieval to be unreliable? Why or why not? What factors may affect the reliability of one’s memory?

Yes, memories can be distorted by several means. Loftus and Palmer did a relatively well known study where they showed college students a film of two cars colliding at less than 5 miles per hour. In the first group, the students were asked how fast the cars were going when they collided. The students answered the question correctly. However, a second group of students who watched the same film were asked how fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other. The second group overestimated the cars speed by more than 10 miles per hour over the actual speed and they remembered broken glass on the road when in fact there was none. The only change was how the questions were asked.

Memories can be distorted by the way questions are asked, and even the maturity of the individual over time. For example, in one study teenagers were asked questions about their lives. Then they were then asked at age 25 what their responses were to the questions asked when they were teenagers. The 25 year olds were certain they remembered what they had said prior. However, in almost every case their memories of those answers had changed due to their maturity.

Lastly, memory can be effected by old memories interfering with new memories, or new memories interfering with old memories. This is called proactive and retroactive interference. For example, a female friend of yours marries and takes the name of her husband. After a period of time, you no longer remember her original name, even though you used it for years.

Memories are also effected by the availability of proper rehearsal and review. You can study something but without review, the memories will remain elusive and incomplete. This is called tip of the tongue phenomenon. Even fear can make memories elusive. During a frightening experience, the hippocampus, a memory storage buffer is bypassed and few memories during periods of extreme fright are stored. This is why when police interview witnesses or victims after a crime, the memories and recall are different or absent in the very frightened ones.

I hope this helped,


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