The Reliability of Memory

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According to Sternberg (1999), memory is the extraction of past experiences for information to be used in the present. The retrieval of memory is essential in every aspect of daily life, whether it is for academics, work or social purposes. However, many often take memory for granted and assume that it can be relied on because of how realistic it appears in the mind. This form of memory is also known as flashbulb memory. (Brown and Kulik, 1977). The question of whether our memory is reliably accurate has been shown to have implications in providing precise details of past events. (The British Psychological Association, 2011). In this essay, I would put forth arguments that human memory, in fact, is not completely reliable in providing accurate depictions of our past experiences. Evidence can be seen in the following two studies that support these arguments by examining episodic memory in humans. The first study is by Loftus and Pickrell (1995) who found that memory can be modified by suggestions. The second study is by Naveh-Benjamin and Craik (1995) who found that there is a predisposition for memory to decline with increasing age.
Human memory is highly susceptible to modifications due to the compelling nature of false memories. This causes the recollection of events to be different from the way they happened or to be non-existent. (Roediger, Jacoby and McDermott, 1996). The first study by Loftus and Pickrell (1995) was to understand and determine if human’s episodic memory, which is the recollection of past events in their thoughts and feelings at that point of time, could be modified by suggestive information. (Wheeler, Stuss and Tulving, 1997). The independent variables were the types of information (3 true and 1 false) given...

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...Dermott, K. B. (1996). Misinformation effects in recall: Creating false memories through repeated retrieval. Journal of Memory and Language, 5(2), 300-318. doi: 10.1006/jmla.1996.0017
Sternberg, R. J. (1999). Cognitive psychology (2nd ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers
Schnitzspahn, K.M., Stahl, C., Zeintl, M., Kaller, C. P., & Kliegel, M. (2013). The role of shifting, updating, and inhibition in prospective memory performance in young and older adults. Developmental Psychology, 49(8), 1544-1553. doi: 10.1037/a0030579
The British Psychological Society. (2011). Memory is not as reliable as we think. Retrieved from http:// http://www.bps.org.uk/news/memory-not-reliable-we-think
Wheeler, M. A., Stuss, D, t., & Tulving, D. (1997). Toward a theory of episodic memory: The frontal lobes and autonoetic consciousness: Psychological Bulletin, 121, 331-354

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