I recently watched a video that discussed memory retrieval in a therapy session. The topic of false memories came up and I instantly thought of Piaget and his near abduction story. The one thing most people hold dearly is their memories. The idea that something we hold as truth may be entirely made-up is shocking to say the least. The video went on to mention that memories recovered under hypnosis are more likely to be false memories. The mind is especially susceptible to suggestion in the hypnotic state.
With the commonness of false memories, it is all the more important to have external corroboration to validate them. In the case of abuse patients, having a sibling someone else confirm the claim can help make sure people are not wrongfully convicted of abuse claims brought about by false memories.
I think it would be fascinating to see if people favor emotionally salient information or information matching their emotional state. To test this, participants will be primed with a mood-state inducer and given a list of words equally composed of words with high emotional content and other words associated with the primed mood. Participants will recall as many as possible and we can see which they recall more. An experiment like this would help us better understand the magnitude at which we are affected by salient emotional content and mood-congruent content.
Flashbulb memories are often the most vivid and salient individuals can recall. Surprisingly, these memories are often not as accurate as we might think. This afternoon, I discussed our recollection of 9/11/11 with my roommate who was in my 5th grade class on that date. We both felt very confident that our memories were of near perfect accuracy. Despite many similarities in our recollections, we did have a few differences in the details of the event. This simple, personal anecdote illustrates the general misperception of the accuracy of flashbulb memories.
The evidence for subliminal priming is overwhelming, drawing all the more importance to the possible implications. Although the overall effectiveness of the visual subliminal priming process is well demonstrated, the processing power and scope of the unconscious is less explored. For instance, how much visual complexity can be processed and stored per each visual primer? Visual images can come in varying levels of complexity raising questions about the processing power of the unconscious mind. Almost certainly, we will find some variability between individuals in processing power. If processing power was to be tested in a quantifiable way, we could compare each individual’s subliminal processing ability to working memory capacity which could provide an interesting way of looking at the relationship between memory forms and the correlations between them. Inability to internalize subliminal stimuli could be due to a few reasons. One reason is a problem in stimuli intake. In this case, dealing with the visual system we should look at the effectiveness of subliminal primers when they are presented in different areas of the visual field. Another problem could be an overload of the memory system occupied by subliminal primers. In an experimental setting, steadily increasing the complexity of the visual primers and testing to see if they had an effect would allow us greater insight into the subliminal processing capacity of the brain.
With this idea of how advanced and successful humans are, it is remarkable to think of how wrong we can be even in simple instances. Although they may fail us in situations that may seem elementary, the general effectiveness may be the reason for our self-appraisal of how effective we are with general functioning. Looking at things like gambling, we see that some factors moderate how we go about coming to conclusions. First off, salience plays a major role in the operation of availability heuristics. In the case of gambling, people overestimate the odds of winning because stories of winning are far more interesting, publicized and attractive. When examining life critically, we can see how much heuristics really influence our existence yet, yet we can seldom consciously alter our use of them. Even through consciousness raising exercises, effects would be minimal and short-lived. It just goes to show one aspect of our living experience that is seemingly unchangeable and truly human.