Monthly Archives: March 2014

Recognition and Recall

Have you ever encountered someone you thought you knew but couldn’t remember their name? Then, shortly after their names pops into your head. You are using both recognition and recall in this situation. You are using recognition when you realize the persons physical appearance or voice matches one that is previously stored in your memory. This is called a cue. On the other hand, you are recalling information when you suddenly remember that persons name. In recognition, sensory cues act as an aid in memory retrieval. When some one is using recognition, they are matching a current cue with one stored somewhere in their brain. It acts similar to a mental filling cabinet. When you receive a certain stimulus, your brain opens the filling cabinet and searches for the correct folder that matches the stimulus. A common instance in which recognition is used is on a multiple choice test. You have a list of possible answers and must select the correct one. Some of theses words look more familiar then others thus helping in retrieval. While recognition and recall are similar, recalling is a form of memory retrieval that lacks the aid of a specific cue. When taking a fill-in-the-blank or essay test, you have to retrieve the answer from stored memory without a cue. These tests are typically harder as it tends to be easier to recognize answers than to recall them. Trouble recalling information results in something known as the Tip-of-the-Tongue phenomenon. This is where you feel as if you know the word, but you just can’t say it. Sometimes people go as far as remembering the first letter or how many letters are in the word, but cannot completely retrieve it. Recall and recognition are two very important aspects of memory retrieval that are used in our every day life.

Flashbulb Memories

Flashbulb memories are a quite interesting topic. We often forget moments in our past that take place on a daily routine but if something extraordinary or a tragic disaster takes place, it is hard to forget. That will always be a  memory that is almost burned into our minds. For an example id use September 11, 2011. Everyone knows what happened that day and the tragic toll it took on our country. Many people remember what they were doing and where they were when they heard the news. But for most people, the days leading into it and the days after are hard to remember. For me personally, the following day was another meaningful day in my life. My birthday falls on September 12. With almost an imaginary audience thinking I’d walk into my house with everyone cheering and getting me excited for tomorrow being my birthday,but  I walked into my house to find my dad and his coworkers sitting on the couch and watching the news. This tragedy was nearly 13 years ago, making me about 6 years of age on that birthday. I don’t remember many of my birthday’s up until quite recently because its an annual even that i have become so used to but the birthday of September 12, 2011 is a birthday I will never forget.

Memory is Tricky

Memory is a tricky thing.  A lot of the time it is difficult to be sure if what you are remembering is the memory from the actual event or if it is an altered memory caused by constant redrawing of said memory.  I have had an experience in my life where this was highlighted extremely.  I have a memory of when I was a young kid of laying on my bed reading (I had just had my guard rails removed).  I remember my parents coming in to ask me if I was ready for lunch to which I replied that I was.  I then remember finishing the chapter I was on and heading downstairs to be surprised by my first pet dog!  He was a corgi named Zuke.  I remember my parents telling me that they got him from a shelter and more about his back story.  I then remember running to the basement to grab a blanket for him to make him his own little bed in the living room.  When I turned for the stairs I tripped and toppled all the way down the steps.  I remember nearly missing one of my toy trucks at the bottom of the stairs.  After all was said and done I remember getting up without a scratch and getting a blanket for my new best friend.

Here is the tricky part though, that memory is actually two smashed together.  My parents were recording the surprise of my first pet and I have re-watched the video and I never fell down the stairs (that day).  I had actually went to my room to grab Zuke a blanket and then ended up playing with him in the living room without falling down the stairs at all that day.  The even that I mixed in was another recorded event that my parents have on tape.  This even was my 8th birthday party.  I was super excited to have all my friends over to my house and had ran for the stairs to grab one of my toys to show some of my friends and that is when I had tripped.  I remember correctly now because after watching both videos I can hear my mother yell when I start tumbling down the stairs.

This merging of two memories is a good example of how we can create false positives and have incorrect memories that we could have sworn were real.  Not everyone has the opportunity to correct certain false memories through the usage of video tape.  Even though this is a minor memory to have mixed up I now have it straightened out in my mind through clear video evidence that I merged two memories in my mind.

What actually happened when you were little?

We all have our first memory, but most of the time this memory of us at a very young age was in fact not our own. It probably did happen, but do we remember the story of getting our first dog at a young age of two or do we remember because some one told us about that dog? One of my “first memories” was when I was about two and a half I think in my backgarden in England. That part I do remember through the aid of photos and that I moved to America the day before I turned five years old. But my parents always told me that on this day in my backgarden it was very hot and I was out running around with my pet rabbit and guinea pig and they gave me a home made iced lolly to eat. From what I remember I walked around with this iced lolly for about half an hour. My parents noticed it was not getting any smaller so they went up to me and noticed that the cap was not taken off it. So basically I spent half an hour sucking on a cap. The iced lolly was running down my arm too. They always tell me this story because the face I had on when I actually tasted the lolly was so satisfying. But do I remember this memory because of the countless times my mum and and dad tells this story or because I actually do remember it? Chances are no since I was so young but whenever anyone asks me about my first memory I always tell this one. Or the day my family officially moved to America.



Did it Really Happen?

My younger sister is fourteen-years-old. One day we were talking about our friends and she started talking about how she missed her friend Abby and was wondering what she was up to. She began to tell me this story about her and Abby when they were younger. She said that back in our old neighborhood in Texas, her and Abby were playing in the backyard when they came across a snake. My sister went into great detail about what the snake looked like, how she felt, and even the dialogue that was exchanged between her and her friend. After reminiscing with her about other old friends, we decided to look them up on Facebook. I asked my sister what Abby’s last name was and she said that she couldn’t remember so we started looking at people with mutual friends. We could not find her anywhere. We both went downstairs with our laptops to ask my mom if she could remember Abby’s last name. She was immediately confused. My mother then began to inform us that Abby was my sister’s imaginary friend when she was around three years old and that she would always talk to adults about the fun things that they did together. Abby was never a real person. She was a figment of my sister’s imagination and through story-telling, Abby was registered in my sister’s mind as a real memory. This is a classic case of the false memory phenomenon. This is when through stories, usually from other people, become memories in your mind of an event that did not actually happen. Many times, when a person says that he or she can remember something that happened when they were under the age of three, they are using false memories. The event could have happened. However, his or her memories are not from the event, rather they are from pictures, stories, and jokes about the event that make them feel like they remember it actually happening.

False Memories

False memories are memories we have that we think are true, but are actually made up stories. They are so seemingly real that many times we don’t even know they are false. They can be memories events or experiences that happened to us. Normally, they are planted into our minds through stories told by friends and family about our past.

Over Spring break, I traveled to Florida to visit my aunt and uncle who just recently moved there this past Fall. My grandparents and cousins were all there for a few days as well, so we decided to have a family dinner one night because we would not all be together again for a while. We went out to dinner at a restaurant by the ocean and caught up with one another. My grandmother is getting pretty old, she is about 85 right now and every time we have family gatherings she insists on telling elaborate stories about when my mom and uncle were growing up.

This time, at dinner she began to explain how my uncle used to play ice hockey. She talked about how he played from age 10 to about 15 and she went into great detail about the uniforms of the teams he played on, what number he was, who his friends on the team were and the parents who were part of her carpool ring that helped take him to and from practice. Everyone sat and listened as she went on and on about this ice hockey phase of my uncles life. At the end, when she was done speaking, my uncle chimed in and explained that he never actually played ice hockey.

My grandmother explained in the story that he was 10-15 years old, a time where he would most certainly remember playing. Apparently she told this story so many times and made up so many details that she actually believes it is true. She believes her memories of my uncle playing ice hockey for 5 years are real, when in fact they are completely imagined. I am not exactly how my grandmother implanted these false memories into her own mind, but she did and there is really no convincing her otherwise. This experience I had over break exemplified the false memory phenomenon perfectly.

Hindsight Bias

A hindsight bias in psychology is defined as a false belief that one should have known the outcome of an event. This occurs due to the constructive processes of memory in the brain. Once we know a piece of information, it’s impossible for us to imagine what it’s like not to know it. I experience this often, especially during tests in school.

During the test, I’ll rack my brain for the answer to a question, but find nothing. This may be due to retrieval problems I encounter, where I know I studied a piece of information and it is almost as if I can picture the answer in my head, but I cannot access the memory. I’ll eventually accept that I don’t know the particular answer, and guess, and move on.

After the test, I’ll be so curious as to what the correct answer was, I’ll rush to my book and my notes to look it up. I can usually recall the exact page where I read the information I needed, and the second I see the words, it all comes back to me. Reading over the information again, I feel incredibly stupid for not knowing the answer. All those memories that were, so to say, ‘at the tip of my tongue’, suddenly become solidified in my mind, and I can’t imagine not knowing the answer to that question in retrospect. If I ever received the same test question again, I feel confident that I would know the correct answer. However, the only reason I feel this way is because through paying closer attention to right information, I formed a better memory. I’m biased looking back at the test question, and I always feel like I should have been able to recall that memory.

I think the hindsight bias helps me in the long run. Obviously the information presented on exams is there for a reason: it’s important. By going back and re-studying the questions that stump me on the test, I form a more solid connection with the information in my brain. My memory of the answer improves, and once I learn it, I’ll never completely lose that information. This helps me become more knowledgeable overall. Though it’s frustrating to not be able to recall things on command all of the time, the hindsight bias allows me to remember more things for longer periods of time. It’s much harder to forget information that you, at one point, didn’t know , which cost you your perfect grade on a test, than information that came easily to your recalled memory. I seem to remember those things that I really have to work for more effectively than things that just come and go for a single exam.

-Brenna Mordan

False Memory

A false memory is a memory that you think is real, but actually there is nothing real about the memory.  These can be created by someone else telling you a story that may or may not have actually happened to you in the past but that you do not actually remember.  After hearing this story, your brain creates a “memory” of the event.  This isn’t actually a memory that you had, someone else put it their.

This reminds me of my sister.  Constantly when we were little, she would tell me crazy stories of things that happened to us that I knew had never happened.  Since she did this all the time and I knew these things hadn’t actually happened, I didn’t create a false memory of them, but my sister may have created a false memory of these things happening.

False Memories & Flashbulb Memories

Looking back on my childhood, it is hard to believe that the things I remember, may not be actual memories. Though it is hard to decipher what memories are real, to which ones are made up, I believe that I have false memories from my childhood. Going to the park with my Mom, my 6th birthday, playing dolls with my sister; these all seem like tangible memories, but I cannot say for sure that I remember the actual event.

When I was just 5 I was dancing around the house when I hit my head on the side of a glass coffee table. My mother was frantic. I had to go to the hospital and get stitches. I remember that day so vividly. I remember dancing around, the drive to the hospital, and even looking at my stitches after they had been implanted. But then again, the story has been told to me so many times that I may just be imagining a memory that never actually occurred.

I also remember (or believe I remember) just simple day to day activities I used to do when I was younger. Things such as hanging out with my sister and hanging out with the kids in my neighborhood. Though I think I remember this, it’s hard to believe that I would remember something so minuscule when I cannot remember what I had for breakfast the other day.

Memories are a very misunderstood topic. Because we cannot physically go into the brain and pull memories out, I guess we will never know if what we remember is truth or just a story. Also, the memories we made may or may not still be remembered. The flashbulb effect also deals with memories and how we remember them. We will never know if we have forgotten something, because it may come back to us at a different time and place.

For example, one flashbulb memory I have is my first day as a college student. I still remember exactly what I was wearing, what my classes were and where they were located. I remember how nervous I was about the huge lecture halls and how excited I was for my philosophy class. As a flashbulb memory, I will never forget my first day of college, it is one of the most vivid memories I have.

Implanting Memory

When I was younger, my family and I would always go on vacations every November. One year when we were coming home, my parents and I got separated in the Philadelphia Airport. My dad and brother were going to the bathroom and I decided to go to as well. Thinking I could beat my dad and brother out of the bathroom, I didn’t tell my dad I was in there, but I told my mom I let my dad know I was going. Unfortunately I didn’t beat them out because men are unnaturally fast at going to the bathroom. When I was finished, I didn’t see my family, so I assumed my dad and brother were still in the bathroom. I was waiting outside the entrance probably for five minutes and was calling my dad’s name into the bathroom. A lady saw me calling for my dad and she asked me what his name was; she tried calling into the bathroom for my dad as well, but he didn’t answer and she told me she didn’t think he was in there. At this point, I was freaking out and started to cry. The lady was walking with me to help me find my family and the next thing I knew, I saw my parents coming down the escalator to find me. I remember being upset with my dad for forgetting me, and my mom was pretty upset with him as well. This is an example of an implanting memory because every time my family and I are in an airport, we always bring up this story. I was probably about eight or nine years old, and I believe I formed the details of this story through my parents. I’ve heard this story enough that I believe I created my thoughts during this event. It truly feels like I remember every detail of this situation, but since it happened so long ago I know now from psychology that it is highly unlikely.