Tag Archives: memory

How Accurate is the movie “The Vow”?

Not all that long ago, Dr. Wede discussed the different kinds of amnesia that people can experience in his lecture. He mentioned that many of the movies we have seen with characters that seem to experience amnesia are actually terribly inaccurate. For example, “50 First Dates” was called out as being terribly inaccurate, among others. I thought it would be interesting to analyze a very popular movie that came out fairly recently: “The Vow.”

The movie is based on the true story of a couple that wrote a book about their marriage. They married fairly quickly after they met. Ten weeks after their wedding, the two survived a serious car accident, but the wife sustained a traumatic brain injury, resulting in dense retrograde amnesia. She had no memory of the last 18 months (in the movie, it was a few years), which included her entire relationship with her husband. Upon awaking in the hospital, she did not recognize her husband at all, and was essentially married to a stranger. She was unaffected otherwise, with no other loss of abilities.

Seeing as this movie was created based on a true story, I assumed that it would be mostly correct. Directors always change some things when taking a book and putting it on the big screen, but I was not sure just how much they would twist the plot and details of the story. After a little research, I found that the movie is almost entirely accurate, but there are a few peculiarities that make it a little less believable.

The movie’s representation of the effects of retrograde amnesia are entirely accurate, as are her isolated effects from the accident. In most cases of traumatic brain injury, only one part of the brain is effected, and as we have learned the brain is sectioned off into different areas that function in different tasks. This would explain why the character in the movie has no recollection of the last five years of her life, but attended law school after a short period of recovery. Both her ability to create new memories and her language abilities were unaffected after the accident. She retains her sense of identity (for the person she was five years ago) and all of her early memories, something that most movies about retrograde amnesia tend to inaccurately represent.  However, the one thing that the movie gets wrong is that the character seems to fully recover the personality of the person she was at the time of the accident. It is almost as though she “finds” herself again, and eventually recovers all of the beliefs and personality traits that she had lost from the accident. This however, is not how it usually works with retrograde amnesia. People never really get back to who they were at the time of the accident, because they do not have those exact same experiences that cause them to develop into the person that they previously were. Although they may be similar, they will never truly be exactly the same, which is the only big inaccuracy that Hollywood placed into the film “The Vow.”

I am not a test taker

Ever since I was young, I have had trouble memorizing and learning. Starting with a low level of dyslexia and ending at failing most of the tests I have taken in my lifetime. I have always been one to do my homework which is how I succeeded in grade school.  As embarrassing as it is, I have already taken psych 100 (last semester) and bombed all of the tests, so here I am working tirelessly in attempt to pass and enter my seemingly impossible major.

My issue has always been with retrieving information while under pressure. last semester I made a 200 word Quizlet (online flashcard generator) that I studied relentlessly for hours. I learned all of the words by heart and still got in the %60 range on all of my tests. I blame my retrieval issues. To describe this in the words of the great Sigmund Freud “Many acts are most successfully carried out when they are not the object of particularly concentrated attention.., mistakes may occur just on (those) occasions when one is most eager to be accurate.”

Basically, overthinking causes the brain to revert back into controlled processing instead of natural retrieval. It is the same thing as the “tip-of-the-tongue” phenomenon. when you stop thinking so hard, the answers just come to you. This makes post test taking torturous for me since I remember all this things I did wrong after I have handed in my test and the pressure is off. I suppose what i am getting at here is for exam two, relax, take your time and don’t overthink. Trust me. oh yeah, and wish me luck, I’ll need it.



Tip-of-the-Tongue Phenomenon

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, and all the sudden, you forget their name? You know that you know their name, but you just can’t seem to get it out? Or tried to describe something, but just could not find the right word you were looking for? Sometimes it seems like the name or word is so close to coming out, it’s RIGHT THERE, and yet you remain speechless and looking like an idiot. This is called the “tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) phenomenon,” and it is a problem with memory retrieval.

Memory has three important processes: encoding (getting information into memory), storage (keeping it in), and retrieval (getting it out). Whenever someone has trouble finding some sort of answer, including a word or name, his or her retrieval system has failed. You might be able to describe the word you want to use, or the person you are talking about, you probably know what the word/name starts with or how long it is, but the actual important thing you need to know (the word!) seems to be missing.

This happens to me all the time unfortunately. I don’t know if I’m bad at encoding things or bad at storing things, but for some reason I am terrible at retrieving words that I want to use. It doesn’t happen as often with names, but when I’m trying to explain something and know the perfect describing word to use, I usually can’t think of the actual word. Most of the time I end up using Google to find it because my brain won’t do it for me. When in doubt, ask Google, right?

If you don’t want to ask Google, or Google can’t help you, the best way to over come the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon is to forget what you want to remember! Yes, this is easier said than done, but I’m sure you’ve noticed that the second you stop trying to remember something, you immediately remember it. When you “forget” about trying to retrieve something, your brain continues to search for it. Later, when you’re lying in bed falling asleep, the word seems to jump out at you. It might not be of much use now, but at least you won’t be racking your brain trying to find it anymore!

False Memories

Tony Pagano

Several weeks ago, I took a step back in time and had a chat with my parents about some of the great memories I’ve had growing up. We talked about all of the vacations, holidays and family time we have spent the last 18 years.  Yet one of my most vivid memories didn’t ring a bell for either of my parents.  Both of them couldn’t seem to remember any type of event that I was explaining to them. After talking about false memories in class, I began to wonder whether that memory actually happened or not.  False memories are cases in which people can remember events differently from the way that they happened or even remember events that never actually happened. The famous study by Hyman and Billings further illustrates the fact that memories can literally be implanted into your brain without you ever experiencing them.  It made me start to wonder if one of my memories was real or not.

I remember spending my 5th grade Christmas vacation in Puerto Rico visiting family.  I can also vividly remember the time that I went water skiing. The memory has stuck with me for 8 years and is still as clear as ever.  I can recall the way the ocean stretched the entire length of the horizon. Being about 50 feet behind the boat, sitting in the warm water and bobbing up and down with the swell of the ocean.  The yank of the boat pulling the rope rose me to my feet and off I went.  The salty water being sprayed off the waves behind the accelerating boat. All of these memories are still as clear as glass.  Of course after 15 seconds I crashed and hit the water.

Learning about False memories in class really made me want to get to the bottom of this.  Further talks with my parents I have come to the conclusion that this memory of mine had actually never occurred.  In fact I wasn’t even in Puerto Rico during my 5th grade Christmas vacation.  However, my parents did tell me that I had been on a boat where someone was water skiing and that perhaps I had altered my own memory to fit the rider of the water skis. In general it’s pretty cool how I remember something so realistic, even though it didn’t happen to me.  The whole idea of false memories is intriguing and can only make me wonder how many other memories I have that didn’t actually happen.

Flashbulb Memories

Encoding, the process by which the brain gathers all incoming stimuli and converts it into usable information, allows us to perceive and understand the vast amount of sensory information that we encounter on a daily basis. Encoding can be achieved in a wide variety of manners typically dependent on what type of information a person is attempting to encode. For instance, sensory encoding makes it possible for us to retain sound vibrations long enough to interpret them into meaningful neural messages. Similarly, one may attempt to encode certain types of factual information by continually repeating facts (maintenance rehearsal) or attempting to gain a deeper understanding of more contextual information on the subject (elaborative rehearsal). Sometimes, memories are encoded automatically. Following extreme emotional events, it is not uncommon for a person to retain vivid memories of the situation. This type of automatic encoding, called a flashbulb memory, occurs when an unanticipated event elicits a great emotional response from an individual, be that happiness, sadness, anger, fear, etc.

Recently, I experienced the automatic encoding of a flashbulb memory out of fear. Late at night, I found myself driving home after visiting some friends. Taking my typical route back, I expected few surprises – especially on such a desolate road. On the journey back I experienced quite a terrifying moment that I most certainly will not forget any time soon. Approaching my turn, I noticed something odd about the other lane of traffic. The car approaching me in the opposite lane was not approaching me in the opposite lane; he was driving towards me in my lane! As if it just happened, I explicitly remember looking down at the road to check – yellow lines on the left (they were) and white dashes on the right (they were). I immediately swerved into the right lane. During what felt like three minutes, but what was most likely thirty seconds, I had the ability to process such a large amount of sensory stimuli and make a decision on it. Even more interestingly, I still retain a vivid recount of the fear I experienced in the situation. Even to this day, when driving by the same area I will flinch when I see headlights facing my car. This provides a very strong example of the power that such vivid flashbulb memories can have on a person. Although my fear of getting into a head-on collision is subsiding, my memory of the even still remains extremely clear.

Super-Autobiographical Memory

In Lecture 11, we talked about patients who suffer from memory disorders, and we watched a video about a man who had a memory span of about eight seconds. On the other hand, we also started to talk about people who have “super memories.” I found this concept interesting so I decided to research it a bit more. I came across an article about a man named Bob Petrella who has a super-autobiographical memory. As of 2009, when this article was written, Petrella was only the fourth person in the United States to have this kind of super memory.

In the article, Petrella is asked many different dates from different years throughout his lifetime and he could recall a memory that happened on each date.  Not only can he remember the date of different events in his life, he can also remember what day of the week it was. When shown a scene from an athletic game from years ago, Petrella can recall intricate details of the game. He also remembers all of his ATM codes and his friend’s phone numbers. Petrella says that sometimes he does want to forget things but he physically cannot do so. He compares his memory to a hard drive.

I found this extremely interesting, because in the case of Petrella, doctors are not exactly sure what is going on. Doctors have studied the four patients similar to Petrella and have discovered that they are all left-handed and they all have slightly obsessive tendencies. It was also discovered that these people with super-autobiographical memories have larger brains than those who do not.

I can hardly remember what I eat for breakfast each day, let alone which day of the week I met my best friend or which football teams won on a Monday in 2000. I personally do not think I would be able to function correctly if I had to live with a super-autobiographical memory. It seems as though this super memory interferes with Petrella’s daily life, and at some points, he just wishes he could forget.



Mood Congruent Memory

When it comes to college, nothing is more important than passing classes. It’s why we are here. Partying, sports, and other social activities are great, but at the end of the day, you can’t receive a degree if you didn’t pass. So how does one pass a class? A very short, and non-specific, answer is memory. There is all kinds of information on memory, and a myriad of techniques proposed for improving it. From state dependent memory, which involves your level of intoxication when you study, to making connections and retrieval cues to help you remember certain things, there is a bunch of different ways to study. One that I am familiar with personally (and knew about before taking this class) is mood congruent memory. Mood congruent memory says that whenever a specific mood is felt, you are more likely to trigger or cue memories that you had when you were also in that same mood. For example, if you are currently feeling depressed, you are more likely to think about experiences that you once had, which were depressing. The opposite will occur if you are happy. Basically emotions and moods are strong retrieval cues that can help you remember things.

I have always done well when it comes to school and studying, but I was always looking for new ways improve my habits. My experience happened by accident. One night, before a test, I was studying and eating Taco bell. Taco bell is, by far, my favorite place to eat. It always seems to puts me in a good mood. Now, I definitely was worried about the test the next day. I was cramming, and didn’t think I would do that well on the test. The next day came, and still I was very worried. Right before the test, I had met up with one of my buddies, and he was telling me some jokes. This put me in a good mood, which was good, since I was about to take the test. I don’t have too many different moods, so when I am happy, it is basically the same happy as every other time. I took the test feeling that way, and it seemed to help out. I won’t tell you that I aced that test, but I felt at the time that it definitely went better than expected. I was able to remember a lot more than I had thought I would be able. Obviously, this kind of coincidence had to have happened before, but I had never taken notice. This time I did, and I told my buddy, who happened to know something about mood congruent memories, I thought that there was something to this way of studying.

Now, I always make sure I am in a good mood while studying. I do this knowing that before my most difficult tests, I will go out of my way to have some fun, or do something I know will make me happy. This doesn’t always involve Taco bell, but occasionally I eat it before an exam, in hopes to produce the same effect. I now know there is evidence to suggest that this type of studying works, so I am sure to take advantage of it when I can.

Implanting Memories

The question is: can we really be sure if a memory is true or not? The answer is no. It is crazy to think that some of our memories might not actually be real, and that they could have easily just been implanted in our brains by outsides sources. This does happen on a daily basis, especially to my friend, Melinda. Melinda has been a lifelong friend of mine. One time her family held a party at her house and invited all relatives and family friends, some that have not been seen in a while. Some of her older friends and cousins (some sober, and some not) decided to play a prank on Melinda. We were on the subject of gymnastics, who knows why. But, one friend thought that it would be funny to ask Melinda if she still can do a backflip. Many others joined in on saying that she was always so good at performing backflips all throughout her childhood and life. Keep in mind that Melinda cannot do a backflip, nor could she ever. I don’t even remember her ever even being able to do a cartwheel. At first, Melinda laughed and kept denying the rumor that she could do a backflip. It seemed like the craziest thing she has ever heard. But, the stories kept getting more and more realistic. Her friends started using memories of their trips to the beach and how she did backflips there, and her cousins said that she would always do backflips on their trampoline at home. Then Melinda started to question herself and if she truly could perform a backflip. It took time, but she finally believed that she could do a backflip. The friends at the party told her that she should try it and prove herself. She was too scared to do it off of the ledge of the porch like some of the drunk participants of the prank had insisted. Instead she went confidently to her trampoline. She did indeed do the backflip but she ended up on the ground with a broken ankle. Please do not try this at home, or ever be as terrible of friends as we were at the time. This is an example of implanting memories. It goes along with the theory of false-memory-syndrome which is the creation of inaccurate or false memories through the suggestion of others, often while the person is under hypnosis. The difference is that Melinda was not under hypnosis, yet she still believed these inaccurate claims eventually. This also goes along with the work of Loftus and colleagues who concluded through experiments of implanting false memories that the event must be made to seem as plausible as possible, and that individuals are given information that helps them believe that the event could have happened to them personally. Implanting memories is often done through a game of “remember when…?”. We often our known to twist and exaggerate our own memories as time goes by. In fact, most of our earliest memories are not actually our own but stories that we have heard from family and friends. Now, how can we be sure that they, or even ourselves, are telling the truth?

Long-Term Memory

Garrett Swope (gfs5051)

March 4, 2014

Long-Term Memory and Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory

The concept I’m focusing on is Long-Term Memory.  Long-Term Memory is an unlimited capacity store that can hold up to a thousand billion bits of information to a million billion bits of information.  There are two types of long term memory; procedural and declarative.  Procedural is implicit and involves skills.  Declarative is explicit and is separated into two different realms; semantic and episodic.  Semantic refers to natural knowledge while episodic refers to personal experiences and such. 

I found a video and article from March 3rd of this year that follows a 10 year old boy, Jake Housler, who has an exceptionally rare memory.  Jake has a very uncommon form of Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory.  Only a few have heard of it and is only found in a very select group of individuals throughout the world.  To this day the scientists that are currently studying this memory gift are still finding more and more facts about HSAM since it is so rare. Jake can recall specific dates from his past and which day of the week it fell on.  He can also remember what happened on those specific dates and certain characteristics about them.  They say that humans with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory “have a more active pathway between the front and the back of the brain,” (Local).

The reason I chose to relate Jake’s story to the psychology concept of Long-Term Memory is because his story is an interesting way to show how diverse memory can be, especially Jake’s long term memory ability.  By having a more energetic pathway between the front and back parts of his brain, Jake can be able to have a much higher intake of the bits of information mentioned earlier with Long-Term Memory.  I’m not sure of the direct correlation between Long Term Memory and HSAM, but it is definitely interesting to see how diverse the human brain can be when memory comes into play.

“Local Boy Has One of the Best Memories in the World.” Local Boy Has One of the Best Memories in the World. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.


Mood Congruent Memory

Mood Congruent Memory occurs when your current mood usually cues memories that mirror that mood. For example, if you’re very sad, you tend to start thinking about depressing things that have happened in your life, or if you’re happy, you start to recall other happy things. These moods are retrieval cues to past memories. We all have those instances in which we start laughing, and then start thinking about other funny things and can’t stop laughing, or when something is so sad that you start to think about other sad things and become even more sad.

I find that this is extremely relatable to many instances in my life. For example, I have a friend that I grew up with, and we did absolutely everything together. It was like we were sisters, and always attached at the hip. We started to drift apart during our senior year of high school, and we started to get into fights about stupid little things, and argued a lot. Although our relationship had been up and down, we still remain friends today. Over winter break we rekindled, and had such a good time, that it made me remember all of the amazing, fun memories that we shared. Because I was in a good, optimistic mood about our friendship, it cued many past positive events and memories that we shared together. Therefore, the good day that we had served as a retrieval cue to all of the great things we had done in the past, and I had ignored all of the fights and low points that we had been through in that relationship.

Another time where mood congruent memories have occurred was with one of my good friends. We were in the library, and it was completely silent. All of a sudden my friend fell out of his chair. We started cracking up, and then I had remembered how we used to laugh so hard in the library during high school because we had to be quiet, and that made me laugh even more. I was laughing at my friend fall off his chair in the library, which cued a past memory of a similar, funny scenario, which made me laugh even more.

I wasn’t aware of mood congruent memory until this class, and am just seeing now that it is prevalent in many situations. Memory cues are so interesting, especially when they trigger a certain mood or feeling.