Author Archives: Daniel Frank Kennedy

False Flippin’ Memories

For this post, I will be looking back to lesson nine of the course to write about the misinformation effect. A couple of months ago, I was in a vehicle crash after swerving to keep from hitting a dog. Immediately after the crash, I thought that I could vividly recall exactly what took place during the crash. I could even recall the sensations of falling and of being upside-down while my vehicle was flipping, which I found strange since most people claim to remember very little about accidents or traumatic events after they occur. Despite my vivid memories of the crash, my memory of events immediately following the crash have become quite distorted. The accounts of the first responders and others who arrived at the scene eventually led to misinformation and false memories.

Soon after my crash, I was sitting on a front porch belonging to the family whose yard I had flipped into. While somewhat disoriented and bleeding from my head, I gave my account of the crash as well as I could to the first police officer on the scene. After telling the officer that I had to crawl out of the front windshield due to my truck lying on its side, he told me that I was remembering wrong and that my truck had landed on all four tires after flipping. This came as a shock because I was sure that I remembered crawling out of the windshield and standing up to see my truck lying on its side. I was initially convinced that the officer was incorrect, but my brother soon confirmed his story. By brother was one of the first people on the scene and told me that my truck was upright when he arrived and that the tow truck had not yet approached my truck. After hearing the accounts of the others involved, my memory of events after the crash began to change. I could no longer picture myself crawling out of the windshield and began to form a memory of exiting through the door.

According to an article written on the misinformation effect, discussing an event with other witnesses can conflict with what actually happened. Listening to the different accounts of the event can distort memories, and repeated exposure to conflicting or inaccurate events can even cause one to reshape his or her own memories (Cherry, 2015). This was proven in my case. The more and more I heard of what everyone else had concluded about the way I exited my vehicle, the more vividly I could recall their accounts, and I could no longer remember crawling out of the windshield despite how vivid the original memory had been. I even formed a visual memory of opening the door of my truck and stepping out onto the ground.

A few weeks ago, my mother ran into one of the firemen who had been among the first responders, and she asked him about my crash. He recalled that when he arrived, my truck was lying on its side and the tow truck was lifting it back to its upright position. This took place before my brother or the police officer had arrived. After spending so much time remembering an inaccurate account due to misinformation, my memory of what happened is still false, despite learning the truth. This case displays the power that misinformation has on our memories, and it proves that enough exposure to false accounts can even lead to forming vivid memories of things that never actually took place.

 

References

Cherry, K. (2015). What is the misinformation effect? Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/memory/fl/What-Is-the-Misinformation-Effect.htm

Short-term Memory and Work Performance

For this blog post, I will discuss short-term memory and how it pertains to my previous experience in the military. While working in Afghanistan, I was constantly required to receive and report the specific grid coordinates of individuals or events. Depending on the length of the grid coordinates, they could be difficult to report accurately. The capacity and duration of short-term memory and the use of chunking to expand the capacity did have an effect on my job performance.

In lesson 5 of this course, we learned that George Miller discovered what he believed to be the capacity of short-term memory. This capacity was 7 +/- 2 items (Miller, 1956). This means that on average, one is able to memorize and recall 7 +/- 2 specific items at any given time. I do agree with this suggestion based on my own experience. The Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) uses a header for each location that denotes the general area in which to find the grid points. An example header would be 15P SU. Following the header, there would be a four-digit, six-digit, eight-digit, or ten-digit grid point, with the longer grid points being more accurate. Due to the capacity of short-term memory, the four-digit and six-digit grid points were usually simple to recall, and longer grid points did prove to be more difficult. While attempting to recall longer grid points, I often had to report half of the grid and reference the grid again before reporting the second half.

I also noticed that chunking was very helpful if the number sequences held any significance. For example, 15P SU 1776 2001 would be easier to recall than 15P SU 5476 8729. This is because 1776 and 2001 become only two separate items instead of eight separate items, but 5476 and 8729 are number sequences which hold no significance for me, so I would have to recall each number individually.

Furthermore, it has been suggested that short-term memory usually has a duration of 15-30 seconds. This means that even if a sequence of numbers is initially memorized, that memory may diminish over a very short period of time. I experienced this quite often as well. While it was simple to recall a memorized grid point during the few seconds that it took to report it over a message board on the computer, it was much more difficult to recall the same grid point only a minute or two later when attempting to report it over the radio or to the commander. Therefore, it was most efficient to document the grid points for future reference.

The use of short-term memory was constant during my military career, and knowing the limits of short-term memory can be crucial when dealing with important tasks, such as reporting accurate grid coordinates. Many experiments have been conducted in the past in order to study the capabilities and processes of memory in humans. After learning about the results of these studies and comparing them to personal experiences, I believe that they are relatively accurate, and I have gained a more thorough understanding of the cognitive processes involved with memory.

 

Reference

Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review63(2), 81.

Top-down Processing and Dyslexia

While going through bottom-up and top-down processing in this week’s lesson, I found myself relating these different perception approaches to my Dyslexia. These topics gave me an idea of why I may read or perceive words differently than someone without dyslexia. While considering these different approaches, I have realized that my perception of words and sentences deals with top-down processing much more than bottom-up processing. For this blog post, I will provide examples of how I often misread or misperceive words due to top-down processing, and I will explain why bottom-up processing or a combination of the two may be more efficient for reading.

Bottom-up processing deals with sensing raw data from the environment through site, smell, sound, taste, or touch and forming a perception of that data based on the senses. Top-down processing may cause one to perceive that same raw data differently due to making assumptions based on what is expected or considering past experiences while processing the data. Top-down processing is probably not the sole reason for my Dyslexia, but it does help me better understand certain symptoms of my disorder. For example, my family and I recently went on vacation and spent a lot of time driving. While on the road, I noticed that I would often misread signs. If a sign read, “Seasonal Lodging,” my family would see the words and perceive them correctly. I may see the same sign but perceive it as reading, “Logical Reasoning,” due to the somewhat similar ordering of letters and because I am exposed to the term, “logical reasoning” more often than “seasonal lodging,” so that is what I would expect. This is an example of making assumptions based on expectations before the data is fully processed.

Another common mistake that I make deals with seeing numbers among words. If a sign were to read, “80 South,” I may perceive the sign as reading “86 South.” This is because I would not simply make a visual perception based on what I sense through site, as one would with bottom-up processing. Instead, I see the number “80,” so I assume that I am now dealing with numbers. I then see the letter “S” and read it as “6” because of the “S” sound. Instead of making only a visual perception based on my sense of site, I would have combined an auditory perception due to my expectations.

Bottom-up processing may be the more efficient method while reading because it involves visually sensing the letters, decoding the letters to form words, and allowing the words to form complete sentences. This method prevents assumptions and allows for comprehension. Top-down processing may lead one to misread a sentence due to what he or she expects it to say. However, combining the two types of processing may be helpful as well. While top-down processing may cause one to make assumptions, it can also be helpful with understanding the true meaning of a strangely-worded sentence or a sentence with errors. For example, English professors often use the sentence, “Let’s eat, Grandma,” to point out the importance of proper punctuation. Without the comma, the sentence has an entirely different meaning, but top-down processing allows one to use previously acquired knowledge and expectations to realize the intended meaning (Gjessing & Karlsen, 1989, p. 71).

Reading has always been a relatively difficult task for me due to Dyslexia, but this week’s lesson provided me with an understanding of how my perception process may be involved. I have become aware that my reading and comprehension habits deal primarily with the top-down process, which may explain why I add and remove words from sentences and often misread words. With this knowledge, I can attempt to apply the bottom-up process while reading, which may help with the disorder.

 

References

Gjessing, H. J., & Karlsen, B. (1989). A longitudinal study of dyslexia: Bergen’s multivariate study of children’s learning disabilities. New York, NY: Spring Science & Business Media.