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UNL / Psychology / PSYC 460 / How do we know loftus & palmer (1974) experiment?

How do we know loftus & palmer (1974) experiment?

How do we know loftus & palmer (1974) experiment?


School: University of Nebraska Lincoln
Department: Psychology
Course: Human Memory
Professor: Bob belli
Term: Fall 2016
Tags: Human, memory, Psychology, psych, and False
Cost: 25
Name: Human Memory Week 9 Notes
Description: This is the second day on the recovery of false memories slides
Uploaded: 10/20/2016
23 Pages 114 Views 1 Unlocks


How do we know loftus & palmer (1974) experiment?

Recovered/False Memory Debate  1-3

The so-called “Memory  

Wars” in psychology

Late 1980s

⌘ Heightened concern about the prevalence of sexual  abuse of children

⌘ Clearly, sexual abuse is very prevalent

– Estimates that 20-30% of girls, and 15-20% of boys are  abused

– And tragic

⌘ psychologically damaging to its victims

⌘ People who report being sexually abused as children – Difficult to admit

– Only rarely false

Recovered memories

⌘ Therapists began to engage in memory recovery  techniques with adults

What is source monitoring?

If you want to learn more check out What are the effects of aldosterone?

– Believed that certain symptoms—depression, sexual  problems, eating disorders—were signs of repressed  memories of having been sexually abused as children

– Only strong techniques could “recover” these memories – Psychoanalytic tradition

– Assumes that recovering repressed memories will relieve  symptoms

⌘ People in therapy did report recovering memories of  being sexually abused as children – often by their  parents



“The flight was uneventful”

⌘ Many accused parents denied ever having  sexually abused their children

⌘ The “false memory syndrome” society was  formed as a support group for accused  parents

Is it ever plausible for being a victim of sexual abuse?

⌘ Are these recoveries  

– accurate?

– False memories?

False memories due to drawing  associations: The DRM paradigm

⌘ I will read a list of words

⌘ For now, just listen (DO NOT WRITE THEM  DOWN)

False memories due to suggestion:  The misinformation effect

⌘ Concerned with the accuracy of  Don't forget about the age old question of How is the cns built?


⌘ Eyewitnesses after an event will be exposed  to misinformation

– Discussions with other eyewitnesses

– Suggestions of what had happened  

⌘ By police

⌘ By attorneys



Attorney Questioning

⌘ Consider a witness asked about an accident ⌘ Attorney asks

– How fast were the cars going when they  

“smashed” into each other?

⌘ Witness likely to say that the cars were going  fast and that the accident was serious ”

How do we know?  

Loftus & Palmer (1974) experiment

⌘ Subjects saw film of minor  


⌘ One half asked


– How fast were the cars going  



when they “smashed” into  




each other?






50 40 30

⌘ Other half asked

– How fast were the cars going  when they “hit” into each  


⌘ Smashed group also more  likely to say there was broken  glass when there was none We also discuss several other topics like What are the major types of organic molecules?









20 10 0


BUT results are not clear to specific  cognitive processes

⌘ “smashed” vs. “hit”

– An actual change in memory representations of  the event?

– Inferences instead? No changed memory  representation?

⌘ “smashed” biases the response distribution of possible  speeds

⌘ “smashed” leads to inference that there must have been  broken glass even though no real memory of it



Shown and misled item experiments

⌘ Specific items were shown in a series of slides that “tell” a  story, and items of the same category are later presented as  verbal misinformation

⌘ Shown stop sign, misled with yield sign (Loftus et al., 1978) Don't forget about the age old question of What is spliceosome?

Shown and misled item experiments:  Design




Verbally Told



 Stop sign


 What did  

you see?


 Stop sign

 Yield sign

 What did  

you see?

We also discuss several other topics like What is the key formula you should use in price elasticity of demand?

Memory substitution hypothesis

⌘ Does the misled item replace the shown item  in memory

– Does being told verbally that there was a yield  sign at the corner If you want to learn more check out What is the #1 reason why new products fail?

– Replace the stop sign that was once in memory? ⌘ Memory substitution

– If so, storage-based interference



The standard test

⌘ Shown stop sign

⌘ Verbally misled with yield sign

– Control condition not misled

⌘ Standard test

– Forced choice between shown and misled items – Forced choice between stop and yield signs

The misinformation effect ⌘ Results with standard test  

show the misinformation  effect

⌘ Subjects in misled condition  choose stop sign as the item  shown significantly less  

often than subjects in the  control condition

⌘ Evidence appears to  indicate memory substitution






















70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

shown item





Problems with standard test

⌘ Misinformation effect can occur with NO memory  substitution at all

– Misled subjects may remember precisely that  they were verbally presented with the yield sign – Yet, because many of them never saw the stop  sign which was shown

⌘ Were not paying attention to the slides

⌘ Never encoded the stop sign

– Will accept the misled item (yield sign) as  “possibly” being the item which was shown



Shown and misled item experiments:  Design




Verbally Told




 Stop sign


 Stop vs yield


 Stop sign

 Yield sign

 Stop vs yield

Shown and misled item experiments:  Design




Verbally Told






 Stop vs yield



Yield sign

 Stop vs yield

Misinformation Effect: Detecting  memory change

⌘ Standard test abandoned

⌘ Cued recall test (Belli et  al., 1994)

– Before test, subjects  

warned about  


– At test asked to report both  shown and misled items
























50 40 30 20 10 0

control misled

– Shown items more likely to  be recalled in control than  misled conditions

shown items





Belli et al.’s (1994) cued recall test

⌘ Evidence for memory impairment

– Could be memory substitution (storage-based  interference)

– Could be retrieval-based interference

⌘ Remembering misled item makes it more difficult to  remember shown item

⌘ BUT, shown item still stored in memory, just temporarily  inaccessible

Misinformation Effect: Source  misattribution

⌘ Not memory substitution

– But among those who did not see shown items ⌘ Remembering seeing the misled item AT the original event ⌘ Source misattribution is a change to memory  representation

– Not forgetting, BUT

– Adding to visual memory an item which was not  originally there!

Testing for source misattribution

⌘ Source attribution test

⌘ Misled subjects are asked whether they – Saw misled item at the event

– Only read about misled item

– Neither saw or read misled item



Source attribution test results ⌘ Subjects do make judgments that they  

remember seeing misled items

⌘ Subjects respond as quickly and  confidently to having seen misled items  50

as they do shown items

⌘ Subjects willing to bet as much money  


on misled items as shown items


⌘ Subjects told that items presented  verbally were not shown still claim  


having seen misled items


⌘ Presenting misled items verbally more  0

Percent saw

than once increases claims of having  seen misled items

⌘ Demonstrates memory change via  misinformation

misled items



Retrieval Enhanced Suggestibility  (RES): Design





 Final Test

No Initial

Test Control

Stop sign



 What type  of sign?

No Initial  

Test Misled

Stop sign


 Yield sign

 What type  of sign?

Initial Test  Control

Stop sign

 What type  of sign?


 What type  of sign?

Initial Test  Misled

Stop sign

 What type  of sign

Yield sign

 What type  of sign?

RES Results (Chan et al., 2009)

Percent Misled Final Recall (Yield Sign)












No Test (Filler) Initial Test

Control Misled



RES Explained

⌘ Ps spend greater attention on the verbal  

misinformation that directly contradicts accurate item  reported on initial test  

– Eye fixations longer on misled items (Gordon et al., 2015) ⌘ This heightened attention leads to greater retrieval  fluency

⌘ RES also leads to increases in having claimed  seeing the misled items (Chan et al., 2012)

⌘ Ps correct original memory may either

– Be impaired

– Not trusted

False Memories and the  

recovered/false memory debate

⌘ Various ways false memories shown in laboratory

– Word studies and the DRM paradigm  

– Misinformation effect  

⌘ The DRM paradigm and the misinformation effect only show false  memories for certain details of events

– In general, the whole event (the theme of words presented; what  happened) in these studies is remembered accurately

– People are not misled to believe that they saw a different set of slides  or videotape – a different whole event

– In addition, there may be a difference between witnessing an event and  being personally involved—as a victim—in an event

⌘ Yet, the recoveries that are observed in therapy are whole events of  personally experienced events –

– would not these recoveries, in general, be accurate?

– Can people develop false memories for whole personally experienced  events?

Anecdotal evidence of false  

“recovered” memories

⌘ Fantastic claims

– Satanic ritual abuse

– Multiple rapes in satanic cult

– Murdered babies recently birthed

⌘ One woman “remembered” that her twin was murdered

– Problem of childhood amnesia

– Birth certificate indicated only a single birth

⌘ Satanic coven changed birth certificate

– No corroborating evidence that these events happened – Those accused include well-respected members of  community – both men and women

⌘ Ministers, community leaders

⌘ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QtEZYJRq7s



Experiments to test whether false childhood  memories can be implanted in adults

⌘ Studies by Loftus & colleagues and by Hyman &  colleagues have found that false memories can be  implanted

⌘ Familial informant false narrative procedure – Family informants (parents, older sibs) provide  information on true childhood events of subjects – Narratives are created from these true events – A false narrative is also created

⌘ Being lost in shopping mall

⌘ Knocking over punch bowl at a wedding


⌘ First interview

– All of the events (true and false) are presented to  participants as true

⌘ For a week  

– Participants engage in memory work –asked to try to  remember (retrieve) as much as they can about all events,  including false one, or given second interview.

⌘ Final interview

– Again, asked to provide a spoken report of the false event  and whether they remembered that it happened

Results of these studies

⌘ At first, participants reject false event as  having happened to them

⌘ Approximately 25% of subjects develop false  memories for false events (including images  and sense of pastness) by the end of the  study



Example of a false memory (Hyman et  al., Table 30-2)

⌘ http://www.youtube.com 


⌘ Often indicate shock  

when told at end of  

study (debriefing)  

that event did not  


⌘ Do these false  

memories have the  

flavor of a personal  

event memory?

⌘ Phenomenological  

experience of  


Lindsay (2004): “Picture this: True  pictures create false memories”  

⌘ False event: Putting slime in teacher’s desk ⌘ One group received childhood classroom photos,  other group did not

⌘ 65% of subjects had false memories in photo group ⌘ 30% had false memories in no photo group

Source monitoring

⌘ Perceptual information contained in a  remembered experience is taken as evidence  that the experience’s source is reality

⌘ Events that happened long ago are not  expected to include as much perceptual  information to signal the source is reality in  comparison to a more recent event

⌘ In what ways does memory work and showing  pictures contributes to developing perceptual  detail?



Schematic processing

⌘ Relevant background knowledge needed to  create false memories

– Having been at a wedding

– Where a wedding took place

⌘ This relevant background knowledge serves  as a larger context in which to construct a  false memory

⌘ Not unlike the event serving as a context in  the misinformation effect in leading to  remember false details

Role of plausibility (1)  

⌘ Pezdek et al. (1997) exp 1  

– Found that false memories less likely to occur for  implausible events

– Catholic and Jewish high school students both  given two false events

⌘ one in Catholic (“mass”) setting  

⌘ One in Jewish (“Shabot”) setting  

⌘ both referred to in narratives as “weekly service” or  “nightly prayers”

– 32% had false memories for consistent setting – 8% had false memories for inconsistent setting

Role of plausibility (2)

⌘ Pezdek et al. (1997) exp 2  

– Subjects were given 2 false events

⌘ Being lost in a shopping mall

⌘ Being given an enema for upset stomach

– 15% of subjects developed false memories for shopping  mall

– 0% developed false memories for enema

⌘ Developing false memories contingent on the event  being plausible

⌘ Experiencing sexual abuse in childhood would not  be plausible for most people



Is it ever plausible for being a victim of  sexual abuse?

⌘ Remembering events demonstration ⌘ Please answer the following (yes, no unsure)  to yourselves:

– Regarding childhood memory, are there large  parts of your childhood after age 5 which you  can’t remember?

Convincing someone that they are  amnestic for childhood events

⌘ Subjects asked to recall 4 or 12 childhood events between  ages of 5 and 10

⌘ Later asked “Regarding childhood memory, are there large  parts of your childhood after age 5 which you can’t remember? ⌘ Difficulty in remembering many events led to inference of  having an incomplete memory

⌘ Perhaps it is possible to increase plausibility of being victim of  sexual abuse

No. of events


 Unsure + no







Being in therapy

⌘ Involves a wide variety of motives, beliefs,  and interpersonal relations between therapist  and client

⌘ Client is desperate  

– For help

– For someone to listen to them

– For answers

⌘ Therapists come across as being able to  provide all of these things

⌘ Therapists acquire client’s trust



Memory recovery techniques

⌘ Client told that symptoms indicate that buried—repressed— memories of sexual abuse exist

⌘ Use photographs and have client imagine their childhood ⌘ Difficulty remembering childhood taken as sign of pathological  amnesia (repression)  

⌘ Any failure to remember seen as a sign of resistance ⌘ Client told  

– that strong techniques are needed

– That one must get worse before one can get better

⌘ Any visualizations—flashbacks of fragmented experiences—are  seen as reflecting true, buried, events

⌘ Hypnosis is used to aid in visualization

⌘ Group therapy

– Strong negative emotions (anger, hate) and visualizations encouraged

Source monitoring example (p. 371)

⌘ Then it started with more horrific rapes, the whole  nine yards. I had these horrible flashbacks ..  Another time, I remembered my brothers and his  friends hung me by my feet. It was only recently that  I realized where those particular images came from.  The [childhood abuse events] came from the book  Sybil, and the upside down hanging came from a  movie called Deranged, which I saw when I was  17 .. So different pieces of my life that had nothing  to do with me being abused became part of the  flashbacks. It’s amazing that my subconscious mind  served them up without my knowing where they  came from.

The memory wars

⌘ Scientists have had emotional and heated  disagreements regarding  

– Whether adults’ long-forgotten but later  

remembered experiences of being sexually  abused are

⌘ True recoveries

⌘ False memories

⌘ Why has this debate been so aggressive and  confrontational?



Debate in psychological science

⌘ Are mind and brain the same?

⌘ Is the birth order effect on  

intelligence real?

⌘ Can a neural network model  

account for moral  


⌘ Is intuition a valid way of  


⌘ Is adult memory for childhood  

abuse unreliable?

Extreme polarization of the  

recovered/false memory debate

Different applied psychological  

perspectives on how to account for  recovered memories

⌘ Actors

– Clinical/counseling  

psychologists/psychiatrists ⌘ Context

– Emerging awareness of  the high prevalence of  

child sexual abuse

⌘ Interpretation

– Recovered memories are  true

⌘ Ethical concern

– Protect the vulnerable

⌘ Actors

– Experimental  


⌘ Context

– Emerging awareness  of the unreliability of  eyewitness testimony ⌘ Interpretation

– Recovered memories  are false

⌘ Ethical concern

– Protect the innocent



APA Working Group on Investigation  of Memories of Childhood Abuse

⌘ Consisted of  

– 3 scientist-practitioners in law and clinical psychology  (Judith L. Alpert, Laura S. Brown, & Christine S.  Courtois)

– 3 experimental developmental and cognitive  psychologists (Stephen J. Ceci, Elizabeth F. Loftus, &  Peter A. Ornstein)

⌘ Published in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law (1998) – Final conclusions

– Series of commentaries and replies illustrating a  vigorous and polarized debate

APA Working Group: Points of  Agreement and Disagreement

⌘ Agreement

– Child sexual abuse is a  complex and pervasive  

problem that has  

historically gone  


– Most adults who were  sexually abused as  

children remember all or  part of their abuse

– True recovery is possible – False memory is possible – There are gaps in  

knowledge and more  

research is needed

⌘ Disagreement

– The truth value and  

generalizability of research  

⌘ Even the same data are  

interpreted differently

– The respective value of  

experimental memory research  versus clinical experience and  observations

– The extent to which therapists  engage in suggestive techniques – The extent to which memory for  traumatic events differs from  

memory for ordinary events

From last time we have seen  

⌘ That false memories are possible – Laboratory evidence of false memories ⌘ DRM paradigm

⌘ Misinformation effect (suggestibility)

⌘ Planting entire false childhood memories into adults – Therapists have likely induced false memories ⌘ Memory recovery techniques

⌘ Heightened suggestibility

⌘ Real-world source monitoring errors



But there is also evidence  

⌘ True Recovery or “Discovery” of forgotten  child sexual abuse does occur

– Sources of evidence

⌘ Patient interview studies

⌘ Case studies

– Understanding how true recovery happens needs  to explain

⌘ How forgetting having experienced sexual abuse occurs ⌘ How recovery or discovery occurs

Most compelling patient interview  study (Williams, 1994)

⌘ Documented child sexual abuse of 129 women – Treated at an emergency room

⌘ Interviews conducted on average 17 years after  hospital visit with these patients

⌘ Asked in detail about abuse histories

– 38% did not recall abuse

⌘ Able to rule out  

– too young to remember abuse (childhood amnesia)

– That abuse did not happen

– 10% reported recovered memory experiences

Case studies (Schooler)

⌘ Interviews conducted with individuals – Who claimed to have recovered a once-forgotten  episode of sexual abuse

– Whose sexual abuse was corroborated from other  sources

⌘ A trial for rape

⌘ A priest who was also accused by someone else

⌘ Perpetrator confession



Unfolding of recovery

⌘ Prompted by cue that corresponded to the original  abuse experience (involuntary memory)

– Seeing the perpetrator again

– Therapist saying that abuse is likely to have occurred

– Seeing one’s daughter at the same age as one was abused ⌘ Recovery starts as an emotional onrush

⌘ Recovered memory appears as a whole event or  series of events, and not as a fragmented memory

Nature of forgetting

⌘ Surprising to individual that events were ever  forgotten

– Events distinctive and extended in time

– Events may be overlooked in situations that if they were  easily accessible, would have been reported

⌘ DN was asked about entire abuse history

– Remembered child sexual abuse but failed to report rape in  

adulthood that went to trial

⌘ Precise degree of forgetting not clear

– Appears some information less accessible in past than after  recovery

The aftermath of the memory wars

⌘ Widespread reports of recovered memories has decreased ⌘ Both sides have always agreed that child sexual abuse is  very prevalent and tragic

⌘ Both sides are approaching universal agreement  – False memories of child sexual abuse are likely  outcomes of suggestive therapies

⌘ But recovery not currently seen as a goal of trauma therapy – True recovered memories of child sexual abuse are have  occurred

⌘ Most likely true when they spontaneously occur



Discussion Questions

⌘ What evidence may indicate that recovered  memories are more authentic of actual  events than they are false reconstructions of  the past?

⌘ What memory mechanisms can account for  recovered memories?

– Need to account for both

⌘ Forgetting

⌘ Recovery (remembering)

True and false recovered  


⌘ Both occur

⌘ Yet, continuous memories of abuse are the  norm

– Both true and false recoveries are far less  prevalent

⌘ Need explanations of recovered memories – In terms of their mechanisms

⌘ So far, have noted mechanisms of false recoveries – In terms of their rarity

Theories of true recovered  memories

⌘ Need to account for both forgetting and  recovery of potentially distinctive and  traumatic events

⌘ Special Memory Mechanisms

– Psychodynamic (psychoanalytic)

– Betrayal Trauma Theory

⌘ Ordinary Memory Mechanisms

– Ordinary forgetting mechanisms

– Ordinary cuing mechanisms



Psychodynamic Theories (1)

⌘ Repression as a protective device

– Seeks to keep traumatic memories from consciousness – But at times, memories do “seep” through

– “Repressors” and “Non-repressors” as a personality  style

⌘ Repressors report  

– low anxiety

– They report using defensive strategies such as not thinking about  things that bother them

⌘ Repressors recall

– Fewer negative childhood memories than non-repressors

– Recall fewer negative words recently presented than non


Psychodynamic Theories (2)

⌘ Dissociation Mechanisms

– Three components of a dissociative response

⌘ Alterations in one’s perceptions – derealization

⌘ Alterations in one’s sense of self and connectedness to one’s body – depersonalization

⌘ Memory disturbances (“flashbacks” and amnesia)

– Dissociative personality trait also identified

⌘ Includes a fourth component

– Absorption – becoming lost in one’s thoughts

– Dissociative responses found in people who have experienced traumas  such as combat and rape

⌘ PTSD includes both “flashbacks” and amnesia

– Amnesias may be due to poor encoding when faced with a traumatic  experience

– May be due to “state-dependent” memory, in which one needs to “relive”  being in a traumatic state to have the cues necessary to retrieve  traumatic experiences

Betrayal Trauma Theory (1)

⌘ Proposed by Jennifer Freyd

– Sexual abuse forgotten

⌘ Not to reduce suffering ala a repression mechanism

⌘ But because not acknowledging abuse is needed for survival  – One is dependent on abusing caregiver for survival

– Two-dimensional model of trauma

⌘ 1) Terror – bodily harm as threat to life

⌘ 2) Betrayal – threat to social relationships



Betrayal Trauma Theory (2)

– Terror leads to anxieties found in PTSD

– Betrayal more likely to lead to amnesia

⌘ The trauma of abuse by a caregiver leads to abuse information  being blocked from memory mechanisms that control attachment  and attachment behavior

– Argues for a number of cognitive mechanisms that can lead to  recovery

⌘ Same mechanisms can also lead to false memories, however – Supporting evidence  

⌘ Assessed several patient interview studies

⌘ Amnesia for parental or incestuous abuse higher than that found in  nonparental and nonincentuous abuse

Ordinary forgetting mechanisms

⌘ Events that happened longer ago are harder  to remember

⌘ If people fail to rehearse unpleasant events,  will tend to be forgotten

⌘ Interference leads to forgetting

– If abusing uncle also takes child to ball games – Remembering ball games may interfere with  remembering the abuse

Ordinary cuing/remembering  


⌘ Memories of the past for nontraumatic recovered all  of the time

– Involuntary memories as one example

⌘ Change in understanding/interpretation

– An existing schema of abuse does not exist in child victim – When adult, such a schema develops

– Seeing past events as abusive for the first time may also  lead to a sense of recovery of something new

⌘ Encoding specificity

– Having cues during retrieval that match the environment of  original encoding improves recall (dry-wet example)

– Schooler observed that recoveries occur when there are  cues that correspond to the original abuse experience



A nuanced perspective

⌘ Both recovery and false memories occur rarely

⌘ Geraerts (2007, 2009) contrasted 3 groups

⌘ Those with continuous memories of abuse

⌘ Those who recovered memories spontaneously

⌘ Those who recovered memories via suggestive therapy – Data

⌘ Independent corroboration of abuse

– Others abused by same perpetrator

– Individuals who learned of abuse shortly after occurrence

– Perpetrator confession

⌘ DRM false memory task

⌘ “Forgot-it-all along” task

Geraerts’s memory tasks


– Ps given lists of associated words

– measures tendency to falsely remember semantically related lures ⌘ Forgot-it-all along

– Studied associates (hand-palm); (river-bank)

– Test 1  

⌘ intermixed list of studied associates (river-b**k)  

⌘ and same targets but new context (tree-p**m); (Easy to solve)

– Test 2- only tested associates previously studied (hand-p**m) ⌘ Also asks if there was a prior recall for “palm” in Test 1 – Measures ability to remember the prior remembering in a different  context

Geraerts’s Results









DRM (false

recall of lures)





along (recall of  prior recall)




Spontaneous recovery group

Forgets prior recalls

Indicates that spontaneous recoveries on more than one  


Suggestive therapy group

Less ability to corroborate abuse; more susceptible to false  


Indicative (but not conclusive) that recoveries are false

Certain individuals predisposed to being suggestible



Discussion Question

⌘ What if you were a memory expert and an  attorney called on you to testify in a  recovered memory case

– What information would you like to know? – On what basis could you seek to determine  whether the memory was true or false?

– What kinds of information would you be willing to  tell a jury?


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