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Forgetting: Memory Construction and Source Monitoring – Memory (PSY)

by Tarry Ahuja, PhD

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    00:01 Recalled memories are rarely complete but instead are constructs of stored info.

    00:05 This is a very important concept.

    00:09 And what I’m saying here is, it’s very rare that you remember every single aspect of either a situation or a conversation or an episode.

    00:19 So if I ask you to recall the first date with your wife, you’re going to get a couple of really good pieces, right? You might remember what you wore.

    00:28 You kind of might remember where you went for dinner.

    00:31 You might even remember -- you might think you remember what you ordered.

    00:36 Now, when you’re recalling the story, and this has happened to people, you say, “Oh, can you tell me how you two met?” And you’re like, “Yeah. Well, let me tell you.

    00:43 Well, it was a Sunday.

    00:44 It was sunny.

    00:46 And we went for a walk.

    00:47 I remember I was wearing my blue pants.

    00:49 We were holding hands. It was a great day.” And they go on and they explain all these detail and you’re thinking “How does this person remember everything?” Well, the truth is, they actually don’t and they’ve built a construct and they’re filling in some of the gaps.

    01:01 And the gaps can be filled in with representative information from a schema.

    01:05 So, it’s stuff that they’re going to fill in to fill the gaps in order to complete the story, and that’s not that they’re filling in with stuff that aligns quite well with the story and the point or the schema of what that story is trying to do.

    01:18 There’s also the situation where the gaps are actually inaccurate but they align well with what the end goal of the story is and they align well with what that person is trying to impart.

    01:30 Okay? Now, a schema is a mental blueprint containing common aspects of some part of our world.

    01:36 We build schemas for so many different things.

    01:39 So for example, if I say to you, “Describe your second grade classroom.” Or, “Describe your childhood bedroom.” I think you’ll get a couple of key features, right? So yeah, I had my bed. I had a desk. I had a Michael Jackson poster.

    01:53 I had this and I had that and I had a nice, big teddy bear that I cuddled every night.

    01:57 Those you get, but are you going to get every little aspect? Probably not.

    02:02 So the schema is our representation of that room and we have schemas for so many different things.

    02:10 Okay? And we’ve talked about schemas in other modules in this course relating to that exact concept.

    02:16 So, inappropriate information may be used when reconstructing memories when exposed to subtle misdirection.

    02:21 We call that the misinformation effect.

    02:23 The example I’ve already just given you.

    02:26 Okay.

    02:26 So here’s an example of a schematic.

    02:30 What we think, say for example, a memory might look like if it’s being construct.

    02:34 And you can see there are lots of different components.

    02:35 And I’m not going to really get into all, all the aspects of this figure.

    02:38 That’s not the important point here.

    02:40 What I want you to get is, visually, when you look at this, you see all the little components.

    02:44 You can see how you can have gaps.

    02:46 And when you’re recalling this information, you’re going to fill in some of those gaps with information that you feel will help tell your story.

    02:56 Memory construction and source monitoring.

    02:58 Now, repeated recall of nonexistent actions and events or misinformation can actually lead to false memories.

    03:06 You’ve heard this on the witness stand all the time.

    03:09 You hear something that’s false enough times and it actually in your mind becomes true.

    03:15 And you can do this with memories.

    03:17 You can tell somebody something so many times even though it’s a lie or it’s a non-truth.

    03:24 And it actually ends up becoming in your mind an encoded memory.

    03:29 So, you might say, “Oh yeah, this girl, she asked me out in high school and she used to ask me at all the time. She really liked me a lot.” And you may have said that at the time to your friends so that you fit in because they were all dating and you would have to tell stories saying, “Well, yeah, I got asked out to. Yeah, I got asked all the time.” And you keep saying this, you keep saying this.

    03:48 And over the years as you become an adult, in your mind, you actually thought, “High school wasn’t bad. I got asked out quite a few times.” In reality, you never got asked out.

    03:56 You never had a date and you went to prom with your mother.

    03:59 So, in your mind though, you’re playing back the fact that you actually did have a lot of dates and this is a false memory.

    04:05 Now, familiarity and emotional content can make these indistinguishable from actual memories.

    04:10 So the more convoluted, more familiar, the more emotionally attached you are and how much emotional content that’s there in the story, it actually becomes very difficult to tease that out and say, you know, this is real and this is fake.

    04:23 Source monitoring is understanding where the content of the original encoded memory comes from.

    04:28 And so, again, this is working backwards in saying, okay, this nugget of your memory or story is sort of true and this is where it comes from and all the rest, are you filling in gaps or is context that you’ve layered in.

    04:40 Where did the original concept or the original memory come from? Source monitoring.

    04:47 Now, errors or unknown source monitoring can occur.

    04:51 So there’s kind of an example that we’ll have as a transfer of dream content.

    04:56 And again, we’ve probably done this before too where you have a dream, something happen in the dream.

    05:01 In the dream, you think you went to Mexico.

    05:06 And when you’re in Mexico, you swam with the dolphins.

    05:10 Now, this dream content actually gets transferred to the point where you think that, “Hey, no, I think I’ve swam with dolphins before.” And people might say, “Man, are you dreaming?” And you’re like, “Well, actually, maybe I was. I don’t know.

    05:24 I don’t know if that was true or if that was a dream.” So, you know, where do I know you from? Here’s an example of, “Well, I know you from somewhere, well maybe not.” Maybe it was a dream.

    05:36 Maybe you saw me in a picture.

    05:37 Nowadays with social media, this actually happened to me very recently where somebody came up to me and said, “Hey, I know you.” And I said, “Actually, I don’t think we ever met.” And through a discussion we started talking.

    05:48 We realized that this person knows a mutual friend that I have and my friend was tagged in a picture on Facebook with me and so this person ended up seeing it saw me and now thought that they knew me.

    06:02 I had never met them. I don’t know who they are at all.

    06:05 He comes up and says, “Hey, I know you.” I said, “I don’t think so.” And what they’ve done is they’ve transferred some of that content into their memory as an actual memory but in reality, it’s not.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Forgetting: Memory Construction and Source Monitoring – Memory (PSY) by Tarry Ahuja, PhD is from the course Making Sense of the Environment.


    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Searching for a reference book in a library
    2. Visiting a city during vacation
    3. During the first day at a new school
    4. Searching for the cafeteria at your first job
    5. Learning chemistry formulas
    1. Representative schema
    2. Memory decay
    3. Interference
    4. Schema
    5. False memory
    1. Schema
    2. Confabulation
    3. Hypnosis
    4. Procedural memory
    5. Overlearning
    1. Source monitoring
    2. False memory
    3. Retrieval failure
    4. Transference

    Author of lecture Forgetting: Memory Construction and Source Monitoring – Memory (PSY)

     Tarry Ahuja, PhD

    Tarry Ahuja, PhD


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