Presentation on theme: "Lecture 6: Memory for Anomalous Experiences"— Presentation transcript:
1 Lecture 6: Memory for Anomalous Experiences 1. Introduction2. Eyewitness testimony for ostensibly paranormal events3. The false/recovered memory controversy4. The relevance of false memory research for reports of anomalous experiences5. Conclusion
2 David Hume (1748) Of Miracles No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless that testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish.
3 Factors Affecting Eyewitness Accuracy Memory is less accurate forperipheral detailsstimuli presented brieflyunder imperfect viewing conditionsstimuli presented when we are under-aroused (e.g., drowsy) or over-aroused (e.g., frightened)
5 Schema Theory (1) (Cohen, 1989) It can account for the fact that many of our experiences are forgotten, or are reconstructed in a way that is incomplete, inaccurate, generalised, or distorted. Schema theory emphasises the role of prior knowledge and past experience, claiming that what we remember is influenced by that which we already know.
6 Schema Theory (2) (Cohen, 1989) According to this theory, the knowledge we have stored in memory is organised as a set of schemas, or knowledge structures, which represent the general knowledge about objects, situations, events, or actions that has been acquired from past experience.
7 Leading Questions (Loftus, 1979) Estimates of speed of car affected by “smashed into” vs “contacted”“Did you see the broken headlight?” vs “Did you see a broken headlight?”
8 Memory Conformity (Gabbert, Memon & Allen, 2003) Multiple similar accounts given greater evidential weight but…… witnesses may discuss event and influence each other’s memoryShown to be the case with staged crime on video
13 S John Davey, 1887 (1)Davey had been converted to a belief in spiritualistic phenomena by the slate-writing demonstrations of the medium Henry Slade. Subsequently Davey accidentally discovered that Slade had employed trickery to produce some of the phenomena. Davey practised until he felt he could accomplish all of Slade's feats by trickery and misdirection.
14 S John Davey, 1887 (2)He then conducted his well-rehearsed seance for several groups of sitters, including many who had witnessed and testified to the reality of spiritualistic phenomena. Immediately after each seance, Davey had the sitters write out in detail all that they could remember having happened during his seance.
15 S John Davey, 1887 (3)The findings were striking and very disturbing to believers. No one realized that Davey was employing tricks. Sitters consistently omitted crucial details, added others, changed the order of events, and otherwise supplied reports that would make it impossible for any reader to account for what was described by normal means.
16 Other Fake Séance Studies (1) Besterman (1932)sitters failed to report experimenter leaving the roomreported stationary objects moving
17 Other Fake Séance Studies (2) Wiseman, Smith, & Wiseman (1995)1 in 5 sitters reported that maracas had been examined when they had not27% of sitters reported at least one object moving that had not1 in 4 sitters reported that table had not moved when it had1 in 5 believers thought they had witnessed paranormal phenomena (no disbelievers did so)
18 Verbal Suggestion and PK Metal Bending Wiseman & Greening (2005) presented participants with video clip of fake psychic apparently bending key with PK (actually using sleight of hand)“Psychic” puts key on table and suggests it is still bending (it isn’t)Around 40% of witnesses report that key continued to bend (but virtually no one did in no-suggestion condition)No differences in susceptibility between believers and disbelievers
19 Memory ConformityThe phenomenon whereby the testimony of one eyewitness directly influences the testimony provided by a second eyewitnessWilson & French (submitted) replicated Wiseman & Greening’s (2005) “It’s still bending”But found believers more susceptibleAdded memory conformity element, showing social influence on eyewitness reports
20 Explanations of Verbal Suggestion Effects Direct effect on perception?Effect on memory?Both?Neither? Demand characteristics?
21 Recall of “Pseudopsychic” Demonstrations Wiseman & Morris (1995)believers rated demonstrations as more “paranormal”believers tended to be less accurate in recalling “important” informationJones & Russell (1980)accurate recall of “successful” and “unsuccessful” ESP demonstrations by disbelievers, but believers rated both demonstrations as successful
22 The Indian Rope Trick (Lamont & Wiseman, 2001) In the classic version of the Indian rope trick the performer first causes a rope to rise into the air. His boy assistant then clambers up the rope and promptly disappears. Next, the performer climbs the rope after the boy and also vanishes. Moments later, the dismembered parts of the boy’s body fall to the ground. The performer now descends the rope and puts these parts into a basket. Finally, the boy jumps from the basket, fully restored to life.
23 Eyewitnesses to Hoax UFO Simpson ( ) carried out hoax in March 1970 at Cradle Hill, WarminsterLight on hill was stationary but reported by UFO spotters to be above hill and moving
24 Factors often associated with “paranormal” events poor viewing conditions (e.g., darkness or semi-darkness)altered states of consciousness (e.g., due totirednessbiological traumaengaging in particular ritualsdrug abuseemotional arousalEitherambiguous and unexpected nature of the event (in spontaneous cases) orhigh level of expectation and will to believe on the other (e.g., in a séance)
27 RepressionGeorge Franklin, Sr., convicted of murder on basis of “recovered” memories of events 20 years earlierHolmes (1990): “Warning. The concept of repression has not been validated with experimental research and its use may be hazardous to the accurate interpretation of clinical behavior”
28 Repression (cont.)Celebrity cases on Oprah Winfrey Show, e.g., Roseanne Barr ArnoldSpecial issues of journalsGuidelines from national psychological and psychiatric associationsThe claim that repression of CSA is common, causes problems in adulthood and can be cured by therapy not supported by systematic empirical observation (e.g., no outcome studies)
29 Bloom (1994, p.469):I believe that many of the voices of the backlash are, if not perpetrators themselves, then apologists for perpetrators, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and it is this defence of the status quo and protection against the revelation of this secret that arouse such vituperative defence and counter-attack.
30 Bowers & Farvolden (1996, p.362): The grounds for this reaction are straightforward: Child sexual abuse occurs frequently and leaves lasting psychological scars -- especially when abuse victims are unable to remember or speak of it (Summit, 1983). With considerable pain and anguish, Freud's patients (mostly women) revealed to him the abuse they had suffered as children, most often at the hands of their fathers. For a while, he listened to them.
31 Bowers & Farvolden continued: However, because such reports were so unpalatable and so unpopular, Freud switched allegiances: Rather than speaking the truth on behalf of his patient, he courted the favor of his peers. He did so by rejecting the patient's abuse memories as an accurate reflection of historical events and chose to regard them as fantasies instead. To have discovered the Truth and then abandoned it to curry favor with professional colleagues is morally reprehensible.
32 Freud’s PositionFreud’s initial claims of CSA were denied by his patientsBut they were based on his interpretation of various signs, symptoms, dreams and fantasies – not conscious memoriesFreud then decides these “recovered” memories were constructed by his patients – not based on suggestions from him!
33 Childhood Sexual Abuse and Repression CSA is a serious problemBut how often is CSA experienced and then forgotten?Blume (1990) claims “most incest survivors have limited recall about their abuse" and "half of all incest survivors do not remember that the abuse occurred"But where are the data to support these assertions?
34 Estimates of Repression of CSA Memories Loftus (1993) reports wide range, 18% to 59%Survey questions open to different interpretations, e.g., "During the period of time between when the first forced sexual experience happened and your 18th birthday was there ever a time when you could not remember the forced sexual experience?"
35 Loftus (1993, p.523):The plaintiff, Bonnie, in her late 40s at the time of the trial, accused her parents of physically, sexually, and emotionally abusing her from birth to approximately age 25. A sister, Patti, in her mid-30s at the time of trial, said she was abused from infancy to age 15. The allegations involved torture by drugs, electric shock, rape, sodomy, forced oral sex, and ritualistic killing of babies born to or aborted by the daughters. The events were first recalled when the plaintiffs went into therapy in the late 1980s.
36 “Recovered” MemoriesReports of memories of abuse during first years should be treated with caution in light of childhood amnesiaPsychotherapists and clinical psychologists often believe clients’ recovered memories on basis of symptomatology (e.g., low self-esteem) or “body memories”.
37 Bass & Davis (1988, p.22):You may think you don't have memories, but often as you begin to talk about what you do remember, there emerges a constellation of feelings, reactions and recollections that add up to substantial information. To say, "I was abused," you don't need the kind of recall that would stand up in a court of law. Often the knowledge that you were abused starts with a tiny feeling, an intuition... Assume your feelings are valid. So far, no one we've talked to thought she might have been abused, and then later discovered that she hadn't been. The progression always goes the other way, from suspicion to confirmation. If you think you were abused and your life shows the symptoms, then you were.
38 Bradshaw (1992, p. 49):Do you have trouble knowing what you want? Are you afraid to try new experiences? If someone gives you a suggestion, do you feel you ought to follow it?According to Bradshaw, if you answered even one of these questions "yes," then you "can count on some damage having been done to you ... between the 9th and 18th months of your life".
39 Influence of Therapists Encouraging patients to “make up a story” as a way of recovering memoriesDream interpretationSupport groupsHypnosis
40 Yapko (1994 p.163):Survey data regarding hypnosis and suggestibility indicate that while psychotherapists largely view hypnosis favorably, they often do so on the basis of misinformation. A significant number of psychotherapists erroneously believe, for example, that memories obtained through hypnosis are more likely to be accurate than those simply recalled, and that hypnosis can be used to recover accurate memories even from as far back as birth. Such misinformed views can lead to misapplications of hypnosis when attempting to actively recover memories of presumably repressed episodes of abuse, possibly resulting in the recovery of suggested rather than actual memories.
41 Clients’ AccountsTypically no conscious memories of CSA at start of therapyUse of unvalidated techniques to recover memoriesLeading questions from therapists
42 Pynoos & Nader (1989, p.238):One girl initially said that she was at the school gate nearest the sniper when the shooting began. In truth she was not only out of the line of fire, she was half a block away. A boy who had been away on vacation said that he had been on his way to the school, had seen someone lying on the ground, had heard the shots, and then turned back. In actuality, a police barricade prevented anyone from approaching the block around the school.
43 “Flashbulb Memories” (Brown & Kulik, 1977) It was once believed that certain highly emotional events could lead to memories that were highly vivid and accurateEven flashbulb memories can often be inaccurate (see, e.g., Neisser & Harsch, 1993, for a study of flashbulb memories of the Challenger disaster)
44 “Lost in a Shopping Mall” 14-year-old boy asked to recall events from childhood including one which never happenedRepeated interviewing led to formation of false memoryFMs for more dramatic events (e.g., childhood stays in hospital) produced in subsequent research
45 Lindsay & Read (1995, p. 865):[...] extreme forms of memory work in psychotherapy combine virtually all of the factors that have been shown to increase the likelihood of illusory memories or beliefs (a) a trusted authority communicates a rationale for the plausibility of hidden memories of long-ago childhood trauma (that many clients have hidden memories, that the client's psychological symptoms, physical symptoms, and dreams evidence them, and that doubt is a sign of "denial") and (b) a trusted authority provides motivation for attempting to recover such memories (that healing is contingent on retrieving hidden memories)
46 Lindsay & Read (1995, p.865):(c) the client is repeatedly exposed to suggestive information from multiple sources (anecdotes in popular books, other survivor's stories, comments and interpretations offered by the therapist, etc.), providing a "script" for recovering memories as well as suggestions about particular details; and (d) techniques such as hypnosis and guided imagery enhance imagery and lower response criterion such that people are more willing to interpret thoughts, feelings, and images as memories.
47 Experimental Techniques in False Memory Research DRM technique (Deese, 1959; Roediger & McDermott,1995)“Lost in a shopping mall” (e.g., Loftus & Pickrell, 1995)Hypnotic suggestion (e.g., Orne, 1979)Imagination inflation (e.g., Loftus, 2001)“Crashing memories” (e.g., Wilson & French, 2006)
48 Theoretical Approaches to False Memories Hyman & Kleinknecht’s (1998) explanation of misinformation effects:presented information is judged with respect to plausibilityan event memory must be constructed on the basis of schematic knowledge plus personal experiences, suggestion, and current situational demandsthe individual must commit a source monitoring error in which the constructed memory is accepted as reflecting the initial event rather than misinformation presented following the event.
49 Role of Source Monitoring The ability to accurately determine the original source of information (Johnson, Hashtroudi & Lindsay, 1993)One specific aspect of particular relevance is reality monitoring ability, i.e., to distinguish between memories based upon external events and those generated by internal mental processes
52 Reports of Anomalous Events – FMs? Until recently, attempts to demonstrate a direct link between susceptibility to FMs and tendency to report anomalous experiences had met with limited success (French, 2003)Due to use of inappropriate FM methodologies?
53 Plausibility and False Memories Mazzoni, Loftus, & Kirsch (2001) propose a 3-stage modelFor a false memory to develop:the event in question must be deemed to be plausiblethe individual must have good reason to believe that the event is likely to have happened to them personallythey must interpret their thoughts and fantasies about the event as actual memories
54 False Memories for News Coverage Wilson & French (2006) gave 100 participants a “News Coverage Questionnare”Four items relate to actual news footage, one relates to non-existent footage (i.e., CCTV footage of first Bali bombing)36% “remember” Bali footageThese individuals score higher on measures of paranormal belief and experienceEffect has been replicated
55 Fantasy PronenessCorrelates with paranormal belief and reports of OPEs (e.g., Irwin, 1990, 1991) and hypnotic susceptibility (Wilson & Barber, 1983)Very vivid imaginations, sometimes confuse imagination with realityCorrelates with reports of childhood abuse – a defence mechanism (Lynn & Rhue, 1988; Rhue & Lynn, 1987)?
56 DissociationDSM-IV (1994): “A disruption in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity, or perception of the environment. The disturbance may be sudden or gradual, transient or chronic.”Develops as a defence mechanism?Correlates with reports of childhood abuse (e.g., Mulder et al., 1998)
57 Possible Explanations Sceptics would argue that fantasy-prone individuals imagine paranormal events and them believe them to have really occurred.Proponents of the paranormal argue that “fantasy proneness may engender paranormal belief, which in turn may be conducive to parapsychological experience” (Irwin, 1991, p. 321)Maybe reports of both childhood abuse and paranormal experiences are based upon false memories? (But not supported by results of French & Kerman, 1996)
58 Conclusions (1)Research into the accuracy of eyewitness testimony for OPEs strongly suggests that such reports should be treated with caution in light of:Basic unreliability of human memorySusceptibility to verbal suggestionsSusceptibility to misinformation
59 Conclusions (2)Recent studies support the idea that believers in the paranormal may be more susceptible to false memories, even for non-paranormal eventsFuture research should be directedAt confirming such findings with a wider range of experimental techniquesAt further exploration of the link with reports of childhood trauma
60 AcknowledgementWith thanks to Hilary Evans, proprietor of the Mary Evans Picture Library, for permission to use illustrations featured in this presentation. These illustrations must not be reproduced in any form without permission from the Mary Evans Picture Library.