Memory Evolution: Discovery of Why and How We Remember.

Sep 29, 08 Memory Evolution: Discovery of Why and How We Remember.

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Memory Evolution: Discovery of Why and How We Remember.by Rocz-de la Luz, N. C. A review of:Nairne, J.S., & Pandeirada, J.N.S. (2008). Adaptive memory: Remembering with a stone-age brain. Current Directions in Psychological Science, (17) 4, 239-243. We are all familiar with the adage: survival is the strongest instinct. Now, researchers are putting it to the test. They are discovering how memory has evolved and what survival’s impact actually is on memory. A recent study by James Nairne and Josefa Pandeirada at Purdue University suggests that memory evolved in order to ensure survival-fitness of the human race. That is, reproduction is successful in part due to human memory facilitating our species’ survival. Specifically, survival related objects are more likely to be remembered than random objects. Consider a modern day example: relocating to a new neighborhood, we remember quickly where the grocery store is, but will be surprised to learn that something that we do not need on a regular basis – a flower shop (or party-supply shop) is located in the same strip center. Memory has undergone scientific study for some time and scientists know the best techniques for memory recall, yet there is insufficient research on why we remember what we remember. We are familiar with Charles Darwin’s survival of the fittest; this new study expounds on elements from his work. It is presumed that our brains differentiate and assign a storage capacity on essential (survival) events or objects and nonessential objects. Indeed, our brains would not be very efficient at recall if all items were assigned the same importance. The current study out of Purdue University performed two separate experiments. In the first experiment participants imagined being in three different environments. In each environment, they were shown randomly selected words and decided for themselves which words, based on perceived relevance, would help them to survive. The participants imagined that they are stranded in a foreign land, with no protection from predators, and need to find food, shelter, and water. Word examples were...

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Increasing benign interpretations

A review of:Beard, C., & Amir, N. (2008). A multi-session interpretation modification program: Changes in interpretation and social anxiety symptoms. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 46, 1135-1141.By Jonathon G. Perle Beard and Amir (2008) investigated the interpretation of ambiguous social stimuli as threatening in anxious individuals. Their goal was to use a computerized Interpretation Modification Program (IMP) to train socially anxious individuals to judge ambiguous stimuli as benign instead of threatening. Twenty-seven individuals were randomly assigned to the IMP or a control group condition and completed eight computer sessions over four weeks. Results showed the IMP condition to modify interpretations by providing positive feedback when participants made benign interpretations and negative feedback when the participant made a threat interpretation. Findings illustrate the IMP to successfully decrease threat interpretations, increase benign interpretations, and decrease social anxiety symptoms compared to control conditions. Additionally, changes in benign interpretation mediated IMP’s effect on social anxiety. These findings suggest that interpretation modification may have clinical applications for socially anxious individuals; however more testing is needed to investigate all possible aspects and interpretations of IMP. To cite this review, please use this reference:Perle, J. G. (2008). Increasing benign interpretations, Psychology Alert (1)....

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Heads or Tails: Innocent or Guilty

Sep 24, 08 Heads or Tails: Innocent or Guilty

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A review of: Kassin, S.M. (2008). False confessions: Causes, consequences, and implications for reform. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(4), 249-253. by Heather Goddard Scientific Research is showing that a confession, either truthful or false, can not be differentiated by experts trained in detecting lies. In an earlier article, Bond & DePaulo (2006) found that people can accurately detect truth and deception 54% of the time and specialized training appears to have minimal, if any, impact. In a similar study by Kassin and Fog (1999), participants were assigned to two groups; one group was trained in a method of police lie detection and the other group received no training. The participants then watched tapes of suspects denying their involvement in mock crimes. The participants trained in lie detection were “less effective, more confident, and more biased” (Kassin, 2008) than the control group in distinguishing guilty suspects and innocence suspects. Kassin also cites a study by Meissner and Kassin (2002) who conducted a follow-up study where experienced detectives watched the same tapes of mock crimes. Surprisingly, the experienced detectives demonstrated similar mistakes in differentiating guilt from innocence, and were just as biased. People confess to crimes for a number of reasons with false confessions accounting for 20 to 25% of prisoners exonerated by DNA evidence (Kassin, 2008). DNA exonerations imply that interrogation procedures of presenting false evidence may encourage the innocent to confess. These interrogation tactics used by police suggest there is substantial evidence such as fingerprints or eyewitness identification in attempt to strengthen their case. Police interrogation combines the psychological processes of isolation, confrontation, and minimization. Although the ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine has been all too often dramatized in the media; it appears to be a harsh reality. Further research shows that many innocent individuals who confess may begin to believe that they did in fact commit the crime. So why do the innocent confess? The research conducted by Kassin (2008) shows that some people are more vulnerable than others. Individuals who are...

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Relationships across time

A recent article published in the September 2008 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (by Jennifer Crocker and Amy Canevello) investigated roomate relationships across time during the first year of college. In part one of this study of more than 300 college freshmen, participants were surveyed once a week for 10 weeks about their attitudes toward friendships in general, and about their feelings of loneliness and experiences of conflict. In part two of this study, 65 roommate pairs completed daily reports about their relationships during a three-week period in the middle of the semester. Among the questions students were asked: How often do you try to be supportive of others? How often do you avoid being selfish or self-centered? And how often do you avoid showing weakness? They were also asked about feelings of loneliness and closeness to other people. During the first week of the study, 32 percent reported always or almost always feeling lonely, compared to only about 17 percent in the 10th week of the study. In the first week, about 34 percent said they always or almost always avoided showing weakness in their friendships, compared to only about 13 percent in the 10th week of the study. Crocker and Canevello found that students who were invested in enhancing and protecting their own self-images were less likely to report that their relationships with their roommates were getting better. An essential element in reducing loneliness and building a good roommate relationship involves moving away from what Crocker calls an ‘ego-system’ approach, in which people focus on their own needs and try to shore up their self-image, toward an ‘eco-system’ approach, in which people are motivated by genuine caring and compassion for another person. “Basically, people who give support in response to another person’s needs and out of concern for another person’s welfare are most successful at building close relationships that they find supportive,” Canevello said. “We get support, in other words, by being supportive.” Crocker, J & Canevello, J. (2008). Creating...

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Building Self-Efficacy in Clients

A recent article came out describing how it can be beneficial to remind clients of their strengths.  This is sometimes called “resource activation”. Christoph Fluckiger and Martin Holtforth asked psychology trainees to discuss their clients’ strengths for five minutes before the first five therapy session.  They then compared these therapy cases to therapy cases that were done without this intervention (treatment as usual before this had taken place). Compared with the previous therapist-client pairs, the psychology trainees primed to think about their clients’ strengths subsequently had a better relationship with their clients (as judged by videotapes of their sessions) and their clients showed greater improvement by their twentieth session. Here is a link to the original article: Fluckiger, C., Grosse Holtforth, M. (2008). Focusing the therapist’s attention on the patient’s strengths: a preliminary study to foster a mechanism of change in outpatient psychotherapy. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64(7), 876-890....

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