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Cognitive Psychology

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Introduction

Cognitive Psychology - Key Assessment Task 1) Outline finding and/or conclusions of research into the capacity of short-term memory (STM). Jacobs lead the first organised study of the capacity of short-term memory in 1887 by creating a technique called the "memory span". Jacobs discovered the average short-term memory span to be between five and nine items. This became known as the "magic number 7 plus or minus 2". He also found that letters were not recalled as well as digits. Individual differences were found, thus giving the range five to nine. Jacobs also found that short-term memory span increased with age, for example he found a 6.6 average for eight-year-old children compared to 8.6 for nineteen-year-olds. From Jacob's research we can see that short-term memory has a limited storage capacity of between five and nine items. The capacity of short-term memory isn't determined much by the nature of the information to be learned but by the size of the short-term memory span, which is fairly uniform across individuals of a given age. Individual differences were found as short-term memory span increased with age, this may be due to increasing brain capacity or improved memory techniques, such as chunking. 2) Outline one explanation of forgetting in long-term memory (LTM) and give one criticism of this explanation. ...read more.

Middle

you may not expect an old woman to commit a crime so you may "recall" that it was a man instead. As well as reconstructive memory the effect of language is also an issue, as the wording of questions asked to the eyewitness may lead them to give certain answers. In 1932 Bartlett undertook a study of reconstructive memory, he asked English participants to read a North American Indian folk tale "The War of the Ghosts", after reading the story the participants were asked to recall it. The participants recall changed the content and style of the original story. The story was shortened and phrases changed to be more similar to our own language and concepts. The participants were asked to recall the story many times, even a year later. The changes increased over consecutive recalls. Most of the recalls distorted the story to make it more English therefore making it more clear and logical. Bartlett's research is significant because it provided some of the first evidence that what we remember depends on our prior knowledge (schemas). Bartlett used stories from an unfamiliar culture to show good evidence of methodical distortions in memory. However Bartlett's approach to his research lacked objectivity. Some psychologists believe that only well-controlled experiments will produce objective data. ...read more.

Conclusion

In everyday life witnesses are taken by surprise and often fail to pay close attention to the incident. The research is important in proving that memories of eyewitnesses can be easily distorted, but the main distortion in this study was for a relatively insignificant piece of information, it has proved harder to produce distortion for information of more central importance. Although the mass of studies show that eyewitness testimony can be unreliable and can be distorted, there have been studies showing real life recall can be very accurate. A study by Yuille and Cutshall in 1986 showed this, Yuille and Cutshall interviewed people who had witnessed a crime where one person was shot dead and one person fatally injured. These interviews which were carried out a number of months after the incident had taken place, along with the interviews given to the police immediately after the incident, were analysed. The eyewitness accounts were found to be very accurate, and the accuracy and amount of information recalled didn't decrease over time. The eyewitnesses' accounts also didn't become distorted by leading questions. The Devlin report in 1976 to the Home Secretary found that in 1973 there were 850 cases where eyewitness testimony was the only evidence of guilt. In 74% of these cases a jury found the accused guilty. Because of the findings already discussed the Devlin committee advised that no jury convict on eyewitness testimony alone. Natalie Plummer Page 1 07/05/2007 ...read more.

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