Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why people are nuts

ScienceDaily reports:

Researchers Valerie Reyna, human development professor, and Chuck Brainerd, human development and law school professor--both from Cornell University--argue that like the two-headed Roman god Janus, memory is of two minds--that is, memories are captured and recorded separately and differently in two distinct parts of the mind.

They say children depend more heavily on a part of the mind that records, "what actually happened," while adults depend more on another part of the mind that records, "the meaning of what happened." As a result, they say, adults are more susceptible to false memories, which can be extremely problematic in court cases.....

Fuzzy Trace Theory

Traditional theories of memory assume a person's memories are based on event reconstruction, especially after delays of a few days, weeks, or months. However, Reyna and Brainerd's Fuzzy Trace Theory hypothesizes that people store two types of experience records or memories: verbatim traces and gist traces.

Verbatim traces are memories of what actually happened. Gist traces are based on a person's understanding of what happened, or what the event meant to him or her. Gist traces stimulate false memories because they store impressions of what an event meant, which can be inconsistent with what actually happened.

So, adults use their understanding to interpret what happened (the 'gist') and then are likely to remember only their interpretation, not the events. This might explain why so many people thought Bill Clinton was a good president.

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