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Last updated January 27, 2018

Bourne Identity (2002)You and Your Memory

In the 2002 movie, The Bourne Identity, Matt Damon's character, Jason Bourne, finds himself with a host of remarkable abilities to defend himself but doesn't know who he is or why he is being chased by US government agents.

What would it be like for you to wake up some morning here at Le Moyne with the kind of memory loss of Jason Bourne, that is, you can do various things but you haven't the slightest clue who or where you are? What would that be like?

Memory = Central to who we are as human beings.

A. Encoding

Craik & Tulving (1975) Experiments
  • One category of questions (shallow) were about how the word were presented visually (Word: "Is the word shown in CAPITAL LETTERS?").
  • The second category of questions (intermediate) were about the phonemic qualities of the word ("Does the word rhyme with the word "bee"?). 
  • The third category of questions (deep) were presented so that the reader was forced to think about what the word means or what category the word falls in [semantic] ("Can you meet one in the street [a friend]"?)

Example words and questions used

"is the word capitalized?"
"does it rhyme with...?"

"Is it...?"
a way to communicate
a type of weapon
a type of plant
something associated with magic

  • After seeing the words, they were given a list of 180 words (60 they had seen and 120 they had not seen). They were asked if they had seen them or not (Yes or No). How well they recalled the words was directly related to the level they first processed each word:

Craik & Tulving (1975) Experiment 9 Results

  • Implication for studying in college?

B. Storage = Maintaining Information in Memory

1. Atkinson & Shiffrin Model of Memory (1971)

          [Atkinson & Shifrin Model]

A. Sensory Memory = Information is maintained in its sensory form (visual, auditory, etc.) for a very brief period of time (ca. 0.25 secs.)
B. Short-term Memory (STM) = a limited capacity story that can maintain unrehearsed information for up to about 20 seconds

2.[Baddeley's Working
            Memory] Allan Baddeley's "Working Memory" (2001) Model (see diagram)
Working memory = a modular system for the temporary storage and manipulation of information

Four components

Working memory capacity (WMC) = the ability to hold & manipulate information in conscious attention

[WTC 9/11 Disaster]3. Long-term Memory (LTM)

LTM = an unlimited capacity store that can hold information over lengthy periods of time
  • Research has shown that these memories are neither as accurate nor complete as people either think or early theorists believed.
  • Vividness ≠ accuracy

C. Retrieval: Getting Information out of Memory
1. Using Cues to Aid Retrieval
2. Reinstating the Context of an Event
3. Relying on Schemas
Schema = an organized cluster of knowledge about a particular event or object abstracted from previous individual instances or experiences.
  • What are the schemas for college professor? high school jock? lawyer? clergy? Army soldier?

Consider what you might think an NFL professional football player looks like. Suppose you saw a 10-second video clip of a player being interviewed in a locker room. What would you tend to remember?

  • We tend to remember facts consistent rather than inconsistent with our schemas
    • You might remember that he was wearing his uniform or carrying his helmet, but would probably not remember that he was holding a copy of a newspaper in his hand.
  • HOWEVER, we tend to remember facts that are clash significantly with our schemas
    • If that football player was holding a bouquet of roses in his hand or putting on a fur coat, we'd probably remember that fact.

4. Reconstructing Memories
Elizabeth Loftus & Car Accident

5. Source Monitoring


This page originally posted on 1/28/2018