Experiment Psyc Essay

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APPLIED COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY Appl. Cognit. Psychol. 23: 267–277 (2009) Published online 2 May 2008 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/acp.1455 Me Too!: Social Modelling Influences on Early Autobiographical Memories TIAMOYO PETERSON*, SUZANNE O. KAASA and ELIZABETH F. LOFTUS University of California, Irvine, USA SUMMARY To investigate the malleability of early memories, 200 participants were asked to describe their earliest memories. Before doing so, approximately half were exposed to confederates who described very early memories such as their first steps or a second birthday party, while others were asked only to think about their earliest memories for two minutes before beginning writing. Participants who were exposed to confederate very early memories produced memories that were nearly a year younger on average than the memories reported by controls (2.99 years vs. 3.96 years). Additionally, when participants in the memory discussion condition were asked about an early event that a confederate had recounted they were more confident than controls that they could recall the event in their own lives. These results indicate that autobiographical memories for early events are quite susceptible to social influence and that simply hearing the very early memories of others can alter autobiographical memory. Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Autobiographical memory is specific, personal, significant and enduring (Nelson, 1993). Our memories define us, provide a narrative of our lives, and we tend to trust in their accuracy. However, recent research has demonstrated that even our autobiographical memories are malleable. The most recent wave of research on memory distortion began with eyewitness studies where details for events were altered in the memory of participants due to suggestions planted by experimenters (Loftus & Palmer,

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