Memory is the process of encoding, storing and retrieving information in the brain. It plays an import role in our daily life. Without memory, we cannot reserve past experience, learn new things and plan for the future. Human memory is usually analogous to computer memory. While unlike computer memory, human memory is a cognitive system. It does not encode and store everything correctly as we want. As suggested by Zimbardo, Johnson and Weber (2006), human memory takes information and selectively converts it into meaningful patterns. When remembering, we reconstruct the incident as we think it was (p. 263). Sometimes our memory performance is incredibly accurate and reliable. But errors and mistakes are more commonly happen, because we do not make a complete and accurate record of everything we experience.
Schacter (1999) listed seven ‘sins’ of memory: transience, absent-mindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias and persistence. The first three ‘sin’ is the failure to access memories. Transience refers to how the passage of time affects our memories, the forgetting of information over time. Absent-mindedness occurs when we are not concentrating in the first time we access the information. Blocking is the situation that we temporary fail to access information that is stored on memory. Misattribution, suggestibility and bias involve memory distortion. Misattribution means attributing information into wrong source. Suggestibility refers to false memory which is influenced by others’ suggestions. Our prior knowledge and belief contribute to retrospective distortion and lead to bias of memory. The last ‘sin’ persistence is a double-edged sword. Sometimes we may also suffer from unable to forget. In the seven ‘sins’, misattribution and suggestibility, which has close relationship with each other, are the focus of this paper.
Misattribution is not a new interest in psychology. As pioneering psychologist William James (1890) wrote in his book in more than one hundred years ago, "Most people, probably, are in doubt about certain matters ascribed to their past. They may have seen them, may have said them, done them, or they may only have dreamed or imagined they did so" (p.373). As mention before, misattribution refers to attribute ideas or events to the wrong source (Schacter & Dodson, 2001). We may misattribute the source of memories. For example, we believe we read something from magazine or newspaper, while in fact we watched it on TV. We may also misattribute an imagined event to reality. Sometimes we think we have paid the credit card bills on time but later received the late payments warning letter from the bank.
Suggestibility has very close relationship with misattribution. Like misattribution it involves the creation of a false memory. A suggestion comes from other people who are influencing us. False memory due to...