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We describe three areas of inquiry that we foresee as being important in future studies of collective memory, mind, and media. The first is the power of narratives, usually provided by collectives, which can be explicit and conscious or implicit and unconscious. A second important theme during this period of populism and nationalism is the study of the self-centredness (or egocentricity) of groups, especially nations believing their past is special. Such egocentricity can feed conflict among nations as well as groups within nations. The third important direction for research is future thinking, or studies of how people anticipate events they expect to unroll in their future and whether these events are mostly positive or negative. A puzzle of future thinking relative to collective memory is why people readily argue about and even fight over events from the past, but find it much more difficult to mobilise groups about life-threatening future events such as global warming or nuclear war. We look forward to studies in these crucial topics and others as they appear in Memory, Mind & Media.
Long-term memory (LTM) problems are associated with many psychiatric and neurological illnesses and are commonly measured using free and cued recall tasks. Although LTM has been linked with biologic mechanisms, the etiology of distinct LTM tasks is unknown. We studied LTM in 95 healthy female twin pairs identified through birth records in the state of Missouri. Performance on tasks of free recall of unrelated words, free and cued recall of categorized words, and the vocabulary section of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-R) were examined using structural equation modeling. Additive genetic and unique environmental factors influenced LTM and intelligence. Free recall of unrelated and categorized words, and cued recall of categorized words, were moderately heritable (55%, 38%, and 37%). WAIS-R vocabulary score was highly heritable (77%). Controlling for verbal intelligence in multivariate analyses of recall, two components of genetic influence on LTM were found; one for all three recall scores and one for free and cued categorized word recall. Recall of unrelated and categorized words is influenced by different genetic and environmental factors indicating heterogeneity in LTM. Verbal intelligence is etiologically different from LTM indicating that these two abilities utilize different brain functions.
We explore 12 paradoxes of learning, memory and knowing in our chapter. These are mysteries in which subjective experience – what we think we know or remember – does not correspond to objective facts. In some cases, we hold false memories: we are utterly confident in our memories that events happened one way, but they did not. Another example is hindsight bias: we may believe that we knew (after the fact) how an event would turn out, but controlled experiments show people cannot predict the event. Another category of illusion occurs with learning. Often students judge one method of learning to be superior to a second method, but their actual performance shows the reverse to be true. The paradox of interference creates other puzzles: when people try to remember similar events, they will often confuse one for another. We discuss 12 paradoxes and their implications for cognitive functioning. Some of these errors may implicate cognitive strategies that we use because they often lead to correct answers in many situations, but can produce errors in other instances.
Psychologists love mysteries and paradoxes. They always have, they always will. There is nothing surprising here; all people like paradoxes and puzzles. Look at Figure 8.1 and ask yourself which surface of the two boxes is longer, the one on the left or the one on the right? Every person naïve to the situation will answer the one on the left. However, the two surfaces are exactly congruent. They are the same.
[T]he application of the experimental method to the problem of mind is the great outstanding event in the study of the mind, an event to which no other is comparable.
The author of this quote is Edwin G. Boring (1886–1968), one of the great psychologists of the 20th century and author of A History of Experimental Psychology (1929; the quote comes from p. 659). Contemporary psychologists take “the psychology experiment” as a given, but it is actually a relatively recent cultural invention. Although fascination with human behavior is doubtless as old as the emergence of Homo sapiens, the application of experimental methods to the study of the human mind and behavior is only 150 or so years old. Scientific methods, with heavy reliance on experimental technique, arose in Western civilization during the time of the Renaissance, when great insights and modes of thoughts from the ancient Greek, Roman, and Arab civilizations were rediscovered. The 17th century witnessed the great discoveries of Kepler, Galileo, and Newton in the physical world. Interest in chemistry and biology arose after the early development of physics. Experimental physiology arose as a discipline in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Still, despite great advances in these fields and despite the fact that scientists of the day usually conducted research in many different fields, no one at that time performed experiments studying humans or their mental life. The first physiologists and anatomists mostly contented themselves with the study of corpses.
Good scientific research depends on critical thinking at least as much as factual knowledge; psychology is no exception to this rule. And yet, despite the importance of critical thinking, psychology students are rarely taught how to think critically about the theories, methods, and concepts they must use. This book shows students and researchers how to think critically about key topics such as experimental research, statistical inference, case studies, logical fallacies, and ethical judgments.
One day, the president of the American Psychological Association (Bob Sternberg), the president-elect of the APA (Diane Halpern), and the president of the American Psychological Society (now the Association for Psychological Science) (Roddy Roediger) got together to discuss ways in which these two large national associations, both concerned with psychology, might collaborate in a joint venture. Partly we wanted to show the ability of our sometimes rival organizations to collaborate, but partly, the three of us, friends of long standing, wanted to work together on a project. Eventually, we found ourselves talking about a topic that was of great interest to all three of us, and that also was, we thought, important for the field – the nature and development of critical thinking in psychology.
Our concern was that, although psychology curricula were pretty consistently strong in teaching students the main facts, theories, and research done in psychology, these curricula were more variable in the extent to which they fostered critical thinking in the discipline. Part of the reason for this variability, we thought, was that although some texts mentioned or even had exercises in critical thinking, the development of critical thinking in psychology was always secondary to their main purpose. Usually, the purpose of the books was primarily to convey subject matter, and only secondarily, at best, to promote critical thinking about this subject matter.
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