Long-Term Memory

Below are some projects regarding the manipulation of long-term memory. Long-term memory is our potentially infinite store of knowledge and experiences that we accumulate over time. However, they may not be as robust as you think!

Similarity Induced Memory Bias (SIMB)

Practicing memory recall has been repeatedly shown to strengthen our ability to recall the same information at later points in time. However, recalling a memory into conscious awareness (i.e., working memory) places the memory into a malleable state, where it can be altered by new information. Previous work in the Fukuda lab has found that practicing recognition of a target item amongst similar-looking probes can cause an individual to remember the target item differently from its original appearance. For example, while trying to remember a red circle, if a person performs a recognition judgement on a pink circle, the person later reports remembering the red circle as being pinker than it was originally displayed—a phenomena occurring outside the individual’s awareness!

This may hold significant implications for real-world memory scenarios, such as criminal investigations, where one must rely on his memory to identify the perpetrator amongst similar-looking suspects. The goal of the current experiment is to determine if these retrieval-induced memory alterations occur with complex, real-world objects that need to be remembered over longer periods of time (i.e., long-term memory). We then hope to extend findings by exploring how the proximity of the recognition judgment to encoding and retrieval influences the magnitude of these memory alterations.

SIMB with Faces

Previous experiments have demonstrated that memories of simple visual items, such as colors and shapes, can be systematically biased towards new items that appear similar to what we remember. But can these similarity-induced memory biases also occur in complex visual items that we encounter in our everyday lives? In a study, we investigate whether memories of human faces can be changed by exposure to new faces, especially those that are perceived to be similar to the target face. This may hold significant implications in real-world scenarios, such as eyewitness accounts, where significant consequences depend on accurate memory-based decisions. However, we may also be able to leverage similarity-induced memory biases to adaptively manipulate memories that we want to forget, such as traumatic experiences.

Retrieval Induced Forgetting (RIF)

Throughout our lives we accumulate memories we’d like to remember and some we’d like to forget. Let’s say you met someone new and while introducing yourself you tripped, how embarrassing… what if you want to forget that awful event? One possible answer is RIF, which stands for recognition induced forgetting. RIF is a memory phenomenon that allows us to forget a specific memory.

How does it work? It uses two memories that are related; if you practice one of the two related items, the memory of the other one diminishes. In other words, if you keep reminding yourself of other successful introductions, over time, you will remember less and less that you tripped during one of them. This “forgetting” happens because both memories are part of the same category. The cool thing about this phenomenon is that it can apply to basically any kind of memory, so you can choose whatever you want to forget. Future directions include using a new set of stimuli that was purposely created to study similarity and see if the RIF phenomenon can still occur with consolidated memories.

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