Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Great Memories Are Made of This; A Psychology Degree at the University of Bedfordshire Is Both Challenging and Exciting, as One Lecturer Who Is Researching False Memories Tells Niki Chesworth

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Great Memories Are Made of This; A Psychology Degree at the University of Bedfordshire Is Both Challenging and Exciting, as One Lecturer Who Is Researching False Memories Tells Niki Chesworth

Article excerpt

Byline: Niki Chesworth

WHILE we often rely on our memory as an accurate account of our personal past, research has shown that memory is often less reliable than we hope," says Dr Julia Shaw, lecturer in forensic psychology at the University of Bedfordshire.

She is currently researching false memories, eyewitness issues, and criminal thinking.

Research conducted by academic staff underpins all undergraduate and postgraduate teaching at the University of Bedfordshire and within the psychology department all academic staff are members of the Research Centre for Applied Psychology. The diverse curriculum, which is accredited by the British Psychological Society, also ensures that students gain in-depth subject knowledge and have the opportunity to investigate, in detail, a topic that they are interested in for their final year research dissertation.

"Memory is an incredibly malleable and reconstructive process that can be influenced by our own experiences, expectations, and by interactions with others," continues Dr Shaw.

"We can, in fact, come to believe that we engaged in complex, rich and emotionally intense experiences that never actually happened. So-called false memories are more prevalent and likely than we might like to think.

"I conduct research on these false memories in my lab where I challenge notions of how memory works -- and how often it fails to work. Through a series of memory interviews I can convince participants that they engaged in emotional or criminal behaviour during adolescence, events that never actually happened.

"I have also demonstrated that when others watch videos of these false memories being recalled, most people cannot tell the difference between a true memory and a false one. In other words, false memories look and feel like real memories -- both to the rememberer and the observer."

Dr Shaw says that partial and full false memories are actually a constant part of our lives.

"Think about a time when you disagreed with a friend or family member about how an event happened. Maybe it was a childhood trip to Disneyland, a vacation you went on with your wife, or maybe just what happened at the pub you went to last weekend," she says. …

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