Basic and Applied Memory Research: Practical Applications - Vol. 2

By Douglas J. Herrmann; Cathy McEvoy et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE Memory for Cars and Their Drivers: A Test of the Interest Hypothesis

Graham Davies
Annetta Kurvink
Rebecca Mitchell
Noelle Robertson
University of Leicester, U.K.

Why study the development of memory for cars as opposed to butterflies or garden forks? Research on everyday memory is sometimes criticized for its atheoretical and, at best, problem-oriented approach ( Banaji & Crowder, 1989), but I wish to argue in this chapter that memory for such ubiquitous objects is a neglected and important area of research with serious practical and theoretical implications. I first review the case for this before presenting the results of two recent studies that focus on these issues.

The practical dimensions of car memory is perhaps the more obvious. A survey of 1,000 parents conducted by the U.K. children's charity "Kidscape" revealed that parents' worst fear was abduction of their child; comfortably ahead of such well-researched areas as road accidents, drug abuse, and "video nasties." In all, 96% of parents (98% in the cities) mentioned kidnapping as their overriding fear ( Fletcher, 1993). There is some solid evidence to buttress these concerns. According to Home Office figures the number of children abducted from the streets of British towns rose from 102 abduction offenses in 1985 to 337 in 1994: a 330% increase ( Weale, 1995).

Children's and adult's ability to remember cars and car detail does not end with abduction. Car crime in general represents one of the most rapidly growing areas of criminality. This embraces not merely the more mundane theft of radios and other accessories but includes taking and driving away by juveniles ("joyriding"), the use of stolen vehicles to force entry into shops ("ramraiding"), and the stealing of cars to order for illicit export to Eastern Europe or the Far East. An international crime survey, coordinated by the

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