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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2002 > Nov > Nov 9

Re: Starship Memories

From: Catherine Reason <CathyM.nul>
Date: Sat, 9 Nov 2002 16:37:24 -0000
Archived: Sat, 09 Nov 2002 14:35:04 -0500
Subject: Re: Starship Memories

>From: Eric Jacobson <ejacobson74.nul>
>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
>Date: Fri, 08 Nov 2002 22:08:14 -0500
>Subject: Re: Starship Memories

>These are two rather glaring oversights on Clancy's part. I'm
>actually surprised that her dissertation committee passed her
>with requiring her to correct them. However the issue of
>repressed/recovered memory is highly politicized, and it's
>conceivable that that colored her committee's judgement.

When the subject of false memory came up on this List a month or
two back, I made the point that most of the underlying research
was based on word-lists which didn't pay even cursory attention
to the issue of ecological validity, and Clancy's research is
obviously a spectacular example of that.

Obviously, there's mammoth leap of faith involved in
generalizing from a mistake on a word-list to the assumption
that whole memories for extended, anomalous events can be
created more or less arbitrarily. But I think there's another
flaw in this study which is rather more subtle.

The type of error which Clancy has induced in her subjects
involves an inference from context. Evidently her experimental
paradigm is such that this is defined a priori to be an error.
The problem is, that in the context of brain-function generally,
this sort of contextual inference isn't an error at all - in
fact, it's an essential part of the way the brain operates.

To show how, take the "occluded object" problem. It often
happens in the real world that we can't see whole objects all at
once, we can only see part of them. Nevertheless, we infer the
existence of the unseen part of the object from our contextual
knowledge - if we see someone we know standing behind a car, we
don't assume that the part of them we can't see is missing, just
because we can't see the whole person. This sort of process
underlies a number of visual illusions, such as the Kanizsa
triangle. Indeed, an inability to make inferences from context
is one of the characteristic deficits found in certain
neurological conditions, such as autism and Asperger's Syndrome.

So, what Clancy defines as an error is only an error because the
experimental context of her study is completely unrealistic - an
extremely common problem in experimental psychology. Looked at
in another way, what Clancy has found is that people with
"recovered" memories tend to be better at inferring from context
- which is, surely, not all that surprising.


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