lachx016: October 2011 Archives

Over the past two weeks, we have learned about suggestive memory techniques in our textbook. Suggestive memory techniques are ways that encourage people to remember memories that were often impossible events. I believe this finding to be important because there are often many criminal cases that involve completely innocent people to be wrongfully imprisoned. Even when evidence does not confirm that the suspect is linked to the crime, eyewitnesses may incorrectly identify them at the scene of the crime.
One recent example is the case of Troy Davis. Troy Davis was a man wrongfully convicted of and executed for the murder of a police officer in Savannah, Georgia. He maintained his innocence until his execution.
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Though Troy Davis was innocent, eyewitness identification said otherwise. The entire case against Troy Davis was based on eyewitness testimony, despite the fact that the eyewitnesses' testimonies were unreliable.
Eyewitness recall is not a good enough base to rely on when it comes to criminal cases, according to Elizabeth Loftus, of whom we learned about in our discussion sections. Variables that may affect a witness' ability to recall facts include how far away the witnesses were from the scene, what the light was like, whether they were afraid, or whether they are of a different race than the person they witnessed.
This relates to the case of Troy Davis because the eyewitnesses clearly mistook someone else for him, which occurs a lot more frequently than I would like to think. Innocent people are being sent to jail and possibly executed. Why should we have such little faith in our judicial system for finding the true criminals in cases like this? What can we do to increase our efficiency in convicting the correct person?
Here is a link to an article from TIME magazine that gives more details about the Troy Davis case:
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2095209-1,00.html

One thing we have learned in the past two weeks is conditioning. Ivan Pavlov discovered the process of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning, also known as Pavlovian conditioning, is a form of learning that involves animals automatically responding to an action. Basically, classical conditioning is the act of an animal doing something in response to a stimulus that was previously neutral. An excellent example is Pavlov's dogs. Pavlov used the sound of a metronome to trigger salivation in a dog by turning a metronome on whenever the dogs were fed. After many trials of this, the dogs would salivate whenever the metronome was turned on because they were expecting food to appear before them. The metronome acted as a signal that announced food.
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Another example of Pavlovian conditioning, which is likely to be more familiar, is the conditioning that middle- and high school students undertake. Many schools use bells to indicate the beginning and end of classes for students. Those students are classically conditioned to either leave class or be in their seats when the bell rings between classes. I thought this was interesting because there were a few times in high school when the bells would go off at incorrect times, and students would get up to leave class before realizing that it was a false alarm. The bell meant leaving class, and now that there are no bells in college, it's weird leaving class without that proper indicator.
What are other examples of classical conditioning used? The zipping of multiple backpacks? The shutting of the door when people leave the lecture early?
In an episode of The Office, there is an excellent example of how classical conditioning works.

The Office - Pavlov's dog from Rauno Villberg on Vimeo.

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