limxx287: October 2011 Archives

Memories: Are They All Real?

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False Memory.jpgFor last week's discussion we were assigned to read an article on the Paul Ingram case. The tragic story started when Paul's daughter, Ericka, went on a church retreat and was confronted by a speaker, Karla Franko. Franko insisted that she, "felt the Lord prompting her with information," and proceeded to tell Ericka that she had been sexually abused as a child. Once home, Ericka and her sister, Julie, began making accusations against their father, Paul, claiming that he had in fact molested them as children. Paul eventually confessed to the events after he had been manipulated, brainwashed and interrogated while secluded in jail.

This particular case arouses the question; did Paul actually sexually abuse his two daughters? Many may answer this question without any hesitation saying, "of course he did, he admitted it." However, they fail to acknowledge other very important aspects concerning the case.

In chapter seven of the Lilienfeld text, it introduces the idea of suggestive memory techniques and false memories. Suggestive memory techniques are described as persistent methods that work hard to assist people in recalling their memories, often creating recollections that were never present to begin with (false memories). These two concepts or ideas played a huge role in the Paul Ingram case, starting with Franko planting false memories in Ericka's head. Then while Paul was in jail, his Priest would relay the daughter's most recent story in full detail and constantly urge him to confess which caused him to also develop false memories. Furthermore, Dr. Richard Ofshe conducted an experiment that would test Paul's false memories. The study consisted of Ofshe explaining in vivid detail an event to Paul that never actually took place and then asking Paul to pray on it that night. The following day, Paul gave Ofshe a three-page confession of the event. Although this study proved of great significance, it was ignored due to Paul's inability to admit that it was not real.

I think that these concepts are very important and they should have been taken into greater consideration during Paul's case. Because police failed to further evaluate these concepts and how they related to Paul, an innocent man was forced to serve fifteen years of his life behind bars.

Paul's confession was heard well over the lack of evidence and the questionable stories that his daughters provided. Why? Was it because the girls made multiple, detailed claims? Or was it because Paul failed to deny any of the claims? Is everybody susceptible to false memories? Do false memories have enough validity to be used in the justice system?

Click here to watch an experiment about creating false memories.

Dreams: Let's Get Real

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freud-dream-book.gifIn chapter five of the Lilienfeld text, it discusses the neurocognitive theory, the theory that dreams are a meaningful product of our cognitive capacities, shaping what we dream about. This concept illustrates that our dreams reveal to us what our brains are able to process from external stimuli during the day. It further explains that when we're younger, our dreams consist of more basic things or events and lack negativity. As we age and our cognitive abilities become more advanced, we will experience dreams of more complex things or events. Furthermore, it has been discovered that dreams mainly involve "everyday activities, emotional concerns, and preoccupations, including playing sports, preparing for tests, feeling self-conscious about our appearance, and being single." Learning about this particular theory has made me reflect on my recent dreams or nightmares and attempt to compare them to memorable ones from when I was younger.

The neurocognitive theory raises the idea of dream interpretations or analysis, which is shortly defined as the process of assigning meaning to dreams. Sigmund Freud, a well-known supporter of dream interpretation, named the hidden meaning in dreams as latent content. I find dream interpretation very interesting and I do believe that our dreams can assist us in tapping into our suppressed emotions. I also find this particular idea important in that if analyzed correctly, our dreams have the ability to help us make positive changes in our life. Furthermore, if remembered, dreams can contribute to ideas that you can apply in real life. For an example, author Stephanie Meyer wrote down her dream and it resulted in the best-selling novel series, "Twilight."

I'm still wondering about having dreams of events that actually really occur later in real life. Is this just coincidental? If children do experience more complex dreams, does that mean that their brain is well advanced and developing at a faster pace? Conversely, if adults continue to experience basic dreams, does that mean that their cognitive capacities are not improving? If you're thinking about something before you fall asleep, will you then dream about it?

Want to learn more about dream analysis? Click Here


Many of you may have followed the infamous Casey Anthony trial or most likely have heard of it at some point. Among the charges filed against Casey Anthony, homicide of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, was the most serious. I personally followed the case and although as a viewer it seemed obvious that Casey was guilty, the principle of correlation versus causation has become relevant in the final analysis. The textbook, Psychology From Inquiry to Understanding, states that, "Although a correlation sometimes results from a causal relationship, we can't tell from a correlational study alone whether the relationship is causal."

The prosecution would have had you believe that there was evidence of causation with the finding of the victim's body less than half a mile from the accused's home and the questionable Google searches of harmful materials and methods of murder found on her home computer. The District Attorney introduced additional evidence that she also exhibited unusual behavior, pathologically lying while being interrogated or questioned by her parents. She reported her daughter missing weeks after the disappearance and evidence of decomposition was also found in the trunk of her car. Despite all this mounting evidence as presented by the State, the jury found that though there may have been a strong correlation between Casey Anthony's behavior and Caylee's disappearance, causation could not be found.

Another concept that could possibly come into play is confirmation bias, the tendency to seek out evidence that supports our hypotheses and deny, dismiss, or distort evidence that contradicts them. When I first heard about the case and became aware that Casey did not report her daughter, Caylee, missing for four weeks, I was almost immediately convinced that she was guilty. This initial belief could have caused me to experience confirmation bias, dismissing any ideas that supported her innocence, including the possibility that someone else made the Google searches since she had been living with her parents and that although her behavior was questionable it did not necessarily make her a murderer.

Casey Anthony was found not guilty of first degree murder, second degree murder, and aggravated manslaughter of a child and found guilty of giving false information to a law enforcement officer on four accounts. Despite the verdict, the majority of the public continues to believe that Casey is guilty for the death of Caylee. However, factoring in the idea of correlation does not imply causation, there is no direct link between the evidence and Casey.

To read more about the case,

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