Note: A briefer, edited version of this article appeared in D.M. Wegner & J. Pennebaker (Eds.)
Handbook of Mental Control. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1993.
THE FIVE DISTINCTIONS AND SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF MEMORY
By way of background, we summarize here some general principles that seem to govern the operation of the memory system, as abstracted from the research literature. Space does not permit complete documentation of each of the assertions that follow. For a thorough treatment of the cognitive psychology of memory, see the texts by Anderson (1990), Baddeley (1976, 1990), Crowder (1976), Ellis and Hunt (1989), Klatzky (1980), and Loftus and Loftus (1976).
Forms of Memory and the Classification of Knowledge
Memory is the repository of knowledge stored in the mind, but not all knowledge is alike. One important distinction is between declarative and procedural knowledge (Anderson, 1976; Winograd, 1975). Declarative knowledge is knowledge of facts, knowledge that has truth value. Procedural knowledge is knowledge of the skills, rules, and strategies that are used to manipulate and transform declarative knowledge in the course of perceiving, remembering, and thinking. Within the domain of declarative knowledge, a further distinction can be drawn between episodic and semantic knowledge (Tulving, 1972, 1983). Episodic knowledge is autobiographical memory: such memories record a raw description of an event; but they also contain information about the spatiotemporal context in which the event took place, and the self as the agent or experiencer of the event. Semantic knowledge is generic and categorical: it is stored in a format that is independent of episodic context and self-reference. In forming episodic memories, the cognitive system draws on pre-existing world-knowledge stored in semantic memory; similarly, the accumulation of similar episodic memories may lead to the development of a context-free representation of what these events had in common.
Declarative knowledge, whether episodic or semantic in nature, can be represented in propositional format: that is, as assertions about subjects, verbs, and objects; these abstract propositions, in turn, are connected in larger networks where nodes stand for concepts (or for propositions about concepts), and links stand for the relations between concepts. By contrast, procedural knowledge can be represented in productions: that is, statements having an if-then, goal-condition-action format. Individual productions are then linked into whole production systems that accomplish some mental or behavioral task. Of course, the goals and conditions in a production system are also nodes in declarative memory. When these nodes are activated by acts of perception, memory, and thought, the corresponding productions are executed (as in the ACT* theory of Anderson, 1983a).
It should be noted that our focus on meaning-based propositional representations is for convenience only. A number of theorists, particularly Paivio (1971, 1986), have argued that knowledge is also represented in concrete, analog formats that preserve the perceptual structure of objects and events. Anderson (1983a) has argued for at least two forms of perception-based representations: spatial images, which preserve the spatial configurations of objects and their components (e.g., up/down, left/right, front/back); and linear strings preserve the temporal relations among events (e.g., first/last, before/after/inbetween). The use of spatial image representations is illustrated by classic research on mental rotation (e.g., Shepard & Cooper, 1982) and image scanning (Kosslyn, 1980). The use of linear string representations is illustrated by work on scripts in social judgment (Shank & Abelson, 1977; Wyer, Shoben, Fuhrman, & Bodenhausen, 1985) and memory for public events (Huttenlocher, Hedges, & Prohaska, 1988). For a critique of dual-code theories of memory, see Anderson (1978) and Pylyshyn (1981).
Expressions of Memory
Memories can be expressed in a variety of ways. In free recall, the person is simply asked to remember one or more events that occurred at a particular place and time; the term "free" indicates that there are no constraints on the manner in which these items are recalled. In serial recall, the person must recall the items in the order in which they occurred. In cued recall, the person is given specific prompts or hints concerning the item(s) to be recalled -- the first letter or first syllable, a category label, or a semantic associate. In recognition, the person is asked to examine a list of items, and to distinguish between those that occurred at a specified place and time (targets, or "old" items) and those that did not (lures, distractors, or "new" items). Particularly in the case of recognition, the subjects' responses may be accompanied by rating of their confidence that they are correct.
There are many variants and combinations of recall and recognition, but all such tests have one thing in common: they require the person to bring a memory into phenomenal awareness -- to become conscious of a past event, so that it can be described to someone else. However, there are other expressions of memory that do not require conscious recollection. Consider, for example, savings in relearning, in which the subjects show facilitation in relearning a list that had been studied sometime in the past. Significant savings are obtained regardless of whether the subject recalls or recognizes the list items. The same is true for positive and negative transfer effects. For example, if subjects study a list of words such as APPEAL, MINERAL, ELASTIC, BOULDER, AND FOREST, and then are asked to complete three-letter stems with the first word that comes to mind, they are much more likely to complete the stem ELA___ with ELATED than with ELASTIC -- what is known as a priming effect. However, significant priming is obtained even in subjects who are densely amnesic for the wordlist itself. Thus, there are some expressions of memory that do not seem to require conscious recollection of a past event.
On the basis of results such as these, Schacter (1987) has drawn a distinction between two forms of memory, explicit and implicit (for similar distinctions see Jacoby and Dallas, 1981; Eich, 1984; Johnson & Hasher, 1987; Richardson-Klavehn & Bjork, 1988). Explicit memory involves the conscious recollection of some previous episode. Explicit memory tasks make clear reference to some event in the past, and ask the subject to deliberately remember some aspect of the incident. By contrast, implicit memory is demonstrated by any change in experience, thought, or action that is attributable to some past event. Implicit memory tasks do not necessarily refer to prior episodes in the subject's life, and do not require him or her to remember any experiences, qua experiences, at all.
A large body of research indicates that explicit and implicit memory are dissociable in at least two senses. First, studies of a variety of amnesic states associated with brain damage, electroconvulsive shock, general anesthesia, and hypnosis (see below) reveal that explicit memory can be impaired while implicit memory is spared. Second, elaborative processing at the time of encoding affects explicit but not implicit memory, while a change in modality of presentation at the time of test affects implicit but not explicit memory. There is some controversy about whether explicit and implicit memory reflect the operations of two independent memory systems in the brain (Roediger, 1990; Roediger, Weldon, & Challis, 1989; Schacter, 1987, 1990; Tulving & Schacter, 1990). In any case, the phenomena of implicit memory, reflecting the influence of past episodes on the performance of procedural and semantic memory tasks, as well as other forms of perceptual and language processing, comprise a clear case of the unconscious influence of a past event on current functioning (Kihlstrom, 1987, 1990; Kihlstrom, Barnhardt, & Tataryn, 1991).
Although explicit memory is epitomized by recall and recognition, and implicit memory by priming effects, the distinction should not be drawn too sharply. Every explicit memory test has its implicit memory counterpart. This relationship is clearest in the case of cued recall. A subject who has studied a list including the word ELASTIC may be cued with the stem ELA- and asked to complete it either with a word from the study list (an explicit memory test) or with the first word that comes to mind (an implicit memory test). For recognition, the subject may be presented with ELASTIC and asked either whether it was on the list (explicit memory), or whether it was presented prior to a masking stimulus (implicit memory). Even for free recall, subjects may be asked either to remember the items of the list (explicit memory) or to report whatever words come into their minds (implicit memory).
More to the point, perhaps, ostensibly explicit memory tasks have an implicit memory component, and vice-versa. For example, Mandler (1980) has argued that successful recognition of an item may reflect a feeling of familiarity mediated by priming effects (and thus close to implicit memory) in the absence of actual retrieval of the episode in which the item was presented (essentially explicit memory). And subjects may strategically use their conscious recollections of list items to generate a mental set, facilitating performance on perceptual identification, stem completion, and other ostensibly implicit memory tests.
Stages of Processing
In analyzing the success or failure of any attempt at remembering (or, for that matter, at forgetting), it is convenient to divide memory processing into three stages (Crowder, 1976). Encoding has to do with the acquisition of knowledge -- in the general case, the creation of a memory trace representing some experience. Storage has to do with the retention of trace information over a period of time. Retrieval has to do with the utilization of stored information in the course of experience, thought, and action. In principle, and instance of remembering of forgetting can be attributed to processes occurring at any of these stages, along or in combination. Thus, an event can be forgotten because it has not been encoded; because it was lost from storage during the retention interval; or because an available memory was not retrieved.
The Encoding Stage. Traditional theories of memory, as represented by the work of Ebbinghaus (1885), Thorndike's (1913) Law of Practice, and indeed the entire passive-association tradition of S-R learning theory, emphasizes the role of repetition and rehearsal in memory encoding. However, classic studies by Craik and his colleagues (e.g., Craik & Lockhart, 1972; Craik & Tulving, 1975; Craik & Watkins, 1973) support a distinction between maintenance rehearsal and elaborative rehearsal. Maintenance rehearsal, or rote repetition, maintains items in an active state; elaborative rehearsal links new items to pre-existing knowledge. These experiments, and many others, illustrate the elaboration principle (Anderson & Reder, 1979):
The probability of remembering an event is a function of the degree to which that event is related to pre-existing knowledge during processing.
The elaboration principle applies to the processing of individual events; but memory is also improved if we connect individual events to each other. This effect is illustrated by other classic studies, on the role of associative clustering, category clustering, or subjective organization (Bower, 1970b; Mandler, 1967, 1979). That is, list items tend to be reorganized in memory, so that items which are associatively or conceptually related tend to be recalled together regardless of their order of presentation. Subjective organization is a similar phenomenon, except that the order of recall tends to be determined by an image or narrative that is idiosyncratic to the subject, rather than widely shared semantic relationships. All three phenomena illustrate the organization principle:
The probability of remembering an event is a function of the degree to which that event was related to other events during processing.
The difference between elaborative and organizational processing corresponds to the distinction between item-specific information, which increases the distinctiveness of each item, and relational information, which highlights the similarities between items (Hunt & Einstein, 1981).
The Storage Stage. Assuming that a memory trace has been adequately encoded, it is now available for use. So long as attention is devoted to the item, it remains in a high state of readiness, and is extremely likely to be retrieved; when the trace is no longer an object of attention, the probability of successful retrieval progressively diminishes. This empirical fact, known since Ebbinghaus, may be summarized as the time-dependency principle:
The probability of remembering an event is a negative function of the length of time between encoding and retrieval.
Of course, there are instances in which knowledge is preserved at remarkably high levels over extremely long periods of time, raising the question of a "permastore" (Bahrick, 1984).
In general, there are two accounts of what happens over the retention interval. One view, which may be attributed to Ebbinghaus (1885), and Thorndike (1913), emphasizes the passive decay of unrehearsed memories, just as footprints are washed away by wind and tide. Another view, which forms the basis for the interference tradition in memory, asserts that other items, especially those newly encoded during the retention interval weaken the target memory traces, or otherwise compete with their retrieval. Interference is dramatically illustrated in the fan effect, in which increases in the number of facts associated with a concept increases the time required to retrieve any one of these facts. Although there is some evidence for trace decay, and for the actual destruction of memory traces (Loftus & Loftus, 1980) once a trace has been encoded in memory, the chief cause of forgetting appears to be some sort of proactive or retroactive interference.
The Retrieval Stage. The implication of interference is that once a trace has been consolidated in memory, its storage is essentially permanent. Assuming that a memory trace has been adequately encoded, and has been preserved over the retention interval, it must be retrieved in order to answer a query or used in other information-processing functions. However, memory fluctuates from trial to trial. For example, Tulving (1964) presented subjects with a list of words, followed by a series of memory tests, with no further opportunity to study. The number of items remained essentially constant from trial to trial (about 50% of the original list). However, the exact items recalled varied: an item remembered on one trial might be forgotten on the next, and vice-versa. This finding illustrates the distinction between availability and accessibility (Tulving & Pearlstone, 1966):
Items that are available in memory may not be accessible on any particular attempt at retrieval.
To some extent, accessibility is affected by encoding and storage factors: elaborate, organized memories are more reliably accessible than those that are not; and recent memories are more reliably accessible than remote ones. However, accessibility is also determined by factors present at the time of retrieval.
One important determinant of accessibility is the amount of cue information supplied with the query. Consider a comparison of three measures of episodic memory: as a general rule, free recall tests produce less memory than cued recall tests (Tulving & Pearlstone, 1966), while recognition tests produce the most. This is to be expected on the basis of the amount of information supplied with the retrieval cue. In free recall, the cue ("What were the words on the list you learned?") is very impoverished: at best, is specifies only the spatiotemporal context of the to-be-remembered event; in cued recall, additional information is supplied about the nature of the target event ("What were the animal names on the list?"); in recognition, the cue is a copy of the event itself ("Was one of the words LION or BEAR?). Such comparisons yield the cue-dependency principle (Tulving, 1974):
The probability of remembering an event increases with the amount of information supplied by the retrieval cue.
But effective retrieval cues must also contain the right kind of information, as well as the right amount. Thus, the word AMBER, studied in a list of words including ORANGE and RED, may be retrieved when cued by the category COLOR, but not when cued by the category FIRST NAME OF A GIRL OR WOMAN. This finding illustrates the encoding specificity principle (Tulving & Thomson, 1973):
The probability of remembering an event is a function of the extent to which cues processed at the time of encoding are also processed at the time of retrieval.
Encoding specificity appears to underlie the phenomena of state-dependent retention, in which psychoactive drugs such as alcohol or barbiturate are administered during encoding or retrieval: in these cases, memory is best when there is a match between the state in which the material was studied, and the state in which memory is tested (for a review, see Eich, 1980, 1989). Similar effects have been found for environmental setting (e.g., Smith, 1988), and emotional state (e.g., Eich & Metcalfe, 1989). Such "context-dependent memory" effects are themselves cue-dependent: they are typically found with free-recall tests, and only rarely on tests of cued recall and recognition (Eich, 1980). This suggests that contextual information is relatively weak, and can be swamped by other cues (Eich, 1980; Kihlstrom, 1989; Kihlstrom, Brenneman, Pistole, & Shor, 1985). Students taking multiple-choice exams are not aided by being seated in the same room in which they heard the lecture (and, in any event, much of the test concerns textbook material, which presumably was encoded in the library or dormitory). Nevertheless, such context effects do illustrate the importance of congruence between encoding and retrieval conditions, which is what the encoding specificity principle is all about.
Memory for particular events is importantly determined by our expectations and beliefs, represented as generic knowledge structures known as schemata. The first to appreciate this point was Bartlett (1932), in his attack on the associationistic tradition represented by Ebbinghaus and Thorndike. The important role played by such factors organized pre-existing knowledge illustrates the schematic processing principle (Hastie, 1980):
The probability of remembering an event is a function of the degree to which that event is congruent with pre-existing expectations and beliefs.
It turns out, however, that the precise relationship between event and schema is important. Some events are schema-congruent, meaning that they would be expected by the schema in place; others are schema-incongruent, or counterexpectational; still others are schema-irrelevant, meaning that they do not bear on the schema one way or the other. Although considerable research converges on the conclusion that schema-congruent events are remembered better than schema-irrelevant ones, Hastie and his colleagues (e.g., Hastie & Kumar, 1979; Hastie, 1980, 1981) have pointed out that schema-incongruent items are remembered best of all. The U-shaped function relating schema-congruence and memorability appears to find its explanation in two different processes. Schema-incongruent events, because of their surprising value, receive extra processing at the time of encoding, as the perceiver tries to take account of them. And at the time of retrieval, the subject can draw on the schema itself to generate cues that will help gain access to schema-congruent events. Schema-irrelevant events enjoy neither of these advantages, and thus are poorly remembered.
Bartlett's view of memory as schema-driven lies at the foundation of his view of remembering as reconstructive rather than reproductive. Just as perceiving an object is sometimes more like painting a picture than inspecting a photograph (Neisser, 1967, 1976), so remembering an event is more like writing a book than retrieving one from the shelf. Some evidence for the reconstructive nature of remembering is provided by Bransford and Franks' (1971) studies of sentence memory, in which subjects falsely recognize sentences whose meanings are consistent with those that they actually studied; and by studies by Loftus (1978) and others on the effects of leading questions and other misinformation on eyewitness testimony. Although Loftus' notion that post-event misinformation overwrites, and replaces, event information in memory has been strongly challenged (e.g., McCloskey & Zaragoza, 1985), nothing contradicts the notion that memory cannot be misled, confused, and biased by changes in perspective and other events occurring after the fact. These errors, confusions, and biases illustrate the reconstruction principle:
A memory of an event reflects a blend of information retrieved from a specific trace of that event with knowledge, expectations, and beliefs derived from other sources.
These five distinctions -- between declarative and procedural knowledge, episodic and semantic memory, explicit and implicit expressions, the stages of processing, and availability and accessibility -- and seven principles -- elaboration, organization, time-dependency, cue-dependency, schematic processing, encoding specificity, and reconstruction -- provide sort of an user's manual for the human memory system. We will have many occasions to observe their operation as we examine the prospects for the self-regulation of memory.
MNEMONICS AND MNEMOTECHNICS
Given these principles, it would seem that the prospects for the self-control of memory functioning would be relatively good, at least on the positive end. There are things we can do to promote remembering and prevent forgetting: for example, elaborating and organizing the material at the time of encoding, or supplying sufficient and appropriate cues at the time of retrieval. Since the time of ancient Greeks, these sorts of strategies have been codified in the form of a set of mnemonic devices, or techniques to aid in memory.
The history of mnemonic devices, from ancient times through the Renaissance, has been documented authoritatively by Yates (1966). In ancient Greece and Rome, when parchment was expensive and printing unknown, some system of memorizing was required by poets and orators, who had to deliver long addresses with a high degree of accuracy. Along with invention, disposition, elocution, and pronunciation, memory was one of the five aspects of rhetoric defined by Cicero in his De oratore of 55 B.C. The classical system of memory aids is commonly attributed to the poet Simonides of Ceos, who dramatically demonstrated their use by identifying the victims of a disaster through his knowledge of where they had been sitting at a banquet table. Simonides relied on the mnemonic of places and images, by which familiar places were selected as storage spaces for the items, represented by images, comprising that which we wish to remember.
The techniques of artificial memory were referred to in Aristotle's treatise, De memoria et reminiscentia (4th century B.C.), and codified in the anonymous Ad Herennium ("To Herennius") of 82 B.C.. The author of Ad Herennium, commonly (but wrongly, says Yates, 1966) thought to be Cicero himself, presents a detailed set of rules for the selection of places and images for memorizing. Ad Herennium formed the basis of all subsequent treatments of the ars memorativa, including Cicero's De oratore and Quintillian's Institutio oratore (1st century A.D). The mnemotechnics of Ad Herennium were revived in medieval Europe by Albertus Magnus (in De bono) and by Thomas Aquinas (in Summa Theologiae) -- both seeing artificial memory as an aspect of the virtue of prudence. In 1596, the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci brought the system of places and images to China, as an example of the powers to be acquired with conversion to Christianity (Spence, 1984).
The method of places and images also forms the basis of the most popular mnemonics of the modern era, the method of loci, the pegword technique, the link method, bizarre imagery, and the keyword system (Bellezza, 1981; for popular treatments, see Cermak, 1976; Herrmann, 1988; Higbee, 1977; Lorayne & Lucas, 1974). The method of loci is the "places and images" technique in pure form: subjects mentally associate each item to be remembered with a familiar spatial location on a mental map. In the pegword system, subjects first memorize a simple rhyming scheme -- ONE-BUN, TWO-SHOE, THREE-TREE, etc. -- and then associate an image of each to-be-remembered item with the concrete objects referred to. In the link method, the pegwords are dropped, and subjects are instructed to associate adjacent items together in an interactive image -- the more unusual, even bizarre, the better. Finally, in the keyword mnemonic for learning foreign-language vocabulary, a foreign word is represented by a substitute word in the native language, and the two words are associated by means of visual imagery.
There are also verbal mnemonic systems, such as the use of the acronym ROY G BIV (in the United States) or the sentence RICHARD OF YORK GAINS BATTLES IN VAIN (in England) to remember the colors of the visible spectrum in order of wavelength; EVERY GOOD BOY DOES FINE for the lines of the treble clef in music, and GOOD BOYS DO FINE ALWAYS (or GOOD BOYS DESERVE FUDGE ALWAYS, depending on your childhood piano teacher) for the corresponding lines in the bass clef; the spaces are F-A-C-E for the treble clef and ALL COWS EAT GRASS for the bass. Such systems are familiar in the training of health-care providers, who must often memorize ordered lists of things like bones and muscles. SOME CRIMINALS HAVE UNDERESTIMATED ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE gives the bones of the upper limbs (scapula, clavicle, humerus, ulna, radius, carpals, metacarpals, and phalanges); LAZY ZULU PURSUING DARK DAMOSELS gives the stages of cell division (leptotene, zygotene, pachytene, dilotene, and diakinesis); LAZY FRENCH TART LYING NAKED IN ANTICIPATION gives the order of cranial nerves in the superior orbital tissue of the skull (lacrimal, frontal, trochlear, lateral, nasociliary, internal, and abducens). By the way, the racism and sexism of these mnemonics is in the original, and it is probably not an accident that these sentences were originally designed to serve the professional advancement of white men. There is probably an entire sociological thesis to be written on the role of racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual categories in mnemonic devices.
Finally, the following rhyme offered by Baddeley (1976) provides the first 20 digits of pi (each digit given by the number of letters in the word):
I wish I could remember Pi
Eureka cried the great inventor
Christmas Pudding Christmas Pie
Is the problem's very center.
One important feature of the modern approach, however, is that it puts folk wisdom and rhetorical claims to empirical test (Bower, 1970a; Higbee, 1978, 1988; McDaniel & Pressley, 1987; Morris, 1978; Pressley & Mullally, 1984; Pressley & McDaniel, 1988; Roediger, 1980; Wood, 1967). So, for example, Bugelski, Kidd, and Segmen (1968) showed that the pegword system actually works, except under those conditions where subjects are not given enough time to form appropriate images. Bower and Reitman (1972) showed that the same pegs could be used to memorize several different lists of words, so long as each new image was included in a compound of previously formed images. Under these conditions of progressive elaboration, the pegword system and the method of loci were equally effective. Roediger (1980) confirmed this finding, and showed further that the loci, pegword, and link methods were superior to rote rehearsal, or the formation of mental images of the objects represented by individual words. Wollen, Weber, and Lowry (1972) showed that while mnemonically effective images interact, they need not be bizarre; in fact, bizarre images may even interfere with memory (Collyer, Jonides, & Bevan, 1972).
Regardless of these qualifications, ample testimony to the effectiveness of mnemonic techniques is provided by single-case studies of amateur and professional mnemonists (Brown & Deffenbacher, 1975; Gordon, Valentine, & Wilding, 1984; Wilding & Valentine, 1985). Shereshevskii (S.), the subject of the classic study by Luria (1968), possessed a remarkable talent for synesthesia, which apparently allowed him to form extremely rich, distinctive images of to-be-remembered material. He also made extensive use of the method of loci, drawing on his detailed knowledge of Moscow. He also used a variety of verbal and semantic strategies, including the grouping of nonsense syllables to produce pseudo-Russian letter strings. Other mnemonists who have been studied, including W.J. Bottell, known in England as "Datas" (1904) and the model for "Mr. Memory" in Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, relied heavily on visual imagery. Similarly, A.C. Aitken, a mathematician at the University of Edinburgh with a reputation as a lightning calculator, employed verbal recoding, as well as rhythm (Hunter, 1962, 1977): he was able to recall the value of pi to 1,000 decimal places! Subject SF, an athlete studied by Chase and Ericsson (1982), learned to memorize strings of up to 81 digits, after only one presentation trial, by converting chunks of digits into running times that were meaningful to him. On the other hand, Subject VP, a store clerk studied by Hunt and Love (1972), generally neglected the classic mnemonic techniques, relying instead on verbal recoding strategies and rote memorization.
Interest in mnemonic devices continues, especially among those concerned with the treatment of individuals with learning and memory disorders: mentally retarded and learning disabled children and adults, the aged, and the brain-damaged; mnemonics are also popular with teachers of foreign language vocabulary. An extremely interesting aspect of research mnemonics concerns cross-cultural differences in memory, particularly comparisons between literate and preliterate cultures (Cole & Gay, 1972; Cole, Gay, Click, & Sharp, 1971; Wagner, 1978a, 1978b).
Clearly, the effectiveness of these mnemonic devices illustrates the principles of encoding and retrieval discussed earlier. The method of loci, and the pegword system, connects list items to things that are already known -- in our terms, it promotes elaboration. Similarly, the images involved in the pegword link systems provide for elaborate, rich, and distinctive encodings of single items. The organizational principle is illustrated by the pegword system, in which the sound of the integer serves as a cue for the name of the pegword; and then the pegword provides a contextual cue for retrieval of the list item itself -- as does the familiar place in the method of loci. In the link method, successive items are grouped together in images -- another instance of organizational processing. Perhaps the relative inefficacy of bizarre images reflects the difficulty of retrieving unusual or unfamiliar interitem links. Finally, the success of interactive images in bringing list items to mind illustrates the principles of cue-dependency and encoding specificity in retrieval.
At the same time, the utility of mnemonic devices would seem to be limited. Perhaps reflecting their origins in the needs of poets and orators with limited access to paper and printing, they are best at preserving the order in which items were presented. When order need not be preserved, their advantages over other encoding strategies is reduced (Roediger, 1980). More important, some mnemonic devices require enormous expenditures of cognitive effort on the part of subjects, both in memorizing the mnemonic, and in memorizing the material that the mnemonic is supposed to help reproduce. Consider the remark of one of Matteo Ricci's pupils, as reported by Spence (1984): "It takes a lot of memory to remember these things". Is the "Zulu" sentence for bones or nerves? And what was that "pi" jingle (and who needs to know that value to more than four digits, anyway?
(Roediger & Thorpe, 1978) and increasing practice with retrieval (Roediger & Payne, 1982). Similarly, early findings from Erdelyi's laboratory yielded hypermnesia when pictures, but not words, served as the to-be-remembered items (Erdelyi & Becker, 1974). This situation led Erdelyi (1982, 1984, 1988) to suggest that pictorial materials were privileged with respect to hypermnesia, and to speculate that imaginal processing is an important mediator of the effect. However, some experiments (e.g., Belmore, 1981; Erdelyi, Buschke, & Finkelstein, 1977; Roediger & Thorpe, 1978) have obtained hypermnesia for verbal materials, so the difference between verbal and nonverbal representations, or verbal vs. nonverbal processing, cannot be critical.
A series of experiments by Mross, Klein, and Kihlstrom have shed more light on the conditions under which hypermnesia for words, and perhaps hypermnesia in general, occurs (Klein, Loftus, Kihlstrom, & Aseron, 1989; Mross, Klein, Loftus, & Kihlstrom, 1991). Mross et al. (1991), replicating the procedures of Erdelyi and Becker (1974), found significant hypermnesia for both pictures and words, although the magnitude of the effect was greater in the former case. In a second study, their stimulus materials shifted from words and pictures representing concrete objects to trait adjectives representing highly abstract personality descriptors. Following the "levels of processing" paradigm of Craik and Lockhart (1972), independent groups of subjects studied the items under one of four conditions: orthographic, phonemic, semantic, and self-referent: they then completed a series of two or three recall trials without any further study of the list. Significant hypermnesia was observed only in the self-referent condition. A third study replicated this finding, substituting an imagery task for the phonemic condition of Experiment 2. A fourth experiment compared just the phonemic and self-referent condition, and found evidence of hypermnesia only in the latter. A final experiment by Klein et al. (1989) showed that pleasantness ratings (an elaborative task involving the processing of single items) increases the intertrial recovery component of hypermnesia, while category sorting (an organizational task involving the processing of interitem associations) decreases the intertrial forgetting component. Hypermnesia results from an net advantage of intertrial recovery over intertrial forgetting. Thus, both elaborative and organizational processing promote hypermnesia, though the end is accomplished by different means in the two cases.
The findings of these experiments speak to a number of theoretical controversies concerning the nature of the hypermnesia effect. For example, Erdelyi (1982, 1984, 1988) has suggested that imaginal (nonverbal) processing is critical for the occurrence of hypermnesia. Mross et al. (1990) obtained hypermnesia for words in four separate experiments, and Klein et al. (1989) added a fifth, even though no imagery instructions were given to the subjects. Of course, it might be the case that the subjects spontaneously engaged in such a recoding process. However, the use of highly abstract personality trait terms as stimuli in the work of Mross et al. (1990), and the failure of explicit imagery instructions to produce hypermnesia, diminish this possibility to a considerable extent. The effects of imaginal processing may be mediated by a more general effect of elaborative processing at the time of encoding. Imaginal processing may be a highly effective way to produce elaborate encodings, but other processing tasks could be equally or more effective in this regard (Belmore, 1981; Klein et al., 1989).
In the final analysis, Mross' and Klein's experiments indicate that the amount of hypermnesia observed with words, at least, is a function of the manner in which they are processed: self-referent processing yielded hypermnesia, while orthographic, phonemic, and semantic processing did not. Elaborative processing promotes intertrial recovery, while organizational processing prevents intertrial forgetting. These results join those of others who have found effect of encoding variables on hypermnesia within an intentional-learning paradigm -- although they differ in that significant hypermnesia was not obtained in the semantic condition of Experiment 2 (Belmore, 1981; Roediger, Payne, Gillespie, & Lean, 1982).
On the other hand, Roediger and his colleagues have argued that retrieval factors are critical in producing hypermnesia. Roediger (1982; Roediger et al., 1982; see also Roediger & Thorpe, 1978) noted that cumulative recall functions, of which hypermnesia could be considered a special case (in which intertrial recovery exceeds intertrial forgetting), have the property that the higher the asymptote of recall, the more slowly that asymptote is approached. Thus, according to their argument, hypermnesia is more likely to be shown in cases where initial levels of recall are high. Pictures generally show higher initial recall than words; and words subject to imaginal or elaborative encoding show higher initial recall then those that are not. However, they argue that hypermnesia is not due to encoding conditions per se; rather, any condition resulting in high initial levels of recall would have the same effect. Thus, they showed that claim that high levels of cumulative recall -- their characterization of hypermnesia -- is more likely to be obtained on a semantic memory task involving the generation of instances from large rather than small categories (Roediger et al., 1982).
On the other hand, Mross et al. (1991, Experiment 4) arranged their stimulus materials in such a way as to reverse the normal relation between level of processing and level of recall. Paralleling the set-size manipulation of Roediger et al. (1982), four times as many items were presented for a phonemic judgment as for a semantic one. More phonemic than semantic items were recalled on the initial trial, and overall, indicating that asymptotic levels of recall were higher in the phonemic condition. Nevertheless, there was no hypermnesia observed in the phonemic condition. These results are not consistent with the hypothesis that level of recall determines the extent of hypermnesia; but they are consistent with the hypothesis that encoding factors play an important role.
Of course, as Erdelyi (1982) argued and Roediger and Challis now (1988) agree, cumulative recall is not the same as hypermnesia (see also Payne, 1986, 1987). Almost any set of conditions will show an incremental recall function, reflected in the appearance of new items over trials, but not all conditions yield hypermnesia, reflected in a net increase in recall from trial to trial. In terms of the usual repeated-testing procedure, cumulative recall is sensitive only to intertrial recovery. The problem is that intertrial recovery is necessary, but not sufficient, for hypermnesia to occur. What is needed additionally is either for intertrial forgetting to be reduced, or for intertrial recovery to exceed intertrial forgetting. Intertrial forgetting is the key to hypermnesia, and cumulative recall functions ignore this factor altogether.
In any event, the findings of Roediger et al's set-size experiment may be amenable to an alternative explanation in terms of encoding rather than retrieval processes. In the specific categories employed by Roediger, category size seems to have been confounded with the extent of interitem associations. The greatest cumulative recall was observed for sports and the least for U.S. presidents, with birds falling somewhere inbetween. Accessing one item from the sport category, then, would be very likely to lead to the retrieval of another item from that category, and so on. In addition, more items in the sports category could serve as subject- generated retrieval cues, suggesting sports that have not yet been retrieved. Thus, the important factor is not the number of items in the set, but rather the richness of the associative network linking the items to each other.
Consistent with this point, research by Klein et al. (1989) indicates that tasks promoting well-organized and richly elaborated encodings are powerful determinants of hypermnesia for verbal material. In their study, reliable hypermnesia for word lists was found with tasks encouraging either elaborative or organizational processing at encoding; and when encoding conditions encouraged both elaborative and organizational processing, more hypermnesia was found than for either type of processing alone. It should be recalled that the recovery of previously unrecalled items is ubiquitous in multitrial experiments; thus, cumulative recall always increases across trials, and hypermnesia occurs in those instances where intertrial recovery exceeds intertrial forgetting. In the final analysis, Klein et al. found that both elaborative and organizational activity contributed to hypermnesia; elaborative activity promotes intertrial recovery, while organization prevents intertrial forgetting.
In summary, studies of hypermnesia offer a new perspective on the enhancement of memory, by showing that items, once lost, are not necessarily gone forever. Continued efforts at retrieval will almost always yield previously forgotten material, even in the absence of changes in cue information provided to the subject (such as are accomplished by shifts from free recall to cued recall or recognition). However, there are clear limits on the magnitude of this effect. Under ordinary circumstances, the number of initially forgotten items that are subsequently recovered is equalled, or even surpassed, by the number of initially remembered items that are subsequently forgotten. Thus, in many cases, net recall remains constant at best; more likely it decreases, producing the phenomenon of time-dependency retrieval. But just as there are strategies that can be employed to promote good initial recall, there are strategies that enhance intertrial recovery and diminish intertrial forgetting. Item gains are enhanced by elaborative activity, which produces a rich, distinctive memory trace that is more likely to be contacted by search and retrieval processes. Similarly, item losses are reduced by organizational activity, which focuses on the similarities among items, and thus enhances the likelihood that recollection of one item will serve as a cue for the retrieval of another one.
The popular reputation of hypnosis as a means of transcending one's normal voluntary capacity -- as reflected in the "generation of hypers" noted by Marcuse (1959), coupled with fact that hypnotic suggestions can produce profound alterations in cognitive functioning, has led some investigators to suggest that it can be employed to enhance memory, over and above whatever effects can be achieved by the use of mnemonic devices and other strategies available to nonhypnotized subjects. This technique was employed by Breuer and Freud (1893-1895) in their Studies on Hysteria, and was revived in World War I and again in World War II as an adjunct to brief hypnotherapy for war neurosis (Grinker & Spiegel, 1945; Watkins, 1949; for a particularly vivid portrayal of this technique, see John Huston's 1944-1945 propaganda film, Let There Be Light). More recently, hypnotic techniques have been employed in "past lives therapy", an occult practice in which patients search for the source of their present troubles in the sins and misfortunes of their previous existences; and in forensic situations, where witnesses and victims, and even suspects and defendants, may be hypnotized in the process of gathering evidence in civil and criminal cases.
Hypnosis and Learning
Although most attention in this area focuses on the effects of hypnosis on the retrieval of memories initially encoded in the normal waking state, a number of studies have examined the question of whether learning itself can be enhanced through hypnosis. Certainly this line of research received some impetus from the reports of many 19th-century authorities that mesmerized or hypnotized subjects gave evidence of the transcendence of normal voluntary capacity: changes ranging from increases in verbal fluency and physical strength to clairvoyance. Nevertheless, an early study by Gray (1934) answered the question only weakly in the affirmative: a small group of poor spellers improved their spelling ability somewhat when the learning occurred in hypnosis. Similarly, Sears (1955) reported that subjects who learned Morse Code in hypnosis made fewer errors than those whose learning took place under nonhypnotic conditions.
More dramatic results were reported in a series of studies by Cooper and his associates, employing hypnotic time distortion and hallucinated practice. Briefly, subjects were asked to hallucinate engaging in some activity, and at its conclusion were given suggestions that a long interval had passed (e.g., 30 minutes) when the actual elapsed time had been considerably shorter (e.g., 10 seconds). The idea is that this expansion of subjective time effectively increases the amount of study, or practice, that could be performed per unit of objective time. Cooper and Erickson (1950, 1954) reported, for example, that hallucinated practice led to marked improvement in a subject's ability to play the violin. A more systematic study by Cooper and Rodgin (1954), concerned with the learning of nonsense syllables, also gave positive results. Unfortunately, there were no statistical tests of the differences between treatment conditions; even so, the effects of hypnotic time distortion and hallucinated practice were seen only on the immediate test; the superiority of hypnosis virtually disappeared at retest, 24 hours later. Another study, by Cooper and Tuthill (1954), found no objective improvements in handwriting with hallucinated practice in time distortion, even though the subjects generally perceived themselves as having improved. A more recent experiment also yielded negative results (Barber & Calverley, 1964).
On the other hand, Krauss, Katzell, and Krauss (1974) reported positive findings in a study of verbal learning: hypnotized subjects were allotted three minutes to study the list, but were told they had studied it for 10 minutes. Unfortunately, Johnson (1976) and Wagstaff and Ovenden (1979) failed to replicate these results: in fact, their subjects did worse under time distortion than in control conditions. In the most comprehensive study to date, St. Jean (1980) repeated the essential features of the Krauss et al. design, paying careful attention to details of subject selection and the wording of the suggestion. Although the highly hypnotizable subjects reported that they experienced distortions of the passage of time, as suggested, there were no effects on learning.
The combination of time distortion and hallucinated practice is ingenious, but of course it makes some assumptions that are not necessarily valid. First, can mental practice substitute for actual physical practice? In fact, there is considerable evidence for this proposition (Feltz & Landers, 1983). Because hypnotic hallucinations are closely related to mental images, there is no reason to think that hallucinated practice might not be effective as well. But time distortion is another matter: the assumption is that the hallucination of something is the same as the thing itself, and there is no reason to think that this is the case. In fact, such an assumption flies in the face of a wealth of literature on hypnotic hallucinations, which shows that they are inadequate substitutes for the actual stimulus state of affairs (Sutcliffe, 1960, 1961; Kihlstrom & Hoyt, 1988). Thus, while hypnosis, and hypnotic suggestion, can produce distortions in time perception, just as they can produce other distortions in subjective experience, these distortions do not necessarily have consequences for learning and memory (St. Jean, 1989).
A rather different approach to this problem has been taken by investigators who have offered subjects direct suggestions for improved learning, without reference to time distortion or hallucinated practice (e.g., Fowler, 1961; Parker & Barber, 1964). Unfortunately, interpretation of such studies is made difficult by a number of methodological considerations (for a review of methodological problems in hypnosis research, see Sheehan & Perry, 1977). For example, the induction of hypnosis might merely increase the motivation of subjects to engage in the experimental task (Barber, 1969; London & Fuhrer, 1961), independent of any effects of hypnosis per se. Moreover, subjects may respond to the demand characteristics of such an experiment by holding back on their performance during baseline tests and other nonhypnotic conditions, thus manifesting an illusory improvement under hypnosis (Scharf & Zamansky, 1963; Zamansky, Scharf, & Brightbill, 1964). Some of these problems have been addressed by a special paradigm introduced by London and Fuhrer (1961), in which hypnotizable subjects are compared to objectively insusceptible subjects who have been persuaded that they are responsive to hypnosis. To this may be added procedures adopted by Zamansky and Scharf (Scharf & Zamansky, 1963; Zamansky, Scharf, & Brightbill, 1964) to evaluate order effects driven by expectancies generated by the comparison of hypnotic and nonhypnotic conditions.
Studies of muscular performance using the unadorned London-Fuhrer design have generally found that when subjects are given hypnotic exhortations for enhancement, equivalent performance levels are shown by hypnotizable subjects and insusceptible subjects who believe that they are hypnotizable (e.g., Evans & Orne, 1965; London & Fuhrer, 1961). Similar results have been obtained for measures of rote learning (London, Conant, & Davison, 1965; Rosenhan & London, 1963; Schulman & London, 1963). Thus, the available evidence suggests that hypnotic suggestions do not enhance the learning process. However, it should be noted that most of these studies have used an hypnotic induction based on suggestions for relaxation and sleep, which might interfere with both motor performance and learning. Relaxation is not necessary for hypnosis, however (Banyai & Hilgard, 1976), and it remains possible that different results would be obtained if suggestions for an active, alert form of hypnosis were given instead. Moreover, suggestions that capitalize on the hypnotized subject's capacity for imaginative involvement may prove to be better than mere exhortations (Slotnick, Liebert, and Hilgard, 1965). Thus, the issue of the hypnotic enhancement of learning and performance should not be considered closed.
Hypnosis and Remembering
Laboratory studies of hypermnesia have a history extending back to the beginnings of the modern period of hypnosis research (for other reviews, see Erdelyi, 1988; Smith, 1983). For example, Young (1925, 1926) taught his subjects lists of nonsense syllables in the normal waking state, and then subsequently tested recall in and out of hypnosis, each time motivating subjects for maximal recall. There was no advantage of hypnosis over the waking test. Later experiments employing nonsense syllables also failed to find any effect of hypnosis (Baker, Haynes, & Patrick, 1983; Barber & Calverly, 1966; Huse, 1930; Mitchell, 1932). By contrast, studies employing meaningful linguistic or pictorial material have sometimes shown hypermnesia effects. Stalnaker and Riddle (1932) tested college students on their recollections for prose passages and verse that had been committed to memory at least one year previously. Testing in hypnosis, with suggestions for hypermnesia, resulted in a significant enhancement over waking recall. These findings have been confirmed by other investigators who tested memory for prose, poetry, filmed material, and real-world memories (DePiano & Salzberg, 1982; Hofling, Heyl, & Wright, 1971; Young, 1926). In the first direct comparison of nonsense with meaningful material, White, Fox, and Harris (1940) found that hypermnesia suggestions resulted in a striking improvement in memory for the poetry and travelogue, but had no effect on memory for nonsense syllables. Similar results were also obtained by Rosenthal (1944) and Dhanens and Lundy (1975), who compared nonsense syllables with poetry and with prose, respectively.
On the basis of this kind of evidence, it might be concluded that laboratory studies tend to support the conclusions from uncontrolled case studies. However, it should be noted that the effects achieved in the laboratory, while sometimes statistically significant, are rarely dramatic. Moreover, it fairly clear that any gains obtained during hypnosis are not attributable to hypnosis per se, but rather to normal hypermnesia effects of the sort described earlier. Thus, at least four investigations (Nogrady, McConkey, & Perry, 1985; Register & Kihlstrom, 1987, 1988; Whitehouse, Dinges, Orne, & Orne, 1991), adapting the hypermnesia paradigm introduced by Erdelyi and Becker (1974), found significant increments in memory for pictures or words in trials conducted during hypnosis; but these increments were matched, if not exceeded, by gains made by control subjects tested without hypnosis. Two studies have observed small gains in memory attributable to hypnosis (Shields & Knox, 1986; Stager & Lundy, 1985), but neither finding has been replicated (Lytle & Lundy, 1988). Moreover, Register and Kihlstrom (1987, 1988) found in that levels of hypermnesia were no higher in hypnotizable subjects than in those who were insusceptible to hypnosis -- thus strengthening the inference that whatever improvements occurred were the result of nonhypnotic processes.
Most important, it seems clear that the increase in valid memory may be accompanied by an equivalent or greater increment in confabulations and false recollections. In the experiment by Stalnaker and Riddle (1932), for example, hypnosis produced a substantial increase in confabulation over the normal waking state, so that overall memory accuracy was very poor. Apparently the hypnotized subjects were more willing to attempt recall, and to accept their productions -- however erroneous they proved to be -- as reasonable facsimiles of the originals. These conclusions are supported by more recent experiments by Dywan (1988; Dywan & Bowers, 1983) and Nogrady et al. (1986), who found that hypnotic suggestions for hypermnesia produced more false recollections by hypnotizable than insusceptible subjects. Whitehouse et al. (1991) found that hynosis increased the confidence associated with memory reports that had been characterized as mere guesses on a prehypnotic test. Dywan and Bowers (1983) have suggested that hypnosis impairs the process of reality monitoring, so that hypnotized subjects are more likely to confuse imagination with perception (Johnson & Raye, 1981).
Proponents of forensic hypnosis often discount these sorts of findings on the ground that they are obtained in sterile, laboratory investigations that bear little resemblance to the real-world circumstances in which hypnosis is actually used -- an argument that closely resembles that made by some researchers allied with the "ecological memory" movement (for critiques, see Banaji & Crowder, 1989, 1991; for more positive views, see Aanstoos, 1991; Bahrick, 1991; Conway, 1991; Ceci & Bronfenbrenner, 1991; Gruenberg, Morris, & Sykes, 1991; Loftus, 1991; Morton, 1991; Neisser, 1978, 1991; for attempts at reconciliation, see Bruce, 1991; Klatzky, 1991; Roediger, 1991; Tulving, 1991). However, the evidence supporting this assertion is rather weak. Reiser (1976), a police department psychologist who has trained many investigators in hypnosis, has claimed that the vast majority of investigators who tried hypnosis found it to be helpful; but such testimonials cannot substitute for actual evidence. In fact, a remarkable doctoral dissertation by Sloane (1981), conducted under Reiser's supervision randomly assigned witnesses and victims in actual cases being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department to hypnotic and nonhypnotic conditions, and found no advantage for hypnosis. A study by Timm (1981), in which police officers themselves were witnesses to a mock crime (after having been relieved of their firearms through a ruse!), gave similar results.
A later study by Geiselman, Fisher, MacKinnon, and Holland (1985), employing very lifelike police training films as stimuli and actual police officers as investigators, did show some advantage for hypnosis over an untreated control condition; however, the benefits of hypnosis were matched by unhypnotized subjects led through a "cognitive interview" capitalizing on various cognitive strategies (unfortunately, there was no comparison condition in which the cognitive interview was administered during hypnosis). Thus, the available evidence does not indicate that hypnosis has any privileged status as a technique for enhancing memory. To paraphrase Nogrady et al. (1985), trying hypnosis seems to be no better than merely trying again.
In fact, trying hypnosis may make things worse, because hypnosis -- almost by definition -- entails enhanced responsiveness to suggestion. Therefore, if memory is tainted by leading questions and other suggestive influences, as Loftus' work suggests, these elements may be even more likely to incorporated into memories that have been refreshed by hypnosis. Putnam (1979) was the first to demonstrate this effect. He exposed his subjects to a variant of Loftus' (1975) paradigm, in which subjects viewed a videotape of a traffic accident followed by an interrogation that included leading questions. Those subjects who were interviewed while they were hypnotized were more likely to incorporate the misleading postevent information into their memory reports. Similar results were obtained by Zelig and Beidelman (1981) and Sanders and Simmons (1983). Register and Kihlstrom (1987), employing a variant of Loftus' procedure introduced by Gudjonsson (1984), failed to find that hypnosis increased interrogative suggestibility; but errors introduced during the hypnotic test did carry over to subsequent nonhypnotic tests. An extensive and complex series of studies by Sheehan and his colleagues (e.g., Sheehan, 1987, 1988a, 1988b; Sheehan & Grigg, 1985; Sheehan, Grigg, & McCann, 1984; Sheehan & Tilden, 1983, 1984, 1986) found that subjects tested during hypnosis were more confident in their memory reports than were those tested in the normal waking state -- regardless of the accuracy of these reports.
The situation is even worse, apparently, when the suggestions are more explicit, as in the case of hypnotically suggested paramnesias (Kihlstrom & Hoyt, 1990; Levitt & Chapman, 1979; Reyher, 1967). Laurence and Perry (1983) suggested (falsely, of course) to a group of hypnotized subjects that on a particular night they had awakened to a noise. After hypnosis was terminated, all the subjects remembered the suggested event as if it had actually occurred; almost half of the subjects maintained this belief even when told that the event had been suggested to them by the hypnotist. Similar results were obtained by a number of investigators (Labelle, Laurence, Nadon, & Perry, 1990; Lynn, Milano, & Weekes, 1991; McCann & Sheehan, 1988; McConkey & Kinoshita, 1985-1986; McConkey, Labelle, Bibb, & Bryant, 1990; Sheehan, Statham, & Jamieson, 1991; Spanos, Gwynn, Comer, Baltruweit, & deGroh, 1989; Spanos & McLean, 1985-1986). Unfortunately, the precise conditions under which the pseudomemory effect can be obtained remain obscure. Equally important, it remains unclear whether the pseudomemories reflect actual changes in stored memory traces or biases in memory reporting -- an issue that also has been raised in the postevent misinformation effect observed outside hypnosis (e.g., McCloskey & Zaragoza, 1985; Loftus, Schooler, & Wagenaar, 1985; Metcalfe, 1990; Tversky & Tuchin, 1989).
Direct suggestions for hypermnesia are often accompanied by suggestions for age-regression: that the subject is reverting to an earlier period in his or her own life, reliving an event, and acting in a manner characteristic, of that age (for reviews, see Nash, 1987; Perry, Laurence, D'Eon, & Tallant, 1988; Reiff & Scheerer, 1959; O'Connell, Shor, & Orne, 1970; Yates, 1961). Most research on this phenomenon has addressed the question of whether the age-regressed adult reverts to modes of psychological functioning that are characteristic of the target age, typically in childhood. Upon closer examination, however, the naive concept hypnotic age regression proves to be a complex blend of three elements: ablation, the functional loss of the person's knowledge, abilities, and memories acquired after the suggested age; reinstatement, a return to archaic, or at least chronologically earlier modes, of cognitive and emotional functioning (i.e., procedural and semantic knowledge); and revivification, improved access to memories (i.e., episodic knowledge) from the suggested age (and before).
There is no evidence that the subject age-regressed to childhood loses access to his or her adult knowledge and abilities (O'Connell et al., 1970; Orne, 1951; Perry & Walsh, 1978). Thus, adults regressed to childhood, and asked to take dictation from the hypnotist, may write, in a childlike hand but without spelling errors, the sentence "I am conducting an experiment which will assess my psychological capacities" -- a behavior that is clearly beyond the capacity of most children; alternatively, an adult who arrived in America as a monolingual child may reply in his native tongue to questions posed to him in English (Orne, 1951). Such conduct is one of the classic examples of what Orne (1959) called trance logic -- the hypnotized subject's tendency to freely mix illusion and reality while responding to hypnotic suggestions. Although the interpretation of trance logic is controversial (e.g., Spanos, 1986; McConkey, Bryant, Bibb, & Kihlstrom, 1991), contradictions between childlike and adult behavior have been observed too often to sustain the notion that age-regression involves the forgetting of adult procedural and declarative knowledge. It is possible, as Spanos (1986) has suggested, that trance logic reflects incomplete responding on the part of hypnotized subjects. On the other hand, it is also possible that the contradictions observed in age regression reflect the impact of adult knowledge that is denied to conscious awareness, but nevertheless continues to influence the behavior and experience of the age-regressed subject -- much in the manner of an implicit memory (Schacter, 1987).
In principle, however, the prospects for reinstatement are more promising: the hallucinated environment created by age regression may provide a context that facilitates the retrieval of procedural knowledge characteristic of childhood. Nevertheless, the evidence for reinstatement is ambiguous. As (1962) found a college student who had spoken a Finnish-Swedish dialect until age eight, but who no longer remembered the language; his knowledge of the language improved somewhat under hypnotic age-regression. More dramatic findings were obtained by Fromm (1970) in a nisei student who denied any knowledge of Japanese; when age-regressed, she broke into fluent if childish Japanese. In contrast, Kihlstrom (1978a) reported an unsuccessful attempt to revive Mandarin in a college undergraduate who had not spoken the language since kindergarten in Taiwan. What accounts for these different outcomes is not clear: Fromm's subject was highly hypnotizable, and had been imprisoned in an American concentration camp during World War II (suggesting that her knowledge of Japanese had been covered by repression); Kihlstrom's subject was completely refractory to hypnosis.
In terms of experimental studies, Nash (1987) has found no convincing evidence favoring the reinstatement of childlike modes of mental functioning, whether these are defined in terms of physiological responses (e.g., the Babinski reflex, in which the toes fan upward in response to plantar stimulation), loss of mental age on IQ tests (e.g., the Stanford-Binet), reversion to preconceptual (Werner) or preformal (Piaget) modes of thought (e.g., failing to predict the order in which three spheres will emerge from a hollow tube after it has been rotated through half or whole turns; defining right or wrong in terms of what is rewarded or punished), or perceptual processes (e.g., changes in magnitude of the Ponzo and Poggendorf illusions; the return of eidetic imagery ostensibly prominent in children). Perhaps the most compelling evidence for reinstatement are studies by Nash and his colleagues (Nash, Johnson, & Tipton, 1979; Nash, Lynn, Stanley, Frauman, & Rhue, 1985), in which subjects regressed to age 3 and imagining a frightening situation, behaved in an age-appropriate manner: searching for teddy bears and other "transitional objects". Interestingly, insusceptible subjects simulating hypnosis do not behave in this manner. However, these results are vitiated to some extent by interviews of the subjects' mothers, which revealed that the transitional objects chosen by the age-regressed subjects were not typically those actually possessed by those subjects as children (Nash, Drake, Wiley, Khalsa, & Lynn, 1986). Thus, as Nash (1987) noted, age-regression may reinstate childlike modes of emotional functioning, but it does not necessarily revive specific childhood memories.
The revivification component of age regression is conceptually similar to the recovery of memory in hypermnesia; and, as with reinstatement, it is possible, at least in principle, that the hallucination of an age-appropriate environment might facilitate the retrieval of childhood memories. Everyone who has administered a the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale Form C, which includes a suggestion for age regression, has observed subjects who appear to relive episodes from childhood that have been forgotten, or not remembered for a long time. Supporting these observations, Young (1926) was able to elicit a substantial number of early recollections, whose accuracy was independently verified, in two hypnotizable subjects. And more recently, Hofling, Heyl, and Wright (1971) compared subjects' recall of personal experiences to actual diary entries made at the time, and found superior memory during hypnosis compared to a nonhypnotic session. Unfortunately, neither of these experiments examined false recollections that may have been produced by the subjects; and the obvious difficulty in obtaining independent verification effectively prevents many more studies of this sort from being done, in order to understand better the conditions under which these improvements in memory might be obtained.
In the absence of independent confirmation, it should be understood that the apparent enhancement of memory occurring as a result of hypnosis may be illusory. But even independent confirmation does not guarantee that hypnosis itself is responsible for the appearance of revivification: the enhancement of memory may come from general world-knowledge or cues provided by the experimenter, rather than improved access to trace information. The salient cautionary tale is provided by True (1949), who reported that age-regressed subjects were able to identify at better than chance levels the day of the week on which their birthdays, and Christmas, fell in their fourth, seventh, and tenth years. Yates (1961) and Barber (1969) noted that the correct day can be calculated by the use of a fairly simple algorithm. However, it remains to be seen whether most, or even many, subjects know the formula in question; moreover, the procedure requires that subjects know the day of the week on which these holidays fall in the current year -- information that is probably not known by most subjects. More to the point, it is now known that the experimenter in question knew the answers to the questions as they were asked; when the experimenter is kept blind to the correct answer, response levels fall to chance (O'Connell et al., 1970).
Notes on Forensic Hypnosis
Despite the poverty of evidence supporting the idea that memory can be enhanced by hypnotic suggestions, hypnosis has come to be used by police officers, attorneys, and even judges in an effort to refresh or bolster the memories of witnesses, victims, and suspects in criminal investigations. Their conviction in the utility of forensic hypnosis is bolstered by occasional cases in which the use of hypnosis was associated with the recovery of useful clues (e.g., Dorcus, 1960; Raginsky, 1969). One such case was the kidnapping, in Chowchilla, California, of a schoolbus full of children: when hypnotized, the driver recalled a portion of a license plate that was eventually traced to a vehicle used by the perpetrators (Kroger & Douce, 1979). Such successes, when combined with reports of the hypnotic recovery of traumatic memories during psychotherapy (e.g., Breuer & Freud, 1893-1895) has led to the development of a virtual industry of forensic hypnosis.
Of course, Freud later concluded that the reports of his patients were fantasies, not veridical memories. And although the Chowchilla kidnapping is often counted as a success, it is often forgotten that the driver also recalled a license tag that had no connection to the crime; it was other evidence that led to the successful solution to the case. Then, too, Dorcus (1960) had reported as many successes as failures in his own experience: reviewing his cases, the operative factor seems to have been the extent to which the memories were encoded in the first place. Moreover, a number of instances have been recorded where the memories produced by hypnotized witnesses and victims have proved highly implausible or even false (for a sampling, see Orne, 1979).
The inherent unreliability of hypnotically elicited memories -- the difficulty of distinguishing between illusion and reality, the susceptibility of hypnotically refreshed memory to distortion by inadvertent suggestion, and the tendency of subjects to enhance the credibility of memories produced through hypnosis -- creates problems in the courtroom. These problems are enhanced by the possibility that investigators, and jurors, will give more credence than they deserve to memories refreshed by hypnosis (Labelle, Lamarche, & Laurence, 1990; McConkey, 1986; McConkey & Jupp, 1985, 1985-1986; Wilson, Greene, & Loftus, 1986). Thus, under the worst-case scenario, a hypnotized witness may produce an entirely false memory under hypnosis; testify to it convincingly; and be believed; even if the witness' memory does not change under hypnotic interrogation, the fact that a particular item of information, true or false, is remembered both in and out of hypnosis may lead the witness, and jurors, to give more credibility to the testimony than would be warranted.
For these reasons, and in response to a number of cases that were prosecuted on the basis of evidence that later proved to be incorrect, both the medical establishment (American Medical Association, 1985) and the courts (Diamond, 1980; Kuplicki, 1988; Laurence & Perry, 1988; Orne, 1979; Orne, Dinges, & Orne, 1990; Orne, Soskis, Dinges, & Orne, 1984; Orne, Whitehouse, Dinges & Orne, 1988; Udolf, 1983, 1990) have begun to establish guidelines for the introduction and evaluation of hypnotically elicited memories. By this time, the issue of hypnosis has been considered by courts in more than half of the United States (and by courts in Canada, Australia, and other countries as well). In a recent review, Scheflin and Shapiro (1989) cite more than 400 appellate cases from more than 40 states in which hypnosis has been involved in one way or another.
A full review of the legal status of forensic hypnosis is beyond the scope of this paper. In general, however, courts in the United States have taken one of three positions: (1) total exclusion of testimony based on hypnotically refreshed memory (e.g., State vs. Mack, 1980; People vs. Shirley, 1982); (2) total admission, with the weight of the evidence to be determined by the jury (e.g., Harding vs. State, 1968); and (3) admission of hypnotically refreshed memory, provided that certain procedural safeguards (such as those proposed by Orne, 1979; Orne et al., 1984; see also Ault, 1979) have been followed during the hypnotic session (e.g., State vs. Hurd, 1981; State vs. Armstrong, 1983). Perhaps the dominant position in the state courts is a per se exclusion of all hypnotically elicited evidence, and some courts have gone so far as to exclude from testimony even the pre-hypnotic memories of a witness who has been subsequently hypnotized (Kuplicki, 1988), on the grounds that hypnosis may distort prehypnotic as well as hypnotic memories -- for example, by inflating the subject's confidence in what he or she had already remembered.
The conflicting laws operative in different jurisdictions virtually guarantee that the issue of forensic hypnosis will eventually come before the Supreme Court. In fact, while a number of cases involving hypnotized witnesses and victims have been denied certiorari, a case involving a hypnotized defendant was recently decided: Rock v. Arkansas (1987; for reviews of this case, see Kuplicki, 1988; Orne et al., 1990; Perry & Laurence, 1990; Udolf, 1990). By a hairline (5-4) majority, the Court (whose majority decision was authored by Justice Blackmun) decided that a defendant's hypnotically refreshed memories are admissible in court, without any restrictions or constraints. However, a reading of the opinion makes it clear that the Court's decision rested more on a concern for the defendant's Fifth Amendment right to testify in his or her own behalf, than it did on any acceptance of hypnotic technique. Under the United States Constitution, defendants are given every opportunity to defend themselves, and this includes resort to hypnosis. In fact, the Court's opinion (especially the minority view, authored by Chief Justice Rhenquist) clearly recognizes the problems posed by the use of hypnosis in the legal system. There are a number of different legal issues here (for early treatments, see Diamond, 1980; Warner, 1979; Worthington, 1979; for a recent overview, see Kuplicki, 1988).
First of all, the question of whether hypnosis, as a scientific technique for the enhancement of memory, meets the standards for the admission of scientific evidence. Under the "Frye Rule" (Frye vs. United States, 1923) which currently governs the admissability of scientific evidence, "the thing from which the deduction is made must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field to which it belongs". While hypnosis is clearly established as a potentially efficacious treatment modality in medicine and psychotherapy (American Medical Association, 1958) and a legitimate topic for scientific research (as evidenced by the establishment of Division 30, Psychological Hypnosis, of the American Psychological Association), there is no consensus about the reliability of hypnotically enhanced memory. In fact, if there is such a consensus, it is represented by the recent position paper of a committee of the American Medical Association (American Medical Association, 1985): hypnotically refreshed memory is inherently unreliable.
There are also constitutional issues at stake, particularly surrounding the Sixth Amendment, which gives defendants the right to confront witnesses against them. After all, hypnosis has the potential to permanently distort a witness' memory -- thus leading, in effect, to the destruction of potential exculpatory evidence. Hypnosis can increase the likelihood of both unintended confabulations and the influence of leading questions and other misinformation. The confusion between illusion and reality that is part and parcel of the hypnotic experience may be fascinating in the laboratory and perhaps useful in the clinic; but it is potentially fatal in the courtroom. The myths surrounding the wonders of hypnosis may lead witnesses to inappropriately inflate their confidence in what they remember; or they may lead jurors to inappropriately accept their memories as accurate. In any event, the result is a threat to the validity of the evidence presented to factfinders.
Because defendants have rights that the state does not, the decision in Rock v. Arkansas does not imply that testimony by hypnotized witnesses and victims will be allowed without restraint. The result is likely to be a bifurcated rule (Kuplicki, 1988) in which hypnosis is permitted to defendants with few restrictions, but severely constrained when used with witnesses and victims. For the present, however, those who use hypnosis forensically should be aware of the dangers posed by its use, and should conform their procedures to the sorts of guidelines adopted in many jurisdictions. The purpose of these procedural safeguards is twofold: (1) to minimize the possibility that the witness' independent memory will be contaminated by hypnosis; and (2) to maximize the likelihood that such contamination will be detected if it has occurred. One set of guidelines, based on those proposed by Orne (1979) and adopted in the United States by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Ault, 1979), follows. It should be understood that it is the responsibility of the party employing hypnosis to affirmatively establish that these guidelines have been followed.
(1) There should be a prima facie case that hypnosis is appropriate. Memories that have not been properly encoded are not likely to be retrieved, even by heroic means. Thus, hypnosis will be of no use in cases where the witness did not have a good view of the critical events, or was intoxicated or sustained head injury at the time of the crime.
(2) For the same reason, there should be an objective assessment of the subject's hypnotizability, employing one or another of the standardized scales developed for this purpose. Hypnosis will be of no use with subjects who are not at least somewhat hypnotizable.
(3) The hypnotist should be an experienced professional, knowledgeable of basic principles of psychological functioning and the scientific method. Forensic hypnosis raises cognitive issues, such as the nature of memory, and clinical issues, such as the subject's emotional reactions to any new information yielded by the procedure, and the hypnotist must be capable of evaluating and dealing with the situation on both counts.
(4) The hypnotist should be a consultant acting independently of any investigative agency, either prosecution/plaintiff or defense/respondent, so as to emphasize the goal of the procedure: collecting information rather than supporting a particular viewpoint.
(5) The hypnotist should be informed of only the barest details of the case at hand, so as to minimize the possibility that his or her preconceptions will influence the course of the hypnotic interview. In any event, a written record of all information transmitted to the hypnotist should be preserved.
(6) A thorough interview should be conducted by the hypnotist, in advance of the hypnotic session, in order to establish a baseline against which any subsequent changes in memory can be evaluated.
(7) Throughout the pre-hypnotic and hypnotic interview, the hypnotist and the subject should be isolated from other people, especially those who have independent knowledge of the facts of the case, suspects, etc., so as to preclude the possibility of inadvertent cuing and contamination of the subject's memory.
(8) A complete recording of all interactions between hypnotist and subject should be kept, to permit evaluation of the degree to which untoward influence may have occurred.
These standards are obviously difficult (though not impossible) to meet. For this reason, and because of the continuing constitutional controversy attached to forensic hypnosis, investigators are advised to confine their use of hypnosis to the gathering of investigative leads. Under these circumstances, hypnotically refreshed memories are not introduced into evidence, and the case is based solely on independently verifiable evidence.
?four decimals, anyway)
the phenomenon of hypermnesia is no longer in doubt, controversy continues over the mechanisms responsible for the effect. For example, Roediger and his colleagues have suggested that hypermnesia is mediated by the increased time permitted for recall
PROSPECTS FOR THE STRATEGIC CONTROL OF MEMORY
The conclusion that emerges from this review is that the strategic self-regulation of memory is possible. The possibility of successful self-regulation flows naturally from the point of view that memory is a skilled activity as well as a mental storehouse, and from the reasonable assumption that people can acquire and perfect cognitive as well as motor skills. Certainly, the sorts of principles that control memory function can serve as guides for successful self-regulation. We can remember things better by paying active attention to them at the time they occur, deliberately engaging in elaborative and organizational activity that will establish links between one item of information and another; and we can facilitate forgetting by neglecting to do so. Forgetting will increase with the passage of time, if we allow it to happen; but continued rumination about the to-be-forgotten material may prevent this natural process from occurring. Once-forgotten items can be recovered, too, if somehow we are able to find the right cues to gain access to them; and some spontaneous recovery is to be expected as well, especially if the information was well-encoded in the first place. Remembering an event can be facilitated by returning to the environment, or mood state, present at the time the event occurred. Remembering is improved by taking generic world-knowledge into account, so that the person need not rely exclusively on trace information. And, perhaps, memories can be recoded, and thus altered, in the light of information acquired after the event in question. In the absence of conscious recollection, sheer guessing -- influenced by implicit memory, which is much less constrained by the conditions of encoding and retrieval -- may lead the person to better-than-chance levels of memory performance.
At the same time, there are clear constraints on what can be achieved through strategic remembering and forgetting. Aside from hope and luck, little can be done to improve the situation where encodings were poor, and the retrieval environment is impoverished. Elaborative and organizational activity both require active cognitive effort, and thus are affected by limitations on attentional resources. Retrieval cues help memory, but they must be the right sorts of cues, compatible with the way in which the information was processed at the time of its original encoding. World-knowledge, and postevent information, may distort a person's memory for what actually occurred. And attempts at deliberate forgetting, or the retrospective alteration of memories, may change accessibility but not availability. Thus the forgotten knowledge, or the original memory, may nonetheless continue to influence the person's experience, thought, and action in the form of implicit memory.
Hypnosis, for all its apparent wonders, does not eliminate these constraints. It can be a powerful technique for altering conscious experience, but it does so by following, rather than transcending, the laws that govern ordinary mental life. Thus, hypnosis presents some interesting possibilities for the self-control of memory, but it confronts the same sorts of limitations as well. Thus, hypnotic suggestions for amnesia may be very effective in reducing the person's conscious awareness of some event, but -- like nonhypnotic directed forgetting -- it can be breached, to some extent, by deliberate efforts at recall, and by cued recall and recognition procedures. More important, the forgotten memories may still be expressed implicitly, outside of conscious awareness. So far as we can tell, hypnosis does not, in and of itself, facilitate learning; and it does not appear to add anything to the hypermnesia that occurs in the normal waking state. Although, in principle, a hypnotically hallucinated environment might supply new cues to facilitate remembering, it must be remembered that the cues in question are hallucinatory, not veridical, and thus may produce misleading results -- the more so because hypnotized subjects are highly responsive to suggestions. Hypnosis, in its classic manifestations, has a profoundly delusional quality: thus, the subjective conviction that accompanies hypnotic remembering should not be confused with accuracy. For this reason, the clinical and forensic use of hypnosis to refresh recollection is fraught with dangers, and is to be used, if at all, with considerable circumspection.
But the mere existence of limitations, and the sad fact that hypnosis cannot make us better than we are, should not deter us from acquiring, and deploying, our skills of remembering and forgetting. There is much that we can do in both respects.
The point of view represented here is based on research supported by Grant MH-35856 from the National Institute of Mental Health. We thank Jill Booker, Jeffrey Bowers, Jennifer Dorfman, Elizabeth Glisky, Martha Glisky, Lori Marchese, Susan McGovern, Sheila Mulvaney, Robin Pennington, Michael Polster, Barbara Routhieux, Victor Shames, and Michael Valdessari for their comments.
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