Thursday, September 08, 2011

Thinking is harder than you think!

The Economist has an article describing research which suggests that natural narrative accounting of the memory of a crime may both produce more correct details of the events and fewer false memories than either directed forward or directed reverse narratives. The research is especially significant in that some police departments have been using a directed reverse narrative (which proved even worse than the directed forward narrative in the research) for taking witness testimony.
Why this is so is a mystery, for it is clearly not what psychology predicts. It does, however, point out the dangers of taking even logically plausible ideas on trust, rather than testing them. Psychologists are often accused by laymen of doing experiments to prove the obvious. In this case, a little more such testing of the obvious might have been sensible.
I wonder how many development projects have been unsuccessful, or at least less successful than they might have been, because people did what seemed logical to them rather than what had been demonstrated by reliable methods! 

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