Weekly Top 5 Papers – February 22, 2013

1. ‘I’ve Got Nothing to Hide’ and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy
by Daniel J. Solove (George Washington University Law School)

2. A Brief Introduction to the Basics of Game Theory
by Matthew Jackson (Stanford University – Department of Economics)

3. Ham Sandwich Nation: Due Process When Everything is a Crime
by Glenn Reynolds (University of Tennessee College of Law)

4. False Memories of Fabricated Political Events
by Steven J. Frenda (University of California, Irvine – Department of Psychology and Social Behavior) and Eric D. Knowles (University of California, Irvine – Department of Psychology and Social Behavior) and William Saletan (The Slate Group) and Elizabeth F. Loftus (University of California, Irvine – Department of Psychology and Social Behavior)

Steven Frenda
This paper is the result of a unique collaboration. Will Saletan–a journalist who writes on news and politics at Slate.com–was preparing an epic article on false memory research and wanted a powerful example of the malleability of memory to share with his readers. He and a small team of people at Slate hatched a plot so clever and well-executed that it is hard to believe that research psychologists weren’t behind it. More than 5,000 Slate readers volunteered to describe their memories for a series of political events. Unbeknownst to those participants, one of those events was a fabrication, constructed by pairing bogus captions with digitally doctored photographs. More than half of those subjects reported some memory of having seen the false events. Some results from that survey were described in the Slate article, but we had an opportunity to take a closer look at the data and to conduct some follow-up research to try to explain some of the patterns we were seeing: conservatives and liberals appeared different in their tendency to falsely recall different kinds of political events. Liberals, for example, were more likely than conservatives to recall George W. Bush vacationing with a sports star during Hurricane Katrina. Conservatives were more likely than liberals to recall Barack Obama shaking hands with the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These results show us once again that memory is malleable, but also that our previously held attitudes and evaluations are implicated in what kinds of memory distortions we might be susceptible to.

For memory researchers in a University setting, a study involving just a few hundred people can be a significant undertaking that can take months (or even years) to plan, execute, and develop into a publishable manuscript – so the chance to work with a dataset containing thousands of people that were exposed to suggestive political materials and then were asked about their memories was a very exciting and unique opportunity. The intersection of political psychology with social/cognitive approaches to false memory seems promising to us. That people seem interested in these findings is encouraging. Especially considering that with political campaigns comes a deluge of attempts to persuade voters, often with misleading or false information, politics and mistaken memories seem like a natural fit.

5. Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime
by Scott Cunningham (Baylor University) and Benjamin Engelstätter (Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) – Information and Communication Technologies Research Group) and Michael R. Ward (University of Texas at Arlington – College of Business Administration – Department of Economics)

Michael R. Ward
This paper has received many downloads because it has been referenced by the press in stories about recent gun violence. We suspect many of these downloads are from the video game enthusiasts and the educated lay public. We hope a few are from those involved in forming policy.

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