In my 60s I can attest to my weakened ability to recall. It is ridiculous. This post looks at a paper that is written most prominently by the authors of fuzzy trace theory, Brainerd and Reyna. “Dual-Retrieval Models and Neurocognitive Impairment” appeared online on August 26, 2013 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. (The post also uses an online source, The Cornell Chronicle, in an article dated September 5, 2013, entitled: “Breakthrough discerns normal memory loss from disease”, and was written by Karene Booker.) It comes up with some interesting conclusions.
Experts are important in helping to make decisions about health and safety so their risk perception and decision processes are important to understand. Reyna gives as examples: the emergency room physician deciding about the risk of a patient for a heart attack, the meteorologist deciding about tornado risk, and a lawyer evaluating potential damage awards to decide to settle or go to trial. Conventional wisdom is that experts apply precise analysis and numerical reasoning to achieve the best outcomes, while novices are more like to reason without analysis or numerical reasoning.
I discussed this theory briefly in the post Development Stages of Intuition and Analysis. I am finally going to tackle it in a more detailed fashion. Valerie Reyna and her husband Charles Brainerd are the authors of fuzzy trace theory. This theory is about twenty five years old, but has been ignored by the most renown psychologists so far as I can tell. The theory is supported by much empirical testing. Reyna and Brainerd moved together from the University of Arizona to Cornell and it seems that the theory has gained something of a foothold. Reyna is a tireless researcher, speaker, and writer and has also made something of a name for herself in the public press with false memory phenomena. I find her ideas persuasive although not complete, and I find it frustrating that I have not found much discussion of her ideas among her colleagues. This is especially surprising since she was a student of Amos Tversky. Dan Kahneman has never mentioned it so far as I can tell. If you know where to look, please let me know. I am going to try to summarize the basic ideas in three separate posts based on her paper: “A new intuitionism: Meaning, memory, and development in Fuzzy Trace Theory” found in the May 2012 issue of Judgment and Decision Making.