Showing posts with label Psychological science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Psychological science. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Seven Sins of Memory- Book Review & Resources


The Seven Sins

  of Memory


Daniel L. Schacter     


Reviewed by

  Geoffrey W. Sutton

Schacter’s Seven Sins of Memory is like a fine seven course meal. Each course serves up an interesting collection of research that’s easy to read by the general public and pleasantly presented, yet rich with enough details to appeal to scholars and practitioners. I left feeling satisfied.

Every mental health clinician and all who work with people should read about the seven sins of memory and come back to it when they wonder about memory complaints or detect discrepancies in recall.

Students will find it helpful too as Schacter weaves psychological science into meaningful stories—a good example of how to write about psychological science for nonpsychology majors.

I must say that I found the notion of “sins” strange—is this a psychology of religion book? I suppose it could be. Afterall, religious scholar Craig Keener included a discussion of memory in his book about the Gospels and the Life of Christ. However, the sins of memory are the problems with human memory—problems that can deceive us and lead to inaccurate conclusions. We can miss the mark and we may need forgiveness.

I’d like to suggest a title: Memory: Seven Reasons for Humility. But then again, I’m not a best selling author or a famous psychological scientist.


There’s so much in this book. In this post, I will just note some of the key features of each chapter so you get a sense of what this is all about.

Problems of Forgetting

1. The Sin of Transience

We forget names and other things as time passes. Memory fades. Memories are fleeting- transient. We have less mental reserve as we age. How much we remember is linked to how much we elaborate on new information when forming a new memory (encoding).

2. The Sin of Absent-Mindedness

When we are distracted, we may not capture sufficient information to form an adequate memory—we are absent-minded. We can also be distracted, which can  lead to impaired recall of a memory. The phenomenon of change blindness fits here too.

3. The Sin of Blocking

Name blocking is so common and serves as a quintessential example of blocking. Sometimes, information seems like it’s on the tip-of-the-tongue – a well-known phenomenon in memory research.

When Memory is Present but Wrong

4. The Sin of Attribution

We can make errors in recall when our memories store misattributions. This can be serious when people falsely accuse someone of a crime because they have seen someone else’s familiar face and stored it along with the offense. Psychologists refer to memory binding—connecting various bits of information into a memory, which isn't really a record of our personal experience.

5. The Sin of Suggestibility

The questions we ask can influence what people recall when they provide answers. Questions are so powerful that people have recalled events that never happened. Suggestibility can create false memories. Obviously this can, and in fact has been, a serious problem when witnesses to a crime are interviewed about what they saw or heard. Not surprisingly, Schacter refers to the work of Elizabeth Loftus.


6. The Sin of Bias

Our memories can be influenced by present experiences. We tend to recall the past in ways that are consistent (consistency and change biases) with our present. 

Current knowledge influences what we think about the past--that's hindsight bias. We serve ourselves well in egocentric biases. 

And our  stereotypical biases combined with recall of memories can affect our views about people and experiences in the present.

Schacter includes a useful analysis of the power of fake news to influence our beliefs. Mere repetition appears to strengthen beliefs in fake news (the illusory truth effect).

 Persistence and Distressful Memories

7. The Sin of Persistence

When memories persist, we can re-experience pain and humiliation. Emotional experiences act to highlight certain experiences and not others. Emotions can also impair what we remember about an event when we focused on the threat and did not perceive other details of the event. Thus, because we focused on the threat, our memories are incomplete. Our current mood can influence the nature of memories we recall.

The Seven Sins: Vices or Virtues

In Vices and Virtues, Schacter suggests ideas about how our problems with memory may have developed. And he cites some evidence suggesting how our problems may be beneficial that is, virtues. For example, the gradual fading of some memories can relieve us of the burden of nonuseful details and may even lessen the pain of bad experiences. Even trauma can serve us when it allows us to avoid similar painful situations in the future.


I praised the book at the beginning and conclude with a clear statement that I recommend this book. I say this as a psychologist with years of experience testing the memories of children and adults in clinical practice and for the courts. I have also consulted in numerous cases of people claiming disability due to memory impairment.

I suggested a different title: Memory: Seven Reasons for Humility. In addition to the applications suggested by Schacter, I add a lesson in humility. Even those blessed with the best brains must deal with the common problem that our memories can lead us astray thus, a dose of humility in warranted. Though some people are undoubtedly out to deceives us and spin their misdeeds into golden memories, others are simply mistaken. Great interviewers will be mindful of the frailties and strengths of human memory. And many of us will need forgiveness.

Our memories are precious. Without adequate memories, we lose a sense of self-identity—who are we without a memory?


Cite this review

Sutton, G. W. (2022). The sevens sins of memory: Book review & resources. SuttonReviews. Retrieved from


Book Reference

Schacter, D. L. (2021). The seven sins of memory: How the mind forgets and remembers, updated edition. New York: Mariner. (Kindle Edition)

Book details: 532 pages, Preface to the updated edition, Introduction, 7 chapters- one each for the 7 sins, A final reflections/ideas chapter, notes, bibliography, end material.

About the book author

Daniel L. Schacter is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Psychology at Harvard University.

Available as





Please check out my website

   and see my books on   AMAZON       or  GOOGLE STORE

Also, consider connecting with me on    FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton    

   TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton    

You can read many published articles at no charge:

  Academia   Geoff W Sutton     ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton 


Related works

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnemann

Christobiography: Memory, history, and the reliability of the gospels by Craig Keener.

The myth of repressed memory by Elizabeth Loftus & Katherine Ketcham

The malleability of memory with Elizabeth Loftus by Howard Burton

Picking Cotton: Our memoir of injustice and redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton


Daniel Schacter on The Seven Sins of Memory on YouTube

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Think Again- Learning to Rethink - A review


Think Again

The Power of Knowing  

What You Don’t Know


  Adam Grant

Reviewed by

  Geoffrey W. Sutton


ThinkAgain works. Throughout the book, I found myself rethinking some of my assumptions and learning new applications of familiar and new psychological findings. In many ways, Adam Grant challenges us to rethink what we are doing at work, school, and even in relationships. It’s a book that deserves a place in any syllabus challenging students to think and rethink their assumptions and to develop confident humility. But Think Again also belongs in discussion groups in the workplace.

On a technical note, Grant divides the book into four parts followed by an Epilogue, and a more or less set of summary statements presented as Actions for Impact. The chapters are introduced with a poignant story. As the theme of a chapter unfolds, we encounter more stories and illustrations that help us appreciate the author’s point. You’ll find it’s like taking a course from a master lecturer with the added bonus that you can pause and think about the points. The notes are extensive and the index, comprehensive. Including the end matter, it’s only 307 pages but the conclusion ends on page 243.

A Brief Summary

There’s a lot to unpack in this book. I’ve focused on some of the salient points.

Part 1: Individual Rethinking

We learn about three roles we may take in arguing our opinions; however, Grant wants us to think like scientists, which is a theme repeated throughout the text. When we adopt the scientist role, we begin with doubt but have hypotheses. We collect data from experiments, which enables us to discover usable knowledge. Now about those other roles. As preachers we present our ideas as gospel and argue against different views by calling them heresies. As politicians, we are swayed by popular opinion instead of facts. As prosecutors, we are passionate about destroying other ideas instead of discovering truth. Throughout part 1 we learn to appreciate conflict as long as we are focused on information about how to improve our work on the tasks at hand rather than defending against interpersonal threats.

Part 2: Interpersonal Rethinking

Here the focus changes on how we can interact with others in a positive manner by framing disagreements as debates and discovering ways to influence people who resist new and effective ways to solve problems. People are not easily persuaded by logical arguments with a long list of reasons why we should support a particular opinion. Researchers find that the weaker reasons gain the focus of those who want to reject the main idea. Thus, presenting a few strong reasons is often the best approach.

Also, it turns out that presenting two sides of an argument is not the best way to help others rethink a strongly held position. What works? Sometimes, the best method is to present several alternatives—that is, move from simplicity to complexity.

Catchy quote: “What doesn’t sway us can make our beliefs stronger.”

Part 3: Collective Rethinking

Grant encourages us to think about out community and promote lifelong learning. We learn how to promote rethinking at work by creating a psychologically safe setting where conflicting opinions can be offered without fear of reprisal. We find an example of a teacher who encourages children to rework their original projects based on peer and expert feedback. And we are reminded of the importance of rewriting drafts.

Part 4: Conclusion

Grant encourages us to rethink our careers and plans rather than pursuing a vocation or life choice that isn’t working out. The problem with persistence in a failed enterprise is known as the “escalation of commitment.”


I began this post by recommending the book for students and people in the workplace. I can easily recommend it to retirees like myself. It’s rarely too late to rethink a course of action by examining the data of our lives and making new plans. As I write, the pandemic of 2019 as thwarted a number of plans. I’ve made plans based on what I know at this time. Flexibility is built into offers of wonderful adventures I can book. What strikes me is the importance of flexibility when pursuing a course of action.

I strongly affirm Adam’s theme of learning to think like a scientist. In graduate school, we were to be scientists first before applying scientific knowledge to helping people. The culmination of our work was to be an original experiment following strict rules of protocol. As a clinician, I encouraged patients to think about their beliefs, assumptions, and how they could rethink the troubling events in their lives. After years as a clinician, I taught research and statistics to undergraduate and graduate students. Many were fearful of statistics. Yet, many developed a sense of pride when it came to presenting their end of semester projects—they had learned how to discover knowledge rather than rely on mere opinion.

It may be an oversimplification of dealing with information by considering four roles (scientist, preacher, prosecutor, and politician), but I see his point and find myself in agreement. There is a nuance. In some settings, preaching and prosecuting may make sense. We live in a time when scientific knowledge presented by scientists is treated with cynicism rather than skepticism. My skepticism probably began with my father who was highly critical of opinions other than his own. Philosophy courses helped me develop more cogent arguments as I learned to identify weaknesses in my own opinions. I value skepticism but not cynicism. It’s good to analyze news reports, advertisements, educational theories, politician’s promises, history books, and medical advice. However, rejection of expert views in favor of opinions by those lacking expertise can lead to disasters in relationships, health, and governance.

The Epilogue could use some rethinking. Perhaps a few questions could send us on our way.

Quotes and Highlights

About the author

Adam Grant  is an organizational psychologist at Wharton. He earned his PhD from the University of Michigan.

About the reviewer

GeoffreyW. Sutton is a retired psychologist and professor of psychology who continues to write about psychology. He earned his PhD from the University of Missouri.

Book Reference

Grant, A. (2021). Think again: the power of knowing what you don’t know. New York: Penguin Random House.


Please check out my website

   and see my books on   AMAZON  


Also, consider connecting with me on  

    FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton    

   TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton    

You can read many published articles at no charge:

  Academia   Geoff W Sutton     

  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton 

 Adam Grant - Think Again - insights by the author on YouTube

An interview on YouTube about "Think Again"

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Creating Surveys-Second Edition



How to Create & Administer Surveys,

Evaluate Workshops & Seminars,

Interpret & Present Results

Click to Download Free Sample

Available on


GOOGLE e-Books


“This resource provides practitioners and students a systematic, easy-to-read overview of what surveys are and how to use them. Even seasoned researchers could benefit from reviewing this book and keeping it handy for reference, but undergraduate and master’s students should find it particularly useful for grasping basic research constructs and designing simple survey projects. Not only does the book explain important principles, but it also provides many clear, concrete examples and links to additional resources that the reader will find helpful.”

—Joe D. Wilmoth, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Human Development and Family Science, Mississippi State University


“Many researchers find themselves in contexts where they have access to groups of people whose values, opinions, behaviors, emotions, and beliefs are worth studying, but too many then use surveys that are poorly constructed or inappropriately worded. Sutton’s Creating Surveys is a treasure trove of valuable resources and easy to follow instructions that have been created to increase the validity and reliability of survey research. It is a long-overdue addition to the researcher’s toolkit.”

—Johan Mostert, Ph.D., Director of Research, CompACT



"Creating Surveys is a practical and readable handbook for researchers providing a broad look at the many facets of survey research. I highly recommend this text for doctoral students and researchers utilizing and creating survey research. Dr. Sutton provides objectives to establish a clear purpose for each chapter. He brings to life quality survey components with clear examples from a variety of topics and fields of study." 

Shonna Crawford, Ph.D., Professor of Education in Literacy, 

    Education Department Chair, Evangel University



“Having guided dozens of Doctor of Ministry students through research projects for over ten years, I can attest to the fact that achieving quality design of assessment tools—and accomplishing proper interpretation of survey results—can present considerable challenges to students. Geoff Sutton’s Creating Surveys, with each chapter’s clear objectives, well-organized content, and chapter summaries, will serve research students, professionals, and community leaders well in their efforts to better understand the necessary components and methodologies for gaining desired information and presenting it in a way that reflects critical thinking about survey results.”

—Dr. Lois E. Olena, Professor and Doctor of Ministry Project Coordinator, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary



"In this day and age, being on the cutting edge is more important than ever. Science allows us to better understand the world around us and effectively impact change, innovation, and growth. Yet, many are intimidated by the confusing process of gathering and interpreting empirical data and give up before they even begin.  Creating Surveys simplifies this process and can help researchers, professionals, students, and lay people alike easily access data that can be used to affect change in the future. I only wish that this resource was around when I was a graduate student!"

—Luke J. Davidiuk, PsyD, Major, USAF, BSC

ADAPT Element Chief, Vandenberg AFB, CA

 Table of Contents

Introduction           9


Part 1: Planning and Organizing a Survey


Unit 1: Planning a Survey


Chapter 1. Focusing on a Purpose                    19

Chapter 2. Learning from Previous Research              26

Chapter 3. Writing Items and Questions            40

Chapter 4. Organizing and Formatting Surveys           55

Chapter 5. Getting Approval: Ethical Thinking              63

Chapter 6. Selecting Respondents                    68


Unit 2: Using Surveys to Understand People


Chapter 7. Considering Multiple Dimensions               79

Chapter 8. Assessing Self            95

Chapter 9. Assessing Spirituality            104

Chapter 10. Assessing Cognition 110

Chapter 11. Assessing Behavior Patterns and Personality     115

Chapter 12. Assessing Physical Health  124

Chapter 13. Assessing Emotions and Attitudes 131

Chapter 14. Assessing Social Context    135


Part 2: Understanding and Presenting Results


Unit 3: Understanding Basic Survey Designs and Statistics


Chapter 15. Using Surveys to Evaluate Workshops     143

Chapter 16. Understanding Survey Results: Part 1      154

Chapter 17. Understanding Survey Results: Part 2      162

Chapter 18. Assessing Survey Reliability                               175

Chapter 19. Assessing Survey Validity                                   181


Unit 4: Communicating Results


Chapter 20. Writing Survey Reports                  191

Chapter 21. Presenting to a Group                    202

References             211

Glossary                  223


Appendix A: Survey Approval Checklist             238

Appendix B: Online Ethics Resources               240

Appendix C: Survey Consent Example              242

Appendix D: Survey Debriefing Example           245

Appendix E: Organizing a Spreadsheet             247

Appendix F: Examples of Survey Items             248

Appendix G: Sample Workshop Evaluation       253

Appendix H: List of Survey Measures                255


Table of Contents: Expanded                 258

Acknowledgments             269

About the Author                271

Click to Download Free Sample

Available on


GOOGLE e-Books

Author Website

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Malleability of Memory- Elizabeth Loftus A Book Review

The Malleability of 

Memory: A conversation 

With Elizabeth Loftus


 Howard Burton



Geoffrey W. Sutton

This is an informative short overview of Elizabeth Loftus’ memory research presented as an interview. The informed host asks pertinent questions to which Loftus responds with answers about her memory findings as well as   The personal context of how she got ideas and her need for protection because of death threats.

Loftus’ work has had considerable impact on the justice system. Thanks to her laboratory studies and the work of many psychological scientists, we understand that our memories can contain errors brought about by responding to questions or rethinking about past events.

In addition, we can create false memories, which appear real and true but are nevertheless false. False memories can be purposely created by someone else or by ourselves.

At one point, her work was particularly challenging when some psychotherapists were encouraging patients to recall repressed memories. Sometimes the memories led to accusations of criminal activity, which had devastating effects on the accused. Loftus’ work challenged the idea of repressed memories and the role of clinicians in  creating false or distorted memories.

I recommend The Malleability of Memory for those wanting a quick summary of Loftus'  memory research.

For more, see Elizabeth Loftus' books on memory.

Also, Elizabeth Loftus on Google.


Burton, H. (2020). The Malleability of Memory: A conversation with Elizabeth Loftus. The Ideas Roadshow.

Please check out my website

   and see my books on   AMAZON       or  GOOGLE STORE

Also, consider connecting with me on    FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton    

   TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton    

You can read many published articles at no charge:

  Academia   Geoff W Sutton     ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW-- A book review by Sutton




Daniel Kahneman, 

Reviewed by

 Geoffrey W. Sutton

Kahneman’s analysis of thinking in Thinking, Fast and Slow, is close to a metatheory of human nature. In highly readable prose he explains how numerous psychological experiments document the interplay of two ways human brains process and act upon the myriad of stimuli encountered in daily life. Many reviews have extolled the brilliance of the book and its Nobel-prize winning author. My skeptical bias against excessive public endorsements was on high alert until I began to read. My copy has so many notes that it was hard to condense them for this review. I must confess, this was one of the best psychology books I have ever read. 

Daniel Kahneman is Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Princeton University and Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs Emeritus at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. His work with Amos Tversky on decision-making earned him the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. If Amos had not died in 1996, he would have shared the prize. I have included two primary references (Kahneman & Tversky, 1984; Tversky & Kahneman, 1974) cited by the Nobel committee as examples of research articles you may wish to obtain.

Return to the title for a moment. The four words aptly describe the way we think and the sequence matters. Fast thinking is the norm. We quickly orient to the sound of a loud bang. If it’s July 4th in the USA, we easily attribute the BOOM to a partying neighbor rather than some mischief-maker. On a drive, we speedily process a garish image and a few inviting words writ large on a billboard. Almost without thinking, we detect a hurt facial response in a partner and quickly search available memory for an answer to the internal prompt, “What did I say?” 

The second concept in the title is slow thinking. Slow thinking is that arduous process most of humanity avoids most of each day. It is the thinking that requires cognitive effort to focus carefully on a set of stimuli whilst ignoring other internal and external distractions so we can search memory and employ other resources to solve a problem. Sometimes the problems are not incredibly difficulty but the answers do not quickly arise in our consciousness like recalling our telephone number or slowing down and scanning more carefully when guiding our car into a narrow parking slot. The components of the thinking process appear to be organized into these two major systems, simply labeled System I and System II. 

System I is automatic and works well enough for most daily activities. People cannot be vigilant all day, Kahneman points out. System II seems to engage as needed to address more complex situations. The effort required by System II does not come easily and seems to slow down not just thought, but the entire person as we might interrupt a walk to formulate an answer to an unusual question. 

This story of thinking unfolds in 38 chapters organising diverse dimensions of cognition into five parts: 
Two Systems, 
Heuristics and Biases, 
Choices, and 
Two Selves.

Most of us seem to get along pretty well most of the time. But there are those moments when mistakes are costly. Truth is, many decisions are adequate but hardly based on refined decision-making models that employ logical analyses or even well-defined probability models. Heuristics and biases appear to account for the link between thinking and human behavior. Our propensity to respond based on available cues in our environment or memory, to assess situations based on plausible causes, and erroneously predict behavior can lead to significant difficulties for individuals, groups, or even nations. Part II offers a broad review of these cognitive errors.

Overconfidence is the essence of Part III. People tend toward excessive optimism and overconfidence. We experience illusions of understanding and validity. We are prone to excessive and often misplaced trust in experts. In Part IV, Kahneman reviews choice theory, which he explains using everyday examples. We leave this part of the narrative better equipped to detect factors apt to lead us astray. In part V, Kahneman offers a helpful review and leaves us with thoughts about life.

It is easy to see how Kahneman’s work would be of interest to academicians and researchers. But the implications for psychotherapists are far reaching as well because they illustrate how hard it is to interrupt error-prone cognitive-behavioral patterns to apply some new cognitive frame or employ a new behavioral response to recurrent life situations. Rituals and responses often labeled as spiritual or religious appear to be System I responses except when interrupted by troubling experiences that place our scripts on pause an induce a search for resources. An awareness of biases and the role of heuristics and overconfidence is relevant to clinicians, clinical supervisors, consultants, and clients. There’s a time for System I and a time for System II.


Kahneman, D. (2013). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Kahneman, D. & Tversky, A. (1985). Choices, values, and frames. American Psychologist, 34, 571-582.

Sutton, G. W. (2012). [Review of the book Thinking: Fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman]. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 31, 373-375. ResearchGate Link    Academia Link

Tversky, A. & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185, 1124-31.


My Page
My Books  AMAZON                       GOOGLE STORE

FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton
TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

Publications (many free downloads)
Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)     

ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)

Watch Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow Google talk on YouTube