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Does personality influence memory? Conference has the answers


Brigid Veale
12 October 2011
If you are an eyewitness to an event, does your personality influence the reliability of your memory for that event? Are our social judgements about a person influenced by how they walk?

These are just some of the questions to be answered by Southern Cross University psychology students at their annual research conference, being held at the National Marine Science Centre tomorrow and Friday (October 13 and 14).

The Psychology Research Conference provides an opportunity for Bachelor of Psychology Honours students to present results of their research to their peers, academic staff, family and friends and guests.

Conference coordinator and psychology lecturer Dr Mitchell Longstaff said each year, the final year psychology students undertook a major independent research project under the supervision of academic staff members.

“The projects are innovative and cover a broad range of topics. The students develop their ideas, design and run studies to test their ideas. The students develop an in-depth knowledge of the area they are working in and become passionate about their research,” Dr Longstaff said.

“Their discoveries make a real contribution to our understanding of human behaviour and this conference provides an opportunity to reveal the outcome of their hard work.

“It demonstrates their research expertise and their ability to relate and defend their findings in a public forum. The skills they have developed over the year can be applied to whatever path they take in their future careers.”

Dr Longstaff said the students had looked at a diverse range of topics including:

Is internet overuse just another addiction? Does caffeine impact on attentional processes? What does the study of social categories tell us about how we think about religious diversity or overweight people? What brain activity is associated with visual consciousness? Does paediatric concussion have persistent effects on child behaviour? What role does culture play in maternal expectations and childhood development? How do young children develop politeness?

Laura Howarth, who came from Orange to study at Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus, will be presenting the results of her research, which looked at the influence of personality on memory for eyewitnesses. Her study found that when witnesses discuss an event, they take on some of the other witnesses’ memories as their own. She also found that when two people discuss the event, the person who is more extroverted takes on more of the incorrect memories.

“It’s been really interesting and it definitely has a practical application in the real world. Eyewitnesses are vital and I think it’s important to know the kinds of things that make someone better as an eyewitness,” Laura said.

“I’m interested in forensic psychology. The conference will be really valuable experience in presenting something we have all worked hard on. It will be very rewarding.”

The annual psychology conference is being held at Southern Cross University’s National Marine Science Centre on Thursday and Friday, October 13 and 14, from 9am. The awards presentation will be held at 2.45pm on Friday.

Photo: Psychology student Laura Howarth, who will be presenting at the conference, with lecturer Dr Mitchell Longstaff.