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Understanding memory for WHERE using smartphone data

Prof. Simon Dennis
University of Melbourne ~ University of Melbourne
Elizabeth Laliberte
University of Melbourne, Australia
Dr. Hyungwook Yim
Hanyang University ~ Department of Cognitive Sciences
Benjamin Stone
University of Melbourne, Australia

In 1984, Ronald Cotton was convicted for rape and burglary. He was sentenced to life + 50 years. In 1995, he was released having served over 10 years in prison. When Cotton was interrogated he provided a false alibi. Rather than report where he had been at the time of the crime, Cotton recalled where he had been the week before. A primary challenge for alibi generation research is establishing the ground truth of the real world events of interest. We used a smartphone app to record data on participants (N=57) for a month prior to a memory test. The app captured their accelerometry continuously and their GPS location and sound environment every ten minutes. After a week retention interval, we presented participants with a series of trials which asked them to identify where they were at a given time from among four alternatives. Participants were incorrect 36% of the time (SD = 16%). Furthermore, our forced choice procedure allowed us to conduct a conditional logit analysis to assess the relative importance of different aspects of the events to the decision process. The Cotton example suggests that participants might also confuse days across weeks and we found strong evidence of this kind of error. In addition, people often confused weeks in general and also hours across days. Similarity of location induced more errors than similarity of sound environments or movement types.



experience sampling


Bayesian Modeling
Memory Models

Hi Simon, I love this work. So important from a societal perspective, is ecologically valid, and remains much of the rigor of traditional laboratory studies. I'm very glad you conducted the study before COVID-19 hit! Q1: It's fascinating that you didn't replicate the negative memory bias -- I've always felt this must be too simple and th...

Prof. Joe Austerweil 0 comments

Hi, thanks for your presentation. Really interesting to see this type of work outside the lab! I'm curious to hear your thoughts on how much accurate recall in this task may be driven by reasoning about one's routine (e.g., "I am always at work at 10 am on Monday") rather than (just) episodic memory retrieval. Is there some way of separating the...

Dr. Maarten van der Velde 0 comments
Cite this as:

Dennis, S., Laliberte, E., Yim, H., & Stone, B. (2020, July). Understanding memory for WHERE using smartphone data. Paper presented at Virtual MathPsych/ICCM 2020. Via