WHAT IS THE ROLE OF MEMORY SCIENCE IN THE WORKPLACE? Interview with Dr. Julia Shaw


So, let’s link it to the workplace, because
obviously that’s where you’re applying some of this skill and the knowledge that you have.
What is the role of memory science in the workplace? And if you’re able to bring it
to life for a couple of examples that’d be great.
Yeah, for me, the most important piece is again, getting high quality information. So
just like a police investigation, if you have an HR investigation, you want as high quality
information as possible and you want the evidence that you’re using whatever it is to be high
quality. And now high quality from a memory standpoint,
because often in workplaces or in police settings, you rely heavily on people’s memories. So
like a significant part of your evidence, perhaps all of it is individuals’ memories.
And so the question is, how do you know if these memories are any good?
And then what do you do with them and how do you preserve them? And so how do you know
if they’re any good? The first question is basically, ideally they’re contemporaneous.
So ideally the event happened relatively recently. Ideally they haven’t spoken with too many
other people, especially other people who were there because that can contaminate.
Ideally, there’s all these ideals, but what that means is ideally you’re recording on
your own immediately after something happens. What happened? On your own, not to a human,
ideally. And so this is why we created spot is because you can do it immediately on your
own. You can log into the chatbot, you can record it, and you can make a timestamp PDF,
which was exactly when you remember this information and it asks you non-leading neutral questions.
So that’s the other piece of it, is the questions. And so in an HR setting, I continue to be
surprised that most people who are HR leaders even don’t actually ever receive training
on…. they receive training on processes, but they don’t receive training on memory.
And I think it’s really difficult to consistently ask appropriate questions without understanding
how memory works. So just like I would never train the police and just say, here, do this,
here’s a list of things. That’s really difficult because people are going to go off script,
they’re going to get it wrong because they don’t know what it is that they’re getting
wrong until you teach them some of the core concepts of the flexibility and that sort
of recombining of information. So I guess in terms of the workplace, I wish
that people were trained on memory. I wish that we, focus on this. I think sometimes
it’s seen as like truth detecting, which is wrong. That’s the wrong premise. Like you
shouldn’t ever be going into a situation going is this person lying?
That’s not a useful starting point for anything basically. Assume that people aren’t out to
hurt each other. Assume that people are there because even frankly, even if they are, if
something is distorted, if someone has gone out of their way to go to HR, something is
wrong, right? Like you don’t just randomly show up at HR and say, I need to tell you
something. They’re unhappy and they need some help. And
so for me, I think it’s training people on memory, or at least having them understand
or using something like spot in the first instance to gather information can really
help. In terms of examples, I mean, one of the key
things that, even in criminal investigations, so people who are trained on what’s called
the cognitive interview, which is best practices in memory interviewing, which is also the
foundation for spot. When people who are trained, police officers
in the UK who are trained in the cognitive interview are told to not interrupt people.
Now you’ve been very good actually, but most people, even when given this instruction,
especially doing what’s called free recall phase. So the, tell me everything you can
remember, which is always the first question you should ask, tell me everything you can
remember. People interrupt on average, someone every
seven seconds, seven seconds. And we know that interruptions are a huge barrier to disclosing
information. And so in HR settings, we know that this is also likely to happen. And in
research that we’ve done where we compared our bots to real people who are being trained
in a Masters course to be HR professionals, they got way fewer details. They got way lower
quality because they weren’t necessarily asking things in the right order and they were interrupting
people too much. And that stops people from telling their story, and it stops people from getting the details.

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