Reconstructive Memory

Ella Middlemiss
Mind Map by Ella Middlemiss, updated more than 1 year ago
Ella Middlemiss
Created by Ella Middlemiss over 4 years ago


Includes theory of schemas and Bartlett's war of the ghosts experiment

Resource summary

Reconstructive Memory
  1. Theory
    1. Bartlett argued that memory is determined not only by the information actually present, but also by the relevant past knowledge the person possesses.
      1. Suggested that recall is subject to personal interpretation dependent on our learnt or cultural norms and values, and the way we make sense of our world
        1. Many people believe memory works like a videotape. However this isn't true.
          1. We don't store information exactly as it is presented to us.
            1. People extract information from the gist or underlying meaning.
            2. People store information in the way that makes the most sense to them.
              1. We make sense of information by trying to fit it into schemas, which are away of organising information.
            3. Schemas
              1. Schemas: an organised package of information that stores our knowledge about the world.
                1. We each have many schemas, one for each aspect of our lives.
                  1. Each mental schema contains the stereotypes and expectations we have acquired during out lives.
                  2. Schemas are involved in trying to reconstruct what we have heard, read or seen.
                    1. Therefore schemas provide one of the main ways in which memory is organised.
                    2. Schemas are capable of distorting unfamiliar or unconciously 'unacceptable' information in order to fit in with our existing knowledge or schemas.
                      1. Can result in unreliable eyewitness testimony.
                      2. Reconstruction is an active process, we automatically, unconciously fill in these memory gaps.
                      3. Bartlett (1932) War of the Ghosts
                        1. Aim
                          1. To investigate how memory of a story is affected by previous knowledge
                            1. He wanted to see if cultural background and unfamiliarity with a text would lead to distortion of memory when recalled
                              1. Hypothesis: Memory is reconstructive and people will store and retrieve information according to expectations from cultural schemas
                              2. Procedure
                                1. Serial reproduction (ppts hear a story) and are told to reproduce it after a short time and then do it again over a period of days/weeks/years.
                                  1. He told them 'War of the Ghosts' a story filled with unknown names and concepts to the British ppts.
                                  2. Findings
                                    1. Ppts distorted the story through recall. 3 patterns found.
                                      1. Assimilation - the story got more consistent with the ppts own cultural expectations.
                                        1. Levelling - the story became shorter as ppts cut out irrelevant information.
                                          1. Sharpening - ppts changed the order of the story to make sense of it.
                                        2. Conclusion
                                          1. Remembering is an active process where information is retrieved and changed to fit into existing schemas.
                                            1. This is done to create meaning in the incoming data
                                            2. Humans constantly search for meaning
                                              1. From this research, Bartlett formulated the theory of reconstructive memory.
                                              2. Evaluation
                                                1. Weaknesses
                                                  1. Ppts didn't receive standardised instructions and some of the memory distortions may be due to ppts guessing (demand characteristics)
                                                    1. The theory describes memory as being reconstructive but doesn't describe the process - reductionist.
                                                      1. It's unclear how schemas are acquired and how people choose between schemas - reductionist.
                                                      2. Strengths
                                                        1. Allport & Postman (1947): when asked to recall details of the picture opposite, ppts tended to report that it was the black man who was holding the razor - schemas of racial stereotypes influenced their memory.
                                                          1. Brewer & Treyens (1981): ppts were taken into a university student office and left for 35 seconds before being taken into another room.
                                                            1. They were asked to remember as much as they could from the room. Ppts recalled things of a typical office. They didn't recall the wine and picnic basket in the office
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