Type: Process Essays
Sample donated: Stephanie Hodges
Last updated: September 14, 2019
IntroductionThestudy of memory is part of the cognitive area of psychology. However, the process of retrieving memory are influenced by various factorswhich results in distortion of memory recall. This suggest that we change our memories, adjusting them to fit ourexpectations and assumptions whereby memory is constructed using relevantschemas, rather than being an exact representation of what was witnessed andexperienced. Bartlett(1932) conducted a study investigating the effect of schema on memory. Hedemonstrated that memory is reconstructive through serial reproduction, wherehe told twenty British participants a story called “War of Ghosts” and asked themto repeatedly recall the story at different time intervals. Results showed thatstory which participants was retelling was altered and distorted.
The storybecame noticeably shorter with after six or seven reproductions and the storybecame more typical and conventional. Therefore, it was concluded that culturalschemas of participants affected how they interpreted the information and laterrecalled the story. Hence, this shows that the past is reconstructed by tryingto fit it into existing schemas, showing how one’s memory recall is vulnerableto be reconstructed under the influence of their cultural and personal beliefs.
Another aspect which affects one’sinterpretation of an event is perception, which consequently influencesreconstructions. Thisis demonstrated when Loftus et al. (1987) was looking into how perception of anevent affected ones’ ability to accurately recall past events. She presentedsubject witnesses with multiple slides showing an event where there were twoconditions: The first condition, the no weapon condition, in which subjects sawa customer hand a check to the cashier. The second condition was the “weapon”condition, whereby a man points a gun at the cashier instead.
Participants werethen asked to identify the man from twenty different photographs and assess howconfident they were of their identification of the person. Results revealedthat those who witnessed the man emerging in the no weapon condition tended tobe more accurate. This was explained by the weapon focus. When the weapon wasinvolved, it drew attention away from other relevant information, influencingparticipant’s perception of the event. Therefore, resulting in the reduction inability to accurately recall the person.
This clearly shows that how interpretationof information is affected by individual’s perception of information, and thuscan influence one’s reconstruction of memory of the event. Tosee the extent to which memory recall can be altered by irrelevant externalinfluences, Loftus and Palmer (1974) performed an experiment to investigatereconstructive memory in relation to eyewitness testimony. They looked into theeffect of working of question on accuracy of memory recall. There were five otherconditions, where the word smashed wasreplaced by other verbs including: collided, bumped, hit and contacted. Thisallowed them to determine the effect of different words on speed estimate.