To What Extent Is Memory A Reliable Process?
IB HL2 Psychology
Memory is the process of organizing the arrangement of information acquired through personal experience. Given the roles that schema play, memories can be reliable, as people tend to hold vivid detail in the events of their activated schema. The retrieval and encoding of memory is, however, subjected to change over time through reconstruction and is therefore doubtful in its accuracy.
The reliability of memory is supported by schema theory. Schema is the cognitive framework of organized knowledge, which aids in the understanding and information processing of new situations or otherwise. Anderson and Pichert (1978)’s study investigated the influence of schema on memory in encoding and retrieval stage. They presented a story of two boys who decided to stay home on a school day. Participants either had to interpret it in a house buyer or burglar perspective. They were then told to do a recall test of the house’s characteristics. Those who had a potential house buyer perspective recalled the leaky roof while the burglar perspective recalled the antique coin collection. The participants later switched viewpoints. They found that participants were able to recall characteristics that were not consistent with their activated schema in the first trial. These results suggest that people still encode for supposedly irrelevant information, not aligned with their activated schema thus demonstrating that memory can accurately and holistically account for details of an event. There is, however, a limitation to this conclusion--memory is subjective to the stimulus word of a specific schema, recalling only certain details aligned with the schema and ignoring aspects that do not cohere with it.
A similar study conducted by Brewer and Treyens (1981) both supported and challenged schema theory. They invited 30 participants to wait in a room for 35 seconds, designed to appear like an office, containing several high-office schema and low-office schema objects. The participants were then given an unprecedented recall test. Majority of the participants recalled for items in the high-schema expectancy category. The errors made were either substitution or wrong placement. Participants tend to recall false presences of high-schema expectancy objects (e.g. pencils). Otherwise, their mistakes were recalling the objects in high-schema expectancy locations instead of where it was actually stationed. There were, however, eight participants who recalled for the unusual objects in the scene. The researchers’ findings concluded that though memory recall comprised of characteristics within a scope of a schema, there is still reason to speculate. The eight participants demonstrated that in some circumstances, recalling for the unusual reigns over the memory of conventional characteristics. Schema theory has been viewed as a resourceful way for psychologists to explain cognitive framework: the combination of sub-skill cognition, influenced by schema. The theory can also give ample reasoning in the formation of stereotypes and prejudice, as well as the process of learning. Given the reference to previous knowledge and past experiences, schema influences our expectations and therefore our interpretations. It aids in the accuracy of memory recall of the specified schema and stands to consider memory a reliable process. However, according to the basis of the theory, humans allude to past experiences for an understanding of a present situation. This outline that the encoding and retrieval of memory is susceptible to reconstruction.