Cognitive Psychology: Bartlett's reconstructive memory theory

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  • Reconstructive memory theory
    • This is proposed by Bartlett
      • He was concerned with what happens when information is stored and retrieved from memory. Memory is more of an imaginative reconstruction of past events influenced by our attitudes and responses at the events the time occurred.
    • Perception
      • In order to understand memory we need to know what precedes it and what follows it.
      • Bartlett devised a series of experiments to test memory of shapes and objects.
      • Ppts assigned verbal labels/names for each shape and object.
      • Perception of a shape/object determines how it was rememberd
    • Imaging
      • A series of tests on imaging was used and Bartlett asked each ppt to describe each pattern they saw.
      • Ppts rummaged about their own stored images to find one that would be the best fit of the ink blot pattern they saw. They often described it as a plant/animal.
      • Descriptions determined by the individual's own interests and experiences and their mood at the time.
      • This is called the effort for meaning (spending time to try to connect a stimulus with knowledge and experience the had so it it's easier used and stored
    • Remembering
      • Active construction of what we think we see using prior knowledge to guide the judgement
      • Asked ppts to read a story called "War of the Ghosts"
        • He used this story due to the repeated reproduction method (ppt recalls info at large time intervals e.g. a week, month or even a year!)
        • He used this story for 4 reasons: culturally unfamiliar, lacks rational data, dramatic in nature and has a supernatural conclusion.
        • Bartlett found that the story was shortened, based on modern society and more coherent.
      • Memory is reconstructed each time it is recalled and prone to distortion, rationalisation, transformation and simplification. It is constrictive in nature.
    • We tend to try to reconstruct memories on the basis of what has happened, what usually happens.
      • E.g. Police interviews you based on a car accident you saw and you tell them you saw broken glass on the road after the accident even though there isn't any
        • This is an inaccurate memory as we think that this is what happens when 2 cars crash to each other.


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