To study very long-term memories in a real-life setting.
There were 3 tasks:
1) In a recall test, 392 ppl were asked to list the names of their ex-classmates.
2) In a photo recognition task, P's were shown photographs of their ex-classmates and were asked if they could remember the names.
3) In a name recognition task, P's were given names of their ex-classmates and asked to find the matching photographs.
Within 15 years of leaving school, P's could recognise 90% of the faces and names.
Within 48 years of leaving school, P's could recognise 75% of the faces and names.
Free recall memory had declined more than photo and name recognition memory.
The study shows evidence of very long-term memories in a real-life setting.
Since recognition was more accurate than free recall, there may be information stored in memory that can only be accessed when we are given the appropriate cue.
This study was undertaken in a real-life setting and the memories were meaningful to the P's so it has high ecological validity.
It also has application in real-life, for example, carers could show elderly ppl photographs of their friends and colleagues in the Second World War in order to engage them in conversation.