Reconstructive Memory Evaluation

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Applications to Real Life

  • P- Useful in understanding how our memory can be manipulated by post-event information which is important for eyewitness testimony. E- We know that any gaps we have in our memory are filled in with schemas, making the memory inaccurate. E- This is useful to the police as they can ensure they don't contribute to eyewitnesses reconstructing events and making sure they give their own account rather than being influenced by leading questions 
  • P- The theory has impacted on UK legal systems. E- The theory explains why eyewitnesses make errors when reporting the crimes they have seen.E- This has led to the Devlin Report being introduced, which states that prosecution cannot be on the basis of a single eyewitness.  
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Comparisons and Credibility

  • P- The theory simply describes that memory is reconstructive E- rather than explaining how far e.g. we pick a schema, it says that memory is active and uses schemas. E- But, it does not say how memory is processed unlike other theories such as 'levels of processing' which states memories are processed according to depth and understanding.
  • P- The theory is limited in its explanation of recalling memories. E- This distinctiveness effect has long been noted and other theories e.g. 'flash bulb memories' are more successful in explaining why. E- It doesn't fully explain why, often, unusual information that can't be easily incorporated into existing schemas is remembered well. 
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How Good is the Research

  • P- War of Ghosts was used to formulate the theory which others have argued reduces the validity of the theory. E- One problem is the use of folk tales- they're written in an unusual style and so may not actually represent everyday memory. This lacks mundane realism of how we would use reconstructive memory in everyday life. E- However, the material is more valid than later studies that have used 'nonsense' material.
  • P- Much research has been conducted in a lab and so can be said to lack ecological validity. E- The methodology in War of Ghosts was not rigorously controlled and participants did not receive standardised instructions, so any distortions may have led to demand characteristics. E- So, using the results to shape the theory will also mean the theory is bias and less credible.
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