Theories Of Memory - Reconstructive Memory

The Reconstructive Memory approach is concerned with what happens when information is stored and retrieved from memory, rather than how it is stored like levels of processing or the multi-store model. To the layperson, memory retrieval is operated in much the same way as a DVD player - we keep some form of complete, sequential record of everything and when we remember something, we are effectively locating the right clip and playing it back. However, Bartlett (1932) suggested that memory was an “imaginative reconstruction of past events, influenced by our attitudes and our responses to that event at the time they occurred”. Retrieval of these memories thus involves an active process of reconstruction. Whenever we try to recall an event we actually piece it together using a range of information.

He developed the ‘serial reproduction’ method of studying reconstructive memory, which is very much like the game ‘Chinese Whispers’.

Bartlett proposed that the reason for memory distortion was the fact that remembering involves looking at units of memory known as schemas. We have a schema for every aspect of the world, consisting of all the information we have that is related to it.  When we reconstruct memories we activate the relevant schemas and make use of the information from them. It is probably easiest to think of memory as a huge filing cabinet containing millions of files (schemas). When we reconstruct a memory we pull out one of these…


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