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Lecture 8

Long Term Memory: Lecture 8 - Constructive memory

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Lecture 8: Constructive Memory What you experience as a memory is an inference. A reconstruction of what actually happened. Sir Frederic Bartlett: The first to propose that what you experience is not the entire memory trace (physical changes associated with memory formation) itself, but a reconstruction of the event. Study:  Made people remember a native American folktale ‘War of the Ghosts,’ which appeared too disjointed and superstitious to the British participants.  Task: Repeated Reproduction – The people had to reproduce (rewrite) the story they heard as accurately as they could. He asked them to do this repeatedly over varying time intervals, from days to weeks to months.  This tested how the person’s memory evolved over time.  More anecdotal observations than controlled experiments. He didn’t manipulate any independent variables etc. Not a standard approach to psychology. Results:  Their memories of the story conformed to their own expectations and attitudes: o Recounts became shorter in length & simpler o Either they excluded parts of the story they failed to comprehend/understand (eg. The supernatural elements), or they added in their own rationalised explanations for an event occurring.  The stories underwent dramatic change. Findings:  Memory is not the recovery of a memory trace or engram.  He dismissed the idea that what we’re experiencing when we’re consciously retrieving a memory is the engram itself (which was the common view at that time).  Viewed memory as highly constructive and imaginative.  We weave together meaning from highly fragmented bits and pieces of data in our memory. o So our attitudes and expectations have a huge influence on what it is that we remember.  Schema (pl. schemata) o This constructive process is guided by a SCHEMA. o = The organisational structure of an event in memory. o Very high level and abstract representation of what happens. o Lacks specific details. o Emphasis is on the broader meaning and coherence of an event, rather than the specific details of what happened. o We use schema to weave together bits and pieces of our memory in a way that makes sense to us. o If a detail does not make sense and does not fit in the schema, we are more than happy to exclude it from our memory, even though it was present in the original event. o If a detail fits very well in the schema but was not actually part of the event in the first place, we tend to add it to our memory anyway. Memory distortion: Schemata & Gist Experiment showed that people rely on a general schema or gist for typical environments. Eg. In an office, the schema would include books, table, chair, shelves, so whether or not they’re actually present in a particular room, people would generally think that they saw all of these items when put into an office.  Memory is influenced by their EXPECTATIONS and GENERAL GIST/KNOWLEDGE of what they saw.  There is logic to this reconstruction howeve not completely delusional. Memory distortion: DRM Paradigm  Widely used lab technique to test memory distortion.  False recall of critical non-presented word as it fits very well in schema.  Very high rates of memory distortion  Associated with very high confidence and subjective certainty.  Real life example: Eye-witness identification  Fallibility and vulnerability of human memory  wrongful conviction Memory distortion: Source confusion  Not remembering the origin of a memory. 
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