CHP 5. memory traces and memory schemas

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21 Apr 2012
mystic writing pad (Freud) - model of memory based on a children's toy (writing tablet) that allows
new messages to be written on one level, while fragments of old messages accumulate on another level.
the toy has three layers (black wax, paper, plastic)
drawn to attention by Paul & Erdelyi
perceptions are transitory
o perception = what appears on the tablet's overlay
memories are after-effects of perception
o memory = the remaining indent on the black wax after the overlay is removed
if memory followed the mystic writing pad model => recollection would be reconstruction of
the past, extremely prone to error
imperfect model; but it helps clairfy the difference between memory traces and memory
memory traces - memory as distinct, permanent copies of previous experiences
if memory is entirely based on memory traces => remembering would be re-expriencing the
coined the reappearance hypothesis (by Neisser)
memory schemas - memory relies on fragments which are used to support a new construction
ex. paleontologist trying to reconstruct a dinosaur from a few remaining bone fragments
flashbulb memories - vivid, detailed memories of significant events
ex. Brown & Kulik (1977) study on flashbulb memories
o asked participants to recall the circumstances during a significant event (President
Kennedy's death, aprox. 10 years previous)
o results: almost all participants gave detailed memories
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reports typically contained information on (a) place where they learnt about the
event (b) what they were doing at the time of hearing the news (c) the
informant (d) affect/ how they felt at the time (e) aftermath/ what they did
immediately after receiving the news
=> stimulus event occurs
a. test for critical degree of surprise
o too surprising => retrograde amnesia
o right amount of surprising => flash bulb memory
o no surprise factor => inattention
b. test for degree of consequentiality
c. flashbulb memory, varying in elaboration
d. rehearsals (overt/covert) varying in frequency
e. flashbulb accounts, varying in elaboration
(for diagram see figure 5.2, p 124)
now print theory - a specific process, similar to a xerograph, lays down in memory copies of especially
significant experiences
focuses on the production of memory
Brown & Kulik suggested that with the evolution of external memory aids (ex. books), this type
of memory became less useful
Brown & Kulik's experiment was repeated for the Challenger space shuttle explosion (Bohannon et al)
data was collected 3 days after the crash, and again 9 months after
as memory evolves it becomes less concrete/specific, and more abstract/general
o evolution of memory: towards memory schemas (away from memory traces)
inconsistencies given 9 months were small reconstructive errors, similar to other memories
Weaver & Neisser => flashbulb events are recalled with greater confidence but not greater accuracy
(compared to other memories) **
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support by Weaver's study on 911 Attack: consistency/inconsistency
consolidation theory - memory traces of an event are not fully formed immediately after the event,
but take some time to become complete
the process of consolidation can be disrupted
o retroactive interference - decrease in the recall of one thing experienced, due to the
result of a experiencing something else later
hippocampus - brain area crucial for consolidation of memory traces
reconsolidation - hypothetical process whereby a memory trace is revised and undergoes
consolidation again
review on memory reconsolidation literature (Nader) - memories are dynamic process
method of repeated reproduction - one participant is given multiple opportunities to recall something
over time
method of serial reproduction - one participant (A), is given something to remember. A writes down
what they can recall. A's version is give to the next participant (B). B reads it and tries to recall it. B's
version is written down, and given to C... etc.
method of serial reproduction: ex. recalling a study
people select some material to remember and some to omit
ommissions reflect a process of rationalization - the attempt to make memory as coherent and
sensible as possible
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