Schema & Reliability of Memory

Ember Jetter


According to ( "schema theory states that all knowledge is organized

into units. Within these units of knowledge, or schemata, is stored information." This means that all the thoughts that we process in a given day are broken down into separate categories, that aid us in identifying the said object of topic, by using previous knowledge. As we learn more, by daily interactions, our "schema" is altered in order to make closer connections to a given topic. For example, as we drive more and more, our driving skills pick up on actions that we otherwise wouldn't have, when you had drivers ed, merging onto the interstate was scary whereas now it is a simple task that we feel like we have mastered. Schema has a big impact on the way we process information because of how we have the ability to identify new objects to known past objects, which transfers directly to our minds being able to process how to respond with our words and/or actions.

The 1932 Bartlett Study

Frederic Bartlett created the ‘Memory and Recollection” experiment in order to prove that memory is flexible and can retain information in which to build on. His method was to tell a person a story, and then have them relay the same story, to best of their ability, to the next person. This experiment was the more formal style of the activity that we did in class. His story was a Native American legend called “the War of the Ghosts”, he allowed the participants to read through the story twice, without telling them what his aim was. His findings were that those who were not knowledgable of the Native American characters, from a separate region, had a harder time relaying the story. He also noticed that the story would get shorter, while maintaing a narrative with details that most people shared remaining prominent. He used this strange story to show that as people learn in their lives, they can relate an object to another said object, by having a predetermined mindset of what it could be. This study supports the schema theory because his evidence of people trying to fit the story, without knowing the item of topic struggled, where those who could identify with parts of the story had an easier time relaying the study. Therefore the idea of people seeking a pattern in their experiences (being knowledge) both past and present, shows how reconstructable knowledge that is based off of memory. The cognitive processes are affected and influenced by social and cultural factors. We use schemas that we have acquired in order to have a preset idea of how to behave but it is based from our own experiences and culture. If we were to be exposed to an entirely different culture, we can only add on to our schema as it may have similar properties but different changes.

The 1974 Loftus and Palmer Study

The aim in Loftus and Palmer’s study is to see if phrasing a question would affect the speed of response. Forty-five students were put into five groups which were shown seven films of traffic accidents, lasting from five to thirty seconds. Afterwards they were asked a question, “about how fast were the cars going when they ___ each other?”, the five verbs given were: contacted, hit, bumped, collided, and smashed. The results varied from one verb to the other. The conclusion that their data came to was that the form of a question can affect the response given. This helped to prove that the witness can be manipulated with their statements because of the cognitive applications used. The mind can be studied scientifically which was done in this study and proved that the brain can alter the response given when the question alters itself. Humans process information and that guides behavior, and to connect the Bartlett study, the data gained from there showed that parts of the story commonly shared with the participants stayed prominent without the chain of stories, where in this study the participants changed their answer based on what verb was in question.

Riniolo study connecting to the Loftus and Palmer study

The Riniolo study was a poll from eye-witnesses that were present for the sinking of the Titanic. The aim of the study was to see if the memory of those there was reliable, on the debate of if the ship broke in half before sinking or not. The method was looking at transcripts from hearings in 1912, one in the USA and the other from the UK. Twenty of the ninety-one cases that addressed whether the ship broke or not. The results were that 75% of the witnesses said that the titanic was breaking apart, and the other 25% stated that the ship stayed intact. Of course years later, we found that the ship was still intact after sinking. This supports the findings that Loftus and Palmer had. The results indicated that memory isn’t reliable and is flexible by the use of different words. The words activated different cognitive schema of what they remembered, therefore altering the data. The principles can be proven from scientific studies that are conducted such as the previous ones stated, as well as acknowledgement of the way that humans process their information which leads to the behavior radiated.