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study of memory is part of the cognitive area of psychology. The theory of
reconstructive memory proposes that memory is an active cognitive process that
involves the reconstruction of information, rather than being a passive
retrieval of information from the long-term storage. (Popov, 2017).
However, the process of retrieving memory are influenced by various factors
which results in distortion of memory recall. Bartlett suggested that memory is
guided by individual’s scheme and cultural (1932, cited in Law et al., 2010).
This suggest that we change our memories, adjusting them to fit our
expectations and assumptions whereby memory is constructed using relevant
schemas, rather than being an exact representation of what was witnessed and

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(1932) conducted a study investigating the effect of schema on memory. He
demonstrated that memory is reconstructive through serial reproduction, where
he told twenty British participants a story called “War of Ghosts” and asked them
to repeatedly recall the story at different time intervals. Results showed that
story which participants was retelling was altered and distorted. The story
became noticeably shorter with after six or seven reproductions and the story
became more typical and conventional. This is because relevant schemas and
appropriate existing information were used to help participant make sense of
information and retain details which shared past experience (John Crane, 2012). Therefore, it was concluded that cultural
schemas of participants affected how they interpreted the information and later
recalled the story. Hence, this shows that the past is reconstructed by trying
to fit it into existing schemas, showing how one’s memory recall is vulnerable
to be reconstructed under the influence of their cultural and personal beliefs.

Another aspect which affects one’s
interpretation of an event is perception, which consequently influences
reconstructions. This
is demonstrated when Loftus et al. (1987) was looking into how perception of an
event affected ones’ ability to accurately recall past events. She presented
subject witnesses with multiple slides showing an event where there were two
conditions: The first condition, the no weapon condition, in which subjects saw
a customer hand a check to the cashier. The second condition was the “weapon”
condition, whereby a man points a gun at the cashier instead. Participants were
then asked to identify the man from twenty different photographs and assess how
confident they were of their identification of the person. Results revealed
that those who witnessed the man emerging in the no weapon condition tended to
be more accurate. This was explained by the weapon focus. When the weapon was
involved, it drew attention away from other relevant information, influencing
participant’s perception of the event. Therefore, resulting in the reduction in
ability to accurately recall the person. This clearly shows that how interpretation
of information is affected by individual’s perception of information, and thus
can influence one’s reconstruction of memory of the event.

see the extent to which memory recall can be altered by irrelevant external
influences, Loftus and Palmer (1974) performed an experiment to investigate
reconstructive memory in relation to eyewitness testimony. They looked into the
effect of working of question on accuracy of memory recall. Forty-Five American
students were showed seven video clips of traffic accidents. The critical
question was: About how fast were the cars going when they smashed each other? (Loftus, 1974). There were five other
conditions, where the word smashed was
replaced by other verbs including: collided, bumped, hit and contacted. This
allowed them to determine the effect of different words on speed estimate. 

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