In order to evaluate this claim it is necessary to look at some of the research that has been carried out on memory. Most of the relevant research findings support the theory that memory is indeed a constructive and dynamic system but how much of what we store in our memory is down to active and conscious energy and how much information is absorbed in a passive and automatic way. Brace and Roth (as cited in Brace and Roth, 2007, pg130) state that “memory is an active, selective and constructive process rather than a passive mechanism for recording external information.” This essay will look at the research done on the subject and evaluate to what extent the memory is a constructive and dynamic system.
Without our memories, humans would not be able to function properly. It is a necessary and vital part of everyday life. It is therefore important to psychologists that they understand how it functions. The research done so far has broken memory down into three kinds of processes. Encoding is when experiences and information acquired through the senses are stored in the memory. The Storage processes are responsible for retaining the stored information so that it is not forgotten. The Retrieval system is responsible for pulling information out of the memory store in order to remember it (Brace and Roth, 2007).
The memory also has sub-sections that work simultaneously and comprise of sensory memory, short-term memory and long-term memory. William James (as cited in Brace and Roth, 2007) was the first psychologist to theorise that the brain used a primary memory permitting conscious mental activity and a secondary memory responsible for storing the information.
Memories help us with our formation of self and without a memory we would not have any idea of our own identity. We wouldn’t be able to remember all of the experiences that have made us who we are and we wouldn’t be able to establish our place in society. Psychologists such as Erikson dedicated their research to this area of identity and its strong relation to memory and the development of the self, especially in adolescence (Brace and Roth, 2007).
Memory is not something that can be observed easily. We have to accept its existence as without it we wouldn’t be able to function in everyday life. Psychologists have employed many different techniques in order to explore the concept of memory and to try to find evidence that it is in fact a constructive and dynamic system rather than just a passive mechanism. These include controlled laboratory experiments, quasi- experiments, field experiments, diary studies and cross-sectional studies. Research by the psychologist Bartlett in the 1920s highlighted the notion of memory as a constructive and dynamic system (Brace and Roth 2007). He wanted to investigate by employing an introspection method how knowledge already stored in the memory affects the processing of new information. He chose familiar, meaningful material and stimuli so as to obtain a true reflection of how the memory works in day to day life. An example of his research was that he asked his participants to read a story and then try and remember as many details as possible. He found that if the participants when faced with terminology or concepts that they weren’t familiar with or deemed irrelevant would omit or change the details into recognisable events. Bartlett (as cited in Brace and Roth, 2007) described these changes as “unwitting.” They supported the theory that some active and unconscious activity was taking place in the memory processes. These research finding led Bartlett to later conclude that when we are faced with remembering new information, in order to make sense of it we rely on our past knowledge and experience. This “effort after meaning” leads us to believe that memory...