The Effect of a Schema on Memory
Psychology MSc, University of Hertfordshire
Schema Theory is a principle in which cognitive processes are influenced by social and cultural factors. According to schema theory the knowledge we have stored in our memory is reorganised into a set of schemas which is based upon our general knowledge and our previous experience. Experiments have proved that despite seeing and interacting with an object almost every day, our ability to remember said object is greatly influenced by the schemas we already have. This experiment will be conducted in an almost identical way to that of French and Richards and look at the effect of schemas on memory. It was predicted that participants use their previous knowledge of Roman numerals to mistakenly draw the clock. This experiments used a between-participants, experimental design as all the participants were in three separate conditions which were then compared. In condition one and two the told to look at a clock and either forewarned that they would be tested or not, the clock was taken away and they had to reproduce it. In the last condition the clock was left in front of them when they had to reproduce it. The findings of this experiment showed that schematic knowledge of the Roman numeral system strongly influenced the participants’ drawings when drawing them from memory, but it was not strong enough to influence the subjects’ perception of the clock.
The Effect of a Schema on Memory
Schema Theory is a principle in which cognitive processes are influenced by social and cultural factors. Bartlett felt that the concept of schemas is central to the organisation of our long term memory. He defined a schema as a mental representation of knowledge and he conducted an experiment which showed how when people had trouble remembering a story from another culture they reconstructed the story to fit in with their own cultural schemas. Bartlett claimed that this is why there are often many distortions and discrepancies in memory processes as humans make inferences and deductions, fitting it in with their own understanding of the world. Further research has shown that schemas prominently affect our memory for common everyday events and as a result our memory for these events is exceptionally poor. Cohen (1989) explains how according to schema theory the knowledge we have stored in our memory is reorganised into a set of schemas which is based upon our general knowledge and our previous experience. Experiments have proved that despite seeing and interacting with an object almost every day, our ability to remember said object is greatly influenced by the schemas we already have. Nickerson and Adams (1982) found that American subjects had great difficulty in remembering an American one-cent coin. Furthermore Morris (1988) showed that British performed even worse in tasks involving recognising a ten pence piece. Mortan (1957) found that out of 50 subjects no one could correctly recall a the numbers and letters on a telephone. These studies provide evidence that memory is surprisingly poor when recalling and recognising mundane objects which one interact with on a day to day basis. These findings led to a study done by French and Richards (1993) who did an experiment looking at schema theory and examining its effect on short term memory. They found that most people did not know that clocks using Roman numerals represented the number four with IIII as opposed to IV. They had three conditions, in the first participants were shown this type of clock and then asked to draw it from memory. In the second condition the participants were shown the same clock but told beforehand they would have to draw the clock from memory. The last condition participants did not have to draw the clock form memory but were left with it in front of them. They found that most of the participants in conditions 1 and 2 drew the clock with the traditional IV....
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