To What Extent Is One Cognitive Process Reliable

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Memory is an important cognitive process that guides our behaviours; it is often relied heavily upon to solve small matters in everyday life and huge issues in legal systems. But is this process actually reliable? A study by Bartlett suggests that this may not be so – reconstructive memory, the theory that memory is not exact or precise but must be pieced together by our experiences, can be distorted by the culture we are brought up in. Additionally, Loftus and Palmer have concluded with findings from their experiment that post-event information can easily distort memory of the actual event. However, Loftus’ study was criticized by Yuille and Cutshall for being too lacking in ecological validity, and has in fact obtained findings that contrasted it. A factor that influences the reliability of our memory are schemas – “packets” of information obtained from previous experiences that subsequently affect our perceptions to specific things. Bartlett was interested in the role of these schemas in recall. He asked European and Native American participants to read the Native American folk story, War of the Ghost, twice. Fifteen minutes after reading, both groups were asked to reproduce the story. This story was chosen because of its cultural significance towards Native Americans – European participants will adapt their own cultural schemas to their memory of the story. As a result, Native Americans found it easier to reproduce the story, and European participants did indeed use their own cultural schemas to fill in gaps of the story which they could not remember accurately, such as filling in “boat” for “canoe”. This shows that memory is indeed susceptible to distortion caused by the culture we are brought up in, hence not necessarily as reliable as we think. The way this study was performed was very straightforward and highly replicable, meaning this experiment can be repeated to see if results are the same for different cultures and different stories. Gender bias was...
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