Reliability of Memory
Memory refers to the processes that are used to acquire, store, retain and later retrieve information in our brains. In most cases, it is the most responsible source of knowledge that we can think of. However, there may be several limitations in memory retrieval in different situations. For example, it is believed that people tend to forget the worst moments in their life. Or, as older people get, their short-term memory, which brings memories from few hours ago, worsens, while remembering what happened 40 years ago is not a problem.
Memory can be considered reliable from a certain point, and this can be particularly explained by the schema theory. Schemas are organized mental structures of knowledge and information about the world, events or people, stored in long term memory. Schema theory simply suggests that all knowledge is stored in different units in the brain. It is believed that memory in human brains works like a videotape which is possible to replay whenever needed; with information being retrieved in much the same form as it was encoded. However, our schemas can be influenced by various factors, such as inner prejudice, which create the concept of reconstructive memory unreliable. Schemas are therefore capable of distorting unfamiliar or unconsciously ‘unacceptable’ information in order to ‘fit in’ with our existing knowledge or schemas.
This has been supported by a famous study on reconstructive memory, “War of Ghosts” conducted by Frederic Bartlett in 1932. In this study, British participants were told a Native American folk story, which they had to recall over different intervals of time. They were told to read the story two times, and then told to recall the story that they had just read. They then had to visit the laboratory several times over the course of weeks, months and years for the recall of the story.
Within recall, participants created various errors which linked to unsuccessful recall of almost...
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