Abstract schemas may contribute to inhibiting recall and affect

Abstract

Various studies have gone into schematic memory. A well-known
study is by French and Richards (1993). This experiment replicated French and
Richards (1993) experiment, to investigate distortion of memory in everyday
objects from three experimental conditions: Surprise Memory Condition,
Forewarned Memory Condition and Copy Condition. Participants were presented
with a watch with numbers represented as Roman numerals. Some of those who were
asked to draw the watch from memory mistakenly reported the four numeral as ‘IV’
instead of ‘IIII’. Although, most of the participants in the copy condition
correctly presented the numeral as ‘IIII’ and not as ‘IV’. When asked if they
had noticed anything unusual about the clock face, 84.68% stated ‘No’ they had
not noticed anything odd. Findings suggests that our pre-existing schemas
replaces exposed information, as shown in the memory conditions, and being
exposed to something for a length of time does not produce a memory of that
object.

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Introduction

Research into memory started over 80 years ago, further
information and studies have since arose through understanding of the brain and
recollection. However, in the last 20 years it has been found that everyday
memory of an object is considerably poor.

Schema theories are used to explain everyday memory; they
are used to organise our knowledge and recall. This helps to guide, predict
behaviour and make sense of current circumstances around us. Schemas are
created from prior knowledge and experience, creating expectations of what can
happen in certain social and non-social situations. Sometimes, our existing
schemas are replaced; if an object evolves and there are new ways to do things,
then our old schema is replaced. There are times when we can add information to
our schemas, this combines a new knowledge into an understanding of an object.

Poor memory recall could be because of pre-existing
schemas that can lead to memory distortion (Bartlett, 1923). Bartlett (1923)
found, in his study of War of the Ghost, that schemas influence memory and that
existing schemas may lead to alterations in the memory. In fact, schemas may contribute
to inhibiting recall and affect how memory is programmed in the brain (Anderson
and Pichert, 1978).

Carmazza (2009), studied the visual cortex and found that
information about living and non-living objects were put in different parts of
the brain, to trigger the appropriate responses. Even in the blind. This
connects areas of the visual cortex with regions in the rest of the brain and
where the information is automatically sorted and categorised.

Recollection of everyday objects can be seen to be
relatively poor. Morris (1988) found that British students had significantly
poor performance when recognising the appearance of a 10p coin. This was even
worse when American subjects failed at recalling a US one-cent coin (Nickerson
& Adams, 1982).

In 1993, French and Richard’s experimented on mistakes
surrounding clocks, also known as schema driven memory. The study had 41
participants who were placed in three conditions and were shown a picture of a clock
with a Roman numeral that was shown as ‘IIII’ and not ‘IV’. In the first
condition ‘Surprise memory Condition’, the participants were told they were
going to be shown a picture of a clock which they were to examine for one
minute. After the minute the picture was removed, and participants were asked
to draw the clock as accurately as they could from memory. The second condition
was called ‘The Forewarned Memory Condition’ in this the participants were told
they were going to be shown a picture of a clock and they will be asked to draw
the clock from memory as accurately as possible. The final condition called
‘Copy Condition’, was about copying the clock and had six minutes to do so. It
was never removed.

Their findings suggested that only those in the copy
condition drew the watch with the numeral ‘IIII’ and not ‘IV’. Those who were
in the pre-warned or surprised condition drew it as ‘IV’, as this was a memory
task and they had to focus on their schematic memory. These results suggest
that we will mostly use our schematic memory in our day to day life.

This experiment attempted to replicate the effects
demonstrated in French and Richards (1993). This was to extend the 1993 study
to see whether being exposed to something new for a length of time will replace
the previously learned memory of the object, or if it will not be enough for a
schema to produce a memory. It was predicted that most of the participants in
the copy condition would represent the watch as ‘IIII’ and those who were
drawing the watch from memory would represent it as ‘IV’, due to their
schematic knowledge of the Roman numeral. This study aimed to examine whether the schema of the participants in the memory
condition influenced the representation of the numeral on the watch.

 

Method

Design

 

A randomised design was used in this experiment. There
was one independent variable: the conditions the participants were placed in (surprise
memory condition, forewarned memory condition or copy condition). There were two
dependant variables: the participants drawing the watch face correctly as
‘IIII’ or incorrectly as ‘IV’ and the participants’ noticing anything irregular
about the watch face.

 

Participants

 

The participants were 111 undergraduate students attending a research
methods in psychology module at Birkbeck, University of London.

 

Materials

 

Participants used a computer to access the watch face
link, then prompted to write which condition they were in. Afterwards, they
were presented with a pen and paper

 

Procedure

 

Participants were randomly divided into three groups and
allocated to one of the three conditions:

 

Condition A. The Surprise
Memory Condition. Participants were directed to a screen that had the
following message across it “You are going to see a picture of a watch and
should examine it closely”. After one minute the picture of the watch disappeared
from the screen and participants were further instructed “Please now draw
the watch as accurately as possible from memory on a piece of paper. You will
have five minutes to do so”. After the five minutes, the participants were
asked “Did anything seem unusual about the watch face?” they were
then prompted to click ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Finally, participants were asked to look
at their drawing to see if they drew the four on the watch as ‘IIII’ or ‘IV’
(or something else). They were then asked to record how they had drawn the four
by selecting “1 for IIII, 2 for IV, or 3 for something else”.

 

Condition B. The Forewarned Memory Condition. Participants
were directed to a screen that had the following message across it “You are going to see a picture of a watch and should examine it
closely. After one minute the picture of the watch will disappear from the
screen. Then I will ask you to draw the watch from memory”. The picture of
the watch stayed on the screen for one minute, afterwards it was removed, participants
were then asked “Please now draw the watch as accurately as possible from
memory on a piece of paper. You will have 5 minutes to do so”. As
before, participants were asked if they have noticed anything unusual about the
watch face and to respond with ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Again, they were asked to look at
their drawing to see if they had drawn the watch as ‘IIII’ or ‘IV’ (or
something else). Then asked to record how they had drawn the four by selecting “1
for IIII, 2 for IV, or 3 for something else”.

 

Condition C. The Copy Condition. Participants were
directed to a screen that had the following message across it “You are going to
see a picture of a watch and should examine it closely and draw a picture of
it. You have five minutes to do so”. The picture of the watch remained in
view for five minutes. Afterwards they were asked if they had noticed anything
unusual about the watch and then to check how they had drawn the number four
and record their answer.

 

Results and Discussion

 

The results were inspected by research assistants to see
if the four on the watch face was presented correctly as ‘IIII’ or incorrectly
as ‘IV’. It was then put into a contingency table. Results for the 111
participants representation of the watch face is presented in Table 1. In Table
2, results are presented to display whether the participants noticed anything
odd about the watch face.

 

Table 1 shows whether the participants had represented
the four as ‘IV’ or ‘IIII’ in each of their experimental conditions. The table shows
more participants had drawn the Roman numeral as ‘IV’, instead of ‘IIII’.

 

Table 1:
Contingency table showing participants representing four as ‘IV’ and ‘IIII’
under the three conditions: surprise memory condition, forewarned memory condition
and copy condition

29 out of 37 participants in the copy task had drawn the
watch face correctly as ‘IIII’. This proposes that their schematic memory of
the Roman numeral was not strong enough to affect the depiction of the watch
face. However, the schematic memory in the 8 participants who had drawn the
watch face as ‘IV’, had a stronger influence.

It is apparent, that participants drawing the watch face
from memory relied more on their schematic knowledge than those in the copy
condition as 58 out of 94 participants (32 participants in the surprise
condition and 26 in the forewarned condition) had drawn the watch face incorrectly
with ‘IV’ and not ‘IIII’. A chi square test revealed that the conditions differed
significantly (?2(2)
=34.982, p0.014).  Therefore, there
was no significance between something odd about the watch in the three
conditions, because 94 out of 111 declared they had not noticed anything.

These findings disclosed why there is a high number of
participants in the memory condition drawing the watch as ‘IV’ and not ‘IIII’. As
they have relied on their schematic memory, they did not notice that the Roman
numeral was displayed as ‘IIII’ and not ‘IV’. This suggests that the influence
of schematic knowledge is important in everyday objects and the remembrance of
it.