How do expectations and schemata affect memory Essay

931 Words Jan 24th, 2014 4 Pages
What are schemas? Schemas are bundles of mental representations that help people to easily interpret and organize information. For example, a children’s schema of a giraffe is an animal that has four legs and a long neck. When the children encounter a giraffe, the physical features fits with his schema of a giraffe, he could then quickly conclude that the animal is giraffe without much thinking. It is useful for people to have schemas as they allow us to process a large amount of incoming information in a relatively short period of time by taking short cuts.
The concept of schema was first examined by Sir Frederick Barlett1 (1932). In his classic study, he told a group of American participants a North American Folklore “The War of
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Their expectation had let them to wrongly believe that it was actually the African-American holding the razor. It is clear that they actively reorganize and alter their memories so that it fits into their schema.
Another classic study was conducted by Brewer & Treyers2 (1981). In this study, the researchers asked individual participants to wait at a office for 35 seconds.
Afterwards, they were called into another room. The participants were then given an unexpected test to recall what was in the office. They tend to recall items that they commonly see in an office, for example pens, papers…etc. However, items that are not commonly seen in an office, for example a brick was rarely recalled. Again, participants were referring to their schemas for the recall task, leading to a higher recall rate in common office items and a lower recall rate in uncommon office items. Very unusual items however, like a skull was commonly recalled, it is because it is too unique and it stands out in your memory, this is known as the distinctiveness effect. The most interest thing is, people tend to recall items that were not actually in the office but commonly in office rooms, for example a telephone. This clearly suggests that memory is not photographic; people rely hugely on their schemas while retrieving memory and are able to actively reorganize it.
Recent researches continue to show the effect of reconstructive memory: O’Mara3 from Trinity

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