Effect of Pre-Existing Schemas on Memory Recall
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: Psychology|
|✅ Wordcount: 3164 words||✅ Published: 13th Apr 2018|
- Aasimah Nabeebocus
Previous research has shown that everyday memory fails in being able to recall and represent data accurately, measured using a drawing task and recognition task. Researchers have explained this in terms of a schema theory. That is individuals recall and represent information based on their pre-existing schemas. However much research conducted in this field, is outdated, therefore this current study aimed to shed light on this by using the same procedure as …Results indicate that while there was a significant difference in the representation of the clock between the copy and memory condition. No significant differences were found in the choice of recall by participants in the memory or copy condition. The result partially supports some previous research, and the implications of this finding suggest potential real life applications.
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Historically researchers have highlighted the importance of everyday memory. But contrary to this popular view emerging research have actually shown that everyday memory lacks accuracy and lead to biases in perception of everyday objects and situations. Nickerson and Adams (1982) investigated this idea whereby participants were instructed to recall and draw both sides of a U.S. penny. They found that recall was inaccurate and relatively poor, and that the features identified by the participants did not match correctly to the ones on the coin. Morris (1988) who investigated this further found that British students who were asked to identify and recall the right coin, only a small (15 %) percentage of students were able to recall the appearance of the coin. This indicates that simply looking at an object constantly does not necessarily mean that we pay attention and that the memory formed is correctly retained.
Cohen (1989) proposes a theory that best explains this notion of failure in accurate memory recall. Schema theory suggests that our capacity to recall information is based on existing knowledge and prior experiences. In addition, it claims that our day-to-day memory “consists of a set of schemas, or knowledge structures through which we form our knowledge of objects, situations, events, or actions t learnt from previous experience”.
A study that lends firm support to this theory was examined by Allport and Postman (1947). In their study participants were shown a photograph of a black male being menaced by a white male on the subway. When participants were questioned afterwards about the offender, participants were more likely to recall and identify the black man as the offender. It appears therefore that limiting ourselves to what we already know can biased one’s view on how they may perceived and recall a situation or person.
Furthermore, a study by Williams and Richards (1993) investigated the effect of everyday memory on our ability to accurately recall roman numbers on a clock. The advantage of using such method was useful , as the number four was represented differently on a clock than to how it appears in roman numerals. Therefore, by varying the conditions in which participants engaged, they were able to detect whether participants resorted to using their schematic memory when trying to draw and recall the numbers on the clock. The three conditions included: (forewarned) where participants were instructed to look at the clock for a short period of time, as they would be asked to draw it after it had been taken away from their sight, (surprise) in this condition participants were simply asked to look at the clock, then later asked to draw it once it had been taken away, (copy) in this condition participants were instructed to draw the clock that appeared in front of them. Their results indicated that in the forewarned and surprise condition, participants were more likely to make mistakes and draw the figure four as “IV”, whereas those participants in the copy condition drew the figure four precisely to how it appeared on the clock e.g. “IIII”. Therefore it appears that the participants in the two memory conditions were more likely to recall information based on their schematic memory, this supports the theory that schemas do directly influence how we recall and represent information.
However a limitation that stems from this study is that the participants in the copy condition were effortlessly drawing the clock that appeared in front of them, therefore schemas were not useful when asked to draw the clock. A study that accounts for this limitation is by Richard, French and Harris (1996). In their study the same method was applied, as participants engaged in 3 conditions, (forewarned, surprise, copy) and were asked to draw the clock but additionally they were asked to participate in a recognition task afterwards. Their results showed that the participants in the copy condition, when asked to choose between two pictures and identify which of the two clocks presented to them had the correct figure i.e. (4). Participants were more likely to recall the figure (4) being represented as “IV’ on the clock rather than “IIII”.
In sum, while these findings provide evidence that schemas do have an impact on our ability to recall and recognise information. Much of the research conducted is outdated. Therefore, the findings cited above suggests that more recent research is to be conducted to find out whether the same results would be obtained at this present time. For this reason, the current study aimed to repeat the same procedure used in previous research in order to shed light on this issue. Since findings have been consistent, we proposed two experimental hypothesis based on Richard & Harris (1993) and French & Harris’ (1996) findings , which is stated below:
H1: In the drawing task, there will be a significant difference between the two conditions i.e. memory condition and copy condition. The participants in the memory condition will be more likely to incorrectly represent the figure (4) as “IV’ compared to participants in the copy condition.
H2: In the recognition task, there will be a significant difference between the two conditions i.e. memory condition and copy condition. Of the participants who accurately represented the figure four as ‘IIII’ in the drawing task, those in the copy condition will be more likely to accurately recall the figure four as ‘IIII compared to participants in the memory condition.
In the study 61 students were undertaking this experiment . However, two were excluded from the analysis because one participant drew the clock with ‘1,2,3,4 o’ clock etc. rather than Roman numerals, and a second did not complete the critical ‘IIII’ or ‘IV’ choice. Therefore our data only included a total number of 59 participants, this included 4 males and 55 females, aged between 18 and 30 years old. The mean for the age=19.21, SD=1.18, range=18-30.
The participants were all undergraduate psychology students at Queen Mary University of London and were selected from 1st year undergraduate at Queen Mary. The participants were appropriately briefed prior to the experiment and informed consent was obtained. Lastly, the researcher ensured that all ethical guidelines were met and was approved by Queen Mary University of London Ethics Committee.
In this experiment, a between -subject design was used as participants only took part in one condition. The researcher also insured that all participants were randomly allocated to each condition. The independent variable were the three types of conditions: (surprise, forewarned and copy). While the dependent variable was whether participants drew or recognised the figure (4) as ‘IV’ or ‘IIII’ and how frequently participants recall or recognised the figure (4) as being ‘IV’ or ‘IIII’.
Small groups of participants took part in each condition, this was to ensure that all participants observed the clock clearly and no obstructions were present. The clock used in the original studies was a standard clock made by Samuel Bishop of London, with clear Roman Numerals on the face. The figure (4) appeared as ‘IIII’ on the clock. The time on the clock was adjusted at ten past seven. In this current experiment, a picture of the clock was employed rather than the actual clock used in French and Richard (1993) study.
The experiment compromised of 3 conditions (forewarned, surprise and copy). Each group of participants were assigned to one of these conditions. These conditions were carried out chronologically.
In the first condition (surprise). Participants were informed to simply look at the clock for a period of 5 minutes. Once the picture had been taken away from their sight. Participants were then asked to draw the clock from memory.
In the second condition (forewarned). Participants were informed that they would be asked to draw the clock after observing the clock for a short period of time. But that they could only draw the clock, once the image had been taken out of their sight.
In the third condition (copy). Participants were informed to observe the clock and draw the clock.
In all the conditions participants were asked to state on their drawing sheet their age, sex, conditions ( and personal identifier, this was composed of their mother’s first two initials and their date of birth.
In all the conditions (forewarned, surprise, copy) a recognition task was also carried out after the drawing task. This was the same method employed by Richard & Harris (1996) in their study. In the recognition task, participants were presented with two pictures of the clock at the same time and asked to choose the correct picture that matched the clock that they had previously observed. In each of the group, half of the participants obtained both pictures in which the correct picture was placed on the left, and the rest of the participants obtained both pictures in which the correct picture was placed on the right. After participants had made their choice they were asked to write down which conditions they took part in (i.e. 1st, 2nd or 3rd) age, sex and personal identifier this was to ensure that their data from the drawing task could be matched accordingly. [MW1]
Count 24 7
IV Expected count 18.4 12.6
Count 11 17
IIII Expected count 16.6 11.4
Note. Participants represent four as ‘IV’ or ‘IIII’ in both conditions.
Memory condition (MC) and Copy condition (CC).
Table 2. Recognition task
Count 4 11
IV Expected count 5.7 9.3
Note. Recall by participants who correctly represented the four as ‘IIII’ in the drawing task. Memory condition (MC) and Copy condition (CC)
Count 7 7
IIII Expected count 5.3 8.7
All the participants drawing were assessed to see whether they presented the figure four as ‘IV’ or ‘IIII’. The frequency of this is shown for each condition is shown below.
There was no difference in the results between the forewarned and surprised condition, as a result these two data were collapsed into one condition called ‘memory condition’, this was carried out in order to increase the statistical power of the test. Given the test is categorical, we used a non-parametric test to examine whether the differences were significant. A chi-square test was conducted on the data. The test revealed that there was a significant difference between how participants represented the number 4 in each condition, chi-square (1)=8.87,p=. 003.
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In the recognition data, analysis was only taken for those participants who accurately dew four as ‘IIII’ in the first part of the study (drawing task) .A chi-square was conducted on the data to see if there was a significant difference in participant’s ability to identify the correct clock from two possible options, whether they had previously copied or drawn it from memory. The test revealed that there was no significant difference between the choices in recall made by participatns in the mempry and copy condition, chi-square (1)=1.68, p >.05
This study aimed to add to previous old research by looking at whether the same result would be found at this current time. The results showed that in the drawing task there was a significant difference in the frequencies i.e. whether they accurately or wrongly represented the figure (4) as either ‘IV’ or ‘IIII’ between the two conditions. However there was no significant difference between the numbers of correct recalls made by participants in the recognition task. Therefore, our first experimental hypothesis is supported while our second hypothesis is rejected. This shows that in the drawing task, those participants in the memory conditions who incorrectly represented the figure (4) as ‘IV’ were more likely to use their schematic memory rather than actually processing the information. However those participants in the copy condition who accurately drew the figure (4) in the drawing task butwrongly recalled the figure (4) as ‘IV’ in the drawing task. This shows that observing the clock while drawing did not facilitate the participant in processing or encoding that information, thus affecting their ability to accurately recall it later on.[MW4]
These findings are in accordance with Williams et al (1993) study that found that in the drawing task, participants in the copy condition were accurate in their representation of the four compared to participants in the memory condition (forewarned and surprised). Additionally, our results is partially supported by Richard, French et al (1996) who found that those in the copy condition were more likely to recall the figure (4) inaccurately though they had represented the number 4 accurately in the drawing task. A plausible explanation, may be that participants were effortlessly drawing what appeared in front of them, therefore more likely to get it right in the drawing task but when asked to recall the information as they did not pay attention they resorted to using their schemas in order to recall what the figure (4) appeared as on the clock.
However, unlike our results this study did find a significant difference between the memory condition and copy condition when asked to recall. As those in the memory condition who represented the figure (4) accurately in the drawing task, none of these participants inaccurately recalled the four in the recognition task.
The fact that that these results are only partially consistent with previous research points to a possible limitation within the study. Due to our study consisting a small sample size, this suggests a possibility in creating a Type II [MW5]error. A type two error is “falsely rejecting the null hypothesis and stating that the results are due to chance”. Therefore having a larger sample may have yielded more statistically powerful results, this is supported by Richard et al (1996) who found a statistically significant difference. Additionally, using a different statistical test may have been better given the small sample size, a good alternative would have been a Fisher exact test [MW6]this is again supported by Richard et al (1996) who found statistically significant difference when running a fisher test.
Further, one possible explanation for the outcome of this result is the impact of interference on students schematic memory[MW7]. A study by Nickerson and Adams (1979) suggested that participants who drew the penny incorrectly may have have difficulty in differentiating between features of an old and current penny. This results indicates that roman numerals learned at school may have interfered with participatns ability to form new memories of the clock face, this is increasingly more prominent in younger students as they have had less exposure to roman numeral clock faces. Therefore participants may have recognised the number 4 as ‘IV’ rather than ‘IIII’.
Finally, the impact of these findings are not only interesting, but could hold significance in real life situations . In a case study in which a young lady Jennfier Thompson (1984) was raped, it was found that when asked to identity her rapist she falsely accused an innocent man . This finding suggest that memories are not infallible and can be influenced easily by schemas or other factors.
Nickerson, R. S., & Adams, M. J. (1979). Long-term memory for a common object.Cognitive Psychology,11(3), 287-307.
[MW1]Perfect method, well done ïŠ
[MW2]You need to portion out the forewarned and surprise memory conditions in the initial frequency table. You can then explain why the conditions were collapsed together afterwards (this is what Richards and co did)
[MW3]This isn’t reported correctly. You need to put it inside brackets, and you need to use the Greek symbol for Chi which is χ
[MW4]If you’re looking to cut words, I think these two paragraphs can be shortened.
[MW5]This is written as Type II
Good old roman numerals ;)
[MW6]Needs capitals – Fisher’s Exact Test
[MW7]As I said before, this is not a limitation. This is a possible explanation for the results.
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