Storyboard of Bartlett's study on perception and schema.
In 1932, Sir Frederic Bartlett found a group of 20 British people and asked them to be part of his study. He wanted to see if schemas (our previous knowledge) influenced how we remember/perceive the world.
Bartlett then had the people read an unfamiliar Native American legend called "The War Of Ghosts". He then split the participants into two groups of ten. Half of them were to recall the story through serial reproduction while the other half were to use repeated reproduction.
For serial reproduction, the first participant read the story and waited 15-30 minutes before telling the story to the second participant. Each participant repeated their story to the next person in the group. For this experiment, there were 10 males. It was shown clearly hoe one individual's interpretation affected all the others in the chain. (This techniques is much like the game known as Chinese Whispers!)
In the repeated reproduction experiment, each participant was tested separately. They would read the story twice and after 15 minutes, they would recall all they could remember. For each participant, their intervals varied. Some people would have to recall the story every 20 hours, 8 days, 6 months or 10 years. They were not allowed to look at their previous recollections and they did not know the aim of their study.
Bartlett found that an extreme few recalled the story accurately. He then found patterns in the errors. Form: Once a particular outline is formed, it sticks, like the order of events. Details: Specific information such as names or numbers were lost. Even if they were recalled, they were altered to meet stereotypes or the participant's expectations/interests. Simplification: Recollections were less complex than the actual story. With changes in detail, the meaning of the story was often lost. Addition: Inaccurate details were put in for the participant to remember the story in their own way.
Unfamiliar material changes when it is recalled. It becomes shorter, simpler, and more stereotyped. This may be due to the effect of schema on memory. Remembering is an active process and are not copies of experiences but rather "reconstructions".
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