Figure 126

Correct rejection of thematic distractor as a function of main actor (Gerald Martin or Adolf Hitler) and retention interval. Data from Sulin and Dooling (1974).

supported this prediction. However, his studies are open to criticism. He did not give very specific instructions to his participants (Bartlett, 1932, p. 78): "I thought it best, for the purposes of these experiments, to try to influence the subjects' procedure as little as possible." As a result, some of the distortions observed by Bartlett may have been due to conscious guessing rather than deficient memory. There is some force in this criticism. Gauld and Stephenson (1967) found that instructions stressing the need for accurate recall eliminated almost half the errors usually obtained.

In spite of these problems with Bartlett's procedures, there is evidence from well controlled studies to confirm his major findings. For example, Sulin and Dooling (1974) presented some of their participants with a story about Gerald Martin: "Gerald Martin strove to undermine the existing government to satisfy his political ambitions. He became a ruthless, uncontrollable dictator. The ultimate effect of his rule was the downfall of his country" (Sulin & Dooling, 1974, p. 256). Other participants were given the same story, but the name of the main actor was given as Adolf Hitler. Those participants who were told the story was about Adolf Hitler were much more likely than the other participants to believe incorrectly that they had read the sentence "He hated the Jews particularly and so persecuted them." Their schematic knowledge about Hitler distorted their recollections of what they had read (see Figure 12.6). As Bartlett (1932) predicted, this type of distortion was more frequent at a long than a short retention interval.

There are doubts as to whether some of Bartlett's main findings can be replicated under more naturalistic conditions. Wynn and Logie (1998) tested students' recall of "real-life" events experienced during their first week at university at various intervals of time ranging from 2 weeks to 6 months. What they found was as follows: "The initial accuracy sustained throughout the time period, together with the relative lack of change over time, suggests very limited use of reconstructive processes" (Wynn & Logie, 1998, p. 1). This failure may have occurred in part because the students were only able to make limited use of schema-based processes. Whatever the explanation, these findings suggest that Bartlett's findings may have limited applicability.

Another assumption made by Bartlett (1932) was that memorial distortions occur mainly because of schema-driven reconstructive processes operating at the time of retrieval. As we saw in the study by Bransford and Johnson (1972), schemas often influence comprehension processes rather than retrieval processes. However, schemas do sometimes influence the retrieval of information from long-term memory. Anderson and Pichert (1978) asked participants to read a story from the perspective of either a burglar or someone interested in buying a home. After they had recalled the story, they were asked to shift to the

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