Introduction

When most people think about memory, they consider it in the context of their own everyday experience. They wonder why their own memory is so fallible, or why some people's memories seem much better than others. Perhaps they ask themselves what they could do to improve their own memories. As we saw in Chapters 6 and 7, much research on human memory seems of only marginal relevance to these issues.

This state of affairs has led many researchers to study everyday memory. As Koriat and Goldsmith (1996) pointed out, everyday memory reseachers have tended to differ from other memory researchers in their answers to three questions:

1. What memory phenomena should be studied? According to everyday memory researchers, the kinds of phenomena people experience every day should be the main focus.

2. How should memory be studied? Everyday memory researchers emphasise the importance of ecological validity or the applicability of findings to real life, and doubt whether this is achieved in most laboratory research.

3. Where should memory phenomena be studied? Some everyday memory researchers argue in favour of naturalistic settings.

Matters are not actually as neat and tidy as has been suggested so far. As Koriat and Goldsmith (1996, p. 168) pointed out:

Although the three dimensions—the what, how, and where dimensions—are correlated in the reality of memory research, they are not logically interdependent. For instance, many everyday memory topics can be studied in the laboratory, and memory research in naturalistic settings may be amenable to strict experimental control.

Koriat and Goldsmith (1996) argued that traditional memory research is based on the storehouse metaphor. According to this metaphor, items of information are stored in memory, and what is of interest is the number of items that are accessible at retrieval. In contrast, the correspondence metaphor is more applicable to everyday memory research. According to this metaphor, what is important is the correspondence or goodness of fit between an individual's report and the actual event. We can see the difference between these approaches if we consider eyewitness testimony of a crime. According to the storehouse metaphor, what matters is simply how many items of information can be recalled. In contrast, according to the correspondence metaphor, what matters is whether the crucial items of information (e.g., facial characteristics of the criminal) are remembered. In other words, the content of what is remembered is important within the correspondence metaphor but not within the storehouse metaphor.

Neisser (1996) identified a crucial difference between memory as it has been studied traditionally and memory in everyday life. The participants in traditional memory studies are generally motivated to be as accurate as possible in their memory performance. In contrast, everyday memory research should be based on the notion that "remembering is a form of purposeful action" (Neisser, 1996, p. 204). This approach involves three assumptions about everyday memory:

1. It is purposeful.

2. It has a personal quality about it, meaning that it is influenced by the individual's personality and other characteristics.

3. It is influenced by situational demands, for example, the wish to impress one's audience.

Some ways in which motivation influences memory in everyday life were studied by Freud (see Chapter 6). He used the term repression to refer to motivated forgetting of very anxiety-provoking experiences, and claimed this was common among his patients. More generally, people's accounts of their experiences are often influenced by various motivational factors. They may be motivated to be honest in their recollections. However, they may also want to preserve their self-esteem by exaggerating their successes and minimising their failures. There are occasions in everyday life when people strive for maximal accuracy in their recall (e.g., during an examination; remembering the contents of a shopping list), but accuracy is not typically the main goal. It is unfortunate that these additional motivational factors have not been studied systematically by everyday memory researchers.

There has been much controversy about the respective strengths and weaknesses of traditional laboratory research and everyday memory research. This is no longer the case. As Kvavilashvili and Ellis (1996, p. 200) pointed out, the controversy "is in decline, probably because of the increased versatility of recent research practices, which make it difficult, if not impossible to draw clear distinctions between the ecological and laboratory approaches to the study of memory." The memory phenomena of everyday life need to be submitted to proper empirical test, and this can be done either in naturalistic or laboratory settings.

Kvavilashvili and Ellis (in press) have developed these ideas in interesting ways. They argued that ecological validity consists of two aspects that are frequently confused: (1) representativeness; and (2) generalisability. Representativeness refers to the naturalness of the experimental situation, stimuli, and task, whereas generalisability refers to the extent to which the findings of a study are applicable to the real world. It is increasingly accepted that generalisability is more important than representativeness.

Kvavilashvili and Ellis (in press) discussed valuable research lacking representativeness but possessing generalisability. For example, Jost (1897) used unrepresentitive stimuli such as nonsense syllables, and found that distributed practice produced much better learning and memory than massed practice. This effect has been repeated many times in studies possessing much more representativeness. For example, Smith and Rothkopf (1984) found that distributed practice produced better memory for the material in lectures on statistics, and Baddeley and Longman (1978) found that distributed practice improved the typing of postcodes by post office workers more than did massed practice.

Before embarking on our review of research on everyday memory, we will briefly mention a study indicating the potential relevance of such research. Conway, Cohen, and Stanhope (1991) tested how much former psychology students could remember about cognitive psychology in terms of research methods, concepts, and names (e.g., Broadbent). These students, who had studied psychology at periods of time up to

12 years previously, were given various memory tests (recognition; sentence verification; and recall). The general level of memory performance was fairly high, which should be encouraging news for students! More specifically, research methods were remembered best, probably because students were exposed to them in several different courses. Concepts were also well remembered, because students could forms schemas or packets of knowledge to connect concepts to each other. Finally, names were worst remembered, but were still remembered at better than chance over a 12-year period.

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