Bartlett War of the Ghosts

When you think back on memories over and over again, the memories occasionally change. There may be extra or fewer details that we can recall. But what is it that causes this? Bartlett's War of the Ghosts study investigated how schemas and our existing knowledge influence reconstructive memories. 

Bartlett War of the Ghosts Bartlett War of the Ghosts

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Contents
Table of contents

    A schema is a mental representation of memory/ information that we have learned. Schemas organise and are used to understand new information that we encounter.

    • Your learning experience will start with learning and understanding the aims and the Bartlett War of the Ghosts procedure.
    • Next, we will explore Bartlett's War of the Ghost's findings.
    • Finally, we will move on to discussing the Bartlett War of the Ghost's conclusion, ending with Bartlett's War of the Ghosts study evaluation, covering both the strengths and weaknesses of the study.

    Bartlett War of the Ghosts, Four ghosts displaying different facial expressions, StudySmarterBartlett tested participants' recall of an American folk-tale, War of the Ghosts, freepik.com.

    Bartlett's War of the Ghost's aim

    Bartlett's War of the Ghost study (1932) aimed to measure the accuracy of reconstructive memory and identify how schemas may influence them.

    Reconstructive memory is a memory recall theory that suggests that cognitive processes such as perception, schemas and beliefs influence how we remember information stored in the memory systems.

    Bartlett's War of the Ghosts study's basis was that reconstructive memory and schemas are essential for comprehending, assimilating and remembering information.

    Assimilation is the cognitive process of changing new, learned information to match our schemas.

    Procedure of Bartlett War of the Ghosts

    The study recruited 20 English college students. The study asked participants to read a Native American folk tale called the 'War of the Ghosts' because it was unlikely that participants were familiar with or had existing knowledge of the story.

    The study utilised many techniques to measure the reconstructive nature of memory. Examples of methods used include:

    1. Repeated reproduction design - a method to test memory involves participants repeatedly trying to recall the same memory over a given period. Participants heard the story twice and recollected it after a 15-minute delay. Participants recalled the story on several occasions over one year.
    2. Serial reproduction design - one subject was first shown a story and told to recall it, the second subject is shown the first participant's account of the story and instructed to recall it, and so on.

    The concept of the serial reproduction design is to mimic the game Chinese Whispers.

    Each condition tested the same participants, so the study used a repeated-measures design. For the analysis, Bartlett compared how the story recall changed after each testing occasion.

    Bartlett War of the Ghosts, Light bulb with a brain image in it, StudySmarterAccording to Bartlett's theory, schemas of how we understand the world influence memory recall, freepik.com

    Findings of Bartlett's War of the Ghosts

    Bartlett's War of the Ghosts findings revealed that participants created new information more frequently when there was a longer duration between when the story was last heard, and the more times the story was told. Bartlett suggested that participants added new details to the story as a result of intrusions that occurred during recall.

    Bartlett's War of the Ghosts study revealed that participants recalled distorted information regarding the folk-tale. The number of distortions increased in the repeated- and serial reproduction tests, although this was less evident in the repeated reproduction test.

    In the serial reproduction test, the results revealed that the more the story was told, the recall of the folk-tale became shorter and more obscure details were missed or rationalised. From the study, Bartlett came up with the concept of rationalisation.

    A rationalisation is when someone cannot comprehend something, they either do not bring it up or explain it with the addition of new materials.

    Rationalisation was apparent in almost all of the repeated reproduction and serial reproduction tests.

    Overall, three processes occurred in the study:

    • Assimilation
    • Rationalisation
    • Shortening

    Participants assimilated stories into their own cultural contexts, rationalised areas that made less sense, and shortened it to remember better where necessary.

    Overall the, Bartlett's War of the Ghosts findings revealed that:

    • In both tests, there were similar patterns of errors.
    • Participants tended to simplify the events and miss details to make the story familiar to them (familiar based on existing knowledge); this often led to the story's meaning being lost.
    • The story's details were more likely to be recalled when they aligned with the participant's interests and expectations.
    • Not many of the participants accurately recalled the story.

    Conclusion of Bartlett War of the Ghosts

    The Bartlett War of the Ghost's conclusion denotes that people are prone to make errors during reconstructive memory processes. People can recall schemas that include information that gives you a gist or overview of the memory; however, these tend not to be detail-orientated.

    Over time, remembered details are forgotten, and people often add new information using their existing knowledge to make sense of schemas that lack contextual details. Thus, according to Bartlett, memory is not what we learn but information that is learned that makes sense to us based on our existing knowledge of the world.

    Bartlett War of the Ghosts: summary

    Let's summarise the War of the Ghosts study. Consider the following overview.

    • Bartlett's War of the Ghost study (1932) aimed to measure the accuracy of reconstructive memory and identify how schemas may influence them.
    • The study used a series of tests (serial- and repeated reproduction) to measure the accuracy of memory recall. Participants were required to recall a native American folk-tale, War of the Ghosts.
    • Most participants were unable to recall the story accurately and frequently added new information to make sense of the story.
    • Overall, participants assimilated, rationalised, and shortened the story to help their recollection.
    • Bartlett's War of the Ghosts findings suggests that schemas that comprise our knowledge of the world are used during recall processes to fill in the gaps when we cannot make sense of new information.

    Bartlett's War of the Ghosts study evaluation

    Let's now discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Bartlett's War of the Ghosts study!

    Strengths of Bartlett's War of the Ghosts study

    Consider the following strengths of Bartlett's War of the Ghosts study.

    • The study's results support the notion that memory can be biased; this is useful to understand how much of the accuracy of memory we can rely on to be truthful.

    If our schemas have a major influence on memory, this raises the question of whether eyewitness testimonies should be accepted in court.

    • Loftus and Palmer (1974) found that leading questions influenced the accuracy of memory recall. Loftus and Palmer (1974) support Bartlett's theory that cognitive processes mediate memory recall processes. Both studies suggest that cognitive processes such as perception or schemas influence the accuracy of memory recall.
    • As the study recruited a sample that was unlikely to be familiar with the folk-tale, the participant's schemas are likely to reflect knowledge other than the story.

    This is an example of how the study controls for potential confounding variables.

    Weaknesses of Bartlett's War of the Ghosts study

    Consider the following weaknesses of Bartlett's War of the Ghosts study.

    • The study is very outdated as it was carried out in 1932. The study's report contains limited and missing details of how the experiment was carried out, making it difficult to replicate the study to measure its reliability.
    • Bartlett provided details of what was found in the study. However, there is no statistical information available for the study. Therefore, the study has limited use in this day and age.
    • The study was conducted on a limited sample of 20 people, and therefore, the study is non-representative and likely to be non-generalisable. In addition, the study was carried out on UK college students, so the study can be considered ethnocentric and age biased as it does not account for cultural and age differences.

    Bartlett War of the Ghosts - Key takeaways

    • Bartlett's War of the Ghost study (1932) aimed to measure the accuracy of reconstructive memory and identify how schemas may influence them.
    • The study recruited 20 participants.
    • The accuracy of reconstructive memory and how schemas may influence them was measured using a series of tests such as serial reproduction and repeated reproduction tests.
    • The majority of participants were not able to recall the story accurately and frequently added new information to make sense of the story during recall. Participants assimilated, rationalised, and shortened the story to aid recollection.
    • Bartlett's War of the Ghosts findings suggests that schemas that comprise our knowledge of the world are used during recall processes to fill in the gaps when we cannot make sense of new information.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Bartlett War of the Ghosts

    What was demonstrated by the War of the Ghosts experiment?

    Cognitive processes such as schemas influence the accuracy of memory recall. 

    What is the war of ghosts?

    The War of the Ghosts is a Native American folk-tale. 

    What is Bartlett's War of the ghosts?

    Bartlett's War of the Ghosts is a study that aimed to measure the accuracy of reconstructive memory and identify how schemas may influence them. 

    What was the conclusion of Bartlett's study?

    Bartlett's War of the Ghosts findings suggests that schemas that comprise our knowledge of the world are used during recall processes when we cannot make sense of new information. 

    How did Bartlett's participants change the story?

    Most participants could not recall the story accurately, they assimilated information, rationalised it, and shortened it where necessary.

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