Until now we have focused upon theoretical psychology that employ
methods that are removed from real life. Neisser was one psychologist
who criticized his fellow psychologists for concentrating too much on
theoretical concepts and ignoring the practical issues involved about
memory. It is memory from real life experiences that psychologists
must concentrate on and one aspect of this is known as the eyewitness
Reliability of Eyewitness Testimony
It is without doubt that eyewitnesses to a crime are one of the most
important people to the police when trying to get a conviction but we
must remember that sometimes they can be un-reliable. Sometimes we
cannot recall the exact events that surround the incident or sometimes
it can be distorted so that details are lost or inaccurate ones added.
In real life it is not necessary to precisely recall specific things
in order to use them in every day life e.g. we do not need to remember
exactly what a 10p piece looks like in order to use it to buy a sweet.
In other words there are many areas in everyday memory that we do not
need to recall exactly.
Reconstructive memory basically means what affect the event had on us
rather than the precise details surrounding it. However we must
remember that reminiscing on particular events can lead to them being
distorted through our prior knowledge and expectations and so care
must be taken in dealing with reconstructive memory.
Bartlett (1932) carried out pioneering research in this field and it
was his findings that have helped us to understand it better. He
argued that we do not record memories passively i.e. like we take
photographs. He believed that instead of taking exact replicas of the
initial stimulus, we weave it with existing knowledge and experience
to form a reconstructed memory. This is known as effort after meaning.
Bartlett carried out a number if experiments to investigate how people
recall things. In one of his best-known study's he read English
participants a folk tale derived from Red Indian culture called "The
war of the ghosts." This was an unusual story for people from a
western culture to understand because it contained unfamiliar
supernatural concepts. After an interval, the participants were asked
to recall as much about the story as possible. Bartlett found that
their accounts were distorted in several ways with were consistent
with a western-world view. Specifically he found the following
* Rationalizations - People added information or justification for
actions that were not in the original.
* Omissions - Information was left out particularly that of which
was most difficult for westerners to...