for everyday things
Our memory for
things that we see everyday appears to be remarkably poor, or so Richardson believes.
His article describes our recall for the detailed engravings on
coins. Recall appears to be fragmentary
at best and plain inaccurate at worst.
Specifically, the recall of details that are unimportant for the
function of the coin, such as the milled edge and the orientation of
monarch’s head, is particularly affected.
raises several important issues within memory research. First, there is
need to distinguish between recognition and recall.
Recognition is simply being able to identify
a visible coin as ‘a penny’ while recall involves generating a
description of a
penny in the absence of the real thing - that is, entirely from memory. Nearly all of us can do the first of these
tasks. Accuracy on the second one
however, much more variable.
that Richardson raises is
the influence of expectation on our memory. If
we expect an event to have happened a
certain way then, in the absence of conflicting memories, we are likely
remember the event that way. In other
words, if we can’t quite remember the full details of an event then we
tend to ‘fill
in’ the gaps from what we expect, or from a template or ‘schema’ that
in our heads. This is known as the
Schema model of memory (Bower, 1967).
use of a schema to fill in gaps in our memory can be very useful. It can enable us to report many details
correctly purely on the basis of what we expect to have happened and
having encoded those details in the first place. Richardson’s article
examines how far the Schema
model of memory can account for errors in memory, specifically the
people produce when describing coins.
Quite rightly, he examines alternative accounts for the errors
people make - a left profile bias, a right-handedness bias, pure
guessing - but
he fails to examine the possibility of a schema-driven error in another
domain. This is what French and Richards
do in their article.
evidence, what do YOU think is going on?
Why do people typically picture the queen’s head the wrong way
coins? Why do people represent the Roman
numeral for ‘four’ incorrectly on clock faces?
And here’s the tricky one - What other schema-driven errors
expect to occur?
(1993). The curious case of coins:
Remembering the appearance of familiar objects.
The Psychologist, 6(8), 360-366.
& Richards, A. (1993). Clock
This! An everyday example of a
schema-driven error in memory. British
Journal of Psychology, 84, 249-253.